Normally I like Friday posts to be funny or interesting little items of note for you, the Loyal Readers to enjoy. Sadly, this week some very bad things are about to happen to our hapless MUNI, so bad it warrants a good old fashioned, double-barrelled WTF post, aimed squarely at City Hall, Sacramento, MUNI, and well, ourselves.
Anyway, what sparked this post was a conversation with Mike Aldax over at the Examiner last night, who was curious to hear my reaction to the news that MUNI will be taking another $40 million in cuts this year, in addition to the $37 million it’s already taken.
The Big Kids at City Hall (i.e. the Mayor, the Board of Supervisors, the MTA) and their pals in Sacramento are going to need to put aside their penchant for shell games and politics, and put the city first if we’re going to survive this and still have a MUNI worth using. A tall order, especially after a bitter, nasty election season.
But rather than just rant on the latest injustice, instead I want to rehash some recent history as it related to MUNI funding. Too often, we all talk about the latest hit, and forget how we got here in the first place.
It’s rather distressing to see the State cut more from transit around the state after our so-called liberal legislators from San Francisco voted in lock-step with the governor for millions more in cuts earlier this year, as they do pretty much every year. Then they plead poverty, want to raise your taxes even more, and then cut transit (and everthing else) a lot more too. That’s fair (not).
“Progressive” Board members have shown a slavish devotion to kill MUNI funding in the past as well – remember the silly “youth fare” idea that got played with? Even better, remember how they arbitrarily threw a good portion of their aggreived people under the bus, and of course refused to listen to any other ideas that might have been a win win (i.e. help MUNI and help the Youth of The City).
Neither side comes off as particularly brilliant when one of the few options local governments have to raise money (crummy as they are) are vetoed based on political pressure.
Moderate Mayor hasn’t been a fan of MUNI funding either. Remember the candyland “free MUNI” proposal tossed around during the election last year? This is the same mayor that has endorsed moving MUNI money away from actual transit and over to large salary increases for management and his staff.
If we could fund MUNI exclusively on the non stop political drama the Board and Mayor engage in, we’d of course, have no problems. We certainly wouldn’t wind up with political fights masquerading as policy on the ballot.
Meanwhile, as all of this goes on you’re trying to get to work, go to school, live your life in an era of high gas prices and in the end, all the hot air means nothing. In the end, you’re stranded at 19th Avenue and have to walk 30 blocks home.
You miss your appointment because the bus driver had to talk on their cell phone. You don’t get to school on time because deferred maintenance means your train is leaving a trail of parts. And all the chatter in those stupid mail pieces the politicians belched out last month are worth less than the dead trees they’re printed on.
Despite the history of FAIL, all is not hopeless. We are going to have to ask that everyone involved start coming up with honest solutions to this perpetual screwing of MUNI by the state. Maybe that means finding permanent local sources of money independent of Sacramento (and no not another sales tax, GOD no!), since it’s clear no matter what, the State of California will always raise your taxes and then refuse to spend them on transit.
At the very least, it means that everyone is going to have to focus on boring things, like a sensible transit funding plan, instead of pie in the sky “break the budget” ideas people put on the ballot, or plans to run for higher office. There’s no easy or painless way to fix this without making some Big Decisions, none of which are going to be mega-popular.
However, giving in to cynicism and failure isn’t an option either. We’re the ones that use the system, so it’s up to us to drag our “leaders” along to make the changes. IF we give in to a cynical “MUNI sucks” attitude, we’re just as guilty as the politicos that helped get us here in the first place.
PS: You’ll have a chance to talk directly to Nathaniel Ford, the head of MUNI and Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi about MUNI’s follies on December 3rd at the San Francisco County Fair Building at 9th and Lincoln. The meeting is scheduled to start at 7pm. You can contact the office of Sup. Mirkarimi for details at 554 7630.
PS 2: Commenting is still sort of messed up. You can blame people from a certain political campaign this fall who tried to spam the comments and crash all my blogs, which led to the spam filter pretty much marking all comments as “spam” even when they’re not. So if you don’t see your comment, don’t freak out, just email it and I’ll post it. Lame, I know but until I figure out this &*@*! upgrade it’s going to be a bit spotty. Sigh.