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Circling the Drain With the MTA, The Board, and The Mayor: Today's Nonsense...

The rebellion against the MTA budget continues, and as this drama gets extended over time, we begin to enter the "circle the drain" cycle of City Hall shenanigans. Sadly, while the student council that run City Hall has its time in the spotlight, it's you, the owner & rider of MUNI who will lose in the end.

There's going to be another hearing today at noon (!), and there are earnest efforts by people who mean well to try and at least un-screw up some parts of the budget. But with no real leadership on any one side, we're devolving into piecemeal policy, which means that in the end, what we'll end up is something that serves the politicians and the MTA, but not you.

It's interesting to note that recently the MTA announced some service increases on certain lines (even in this time of "no money no money"), but upon further inspection, it turned out it was one line in each Supervisorial district. And people say the current MTA doesn't use politics in its decisions? Ha! Of course, there's no dent in those phony baloney work orders the Mayor's Office used to raid MUNI with.

Likewise, Supervisor Avalos has been trying to fight the good fight, complete with dramatic marches to the MTA offices with a band of ticked off people. But when you look at his proposals, you find plenty to like if you're poor, or a senior citizen, which is fine. What you do not see are any serious revenue proposals to make up for the tens of millions of dollars in cuts issued by Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature. Remember, 66% of the big MUNI budget hole was caused when the Gov. and his Democratic allies nuked all funding for transit statewide via the Transit Assistance Fund.

Any proposal to save MUNI has to address this massive gap in funding that MUNI was not expecting. To instead make up these "fiddle with the margins" proposals, such as the MTA and Sup. Avalos have proposed, do not address the real issue. And that lack of funding means no money for maintenance (ensuring your N trails parts if it makes it past 19th) and the kinds of things that a system needs to work properly. Likewise, we have to at least be glad the "cut MUNI funding" faction on the board has been reduced by at least one, so far.

And today, there's more proposals to change how the MTA is governed. Every time this has come up, there's a flurry of activity to "change" the MTA, but by election time, proponents raise no money and don't talk to voters, the Mayor's allies downtown drop some junk mail, and it goes down. Personally I always thought it odd I was trusted to vote on "Gay Marriage," the state budget, judges, Supervisors, Mayors, Presidents, BART, and Comptrollers, but not anyone associated with MUNI. Hmm.

At this point, the governance of the MTA has been reduced to a pissing match between Acting Mayor Nathan Ballard, and whoever at the Board is on the phone that day. That's fine for political theatrics, but it does nothing for you, or making your daily life any better.

I've often said that the prism of MUNI policy is a great way to look at how San Francisco really operates, in the past and today. The fact that much of what I wrote a year ago still applies today says a lot. We have plenty of people who love to play games at City Hall. We do not have many people that want to go to work. There was nothing stopping us from heading off the worst of this some time ago. But instead, folks chose to goof off, and sadly, we pay the price.

Comments

For crying out loud, I spend more time commuting to Santa Clara daily than these guys spend working. If my commute were to City Hall instead, and I took my work time, I could probably screw around half the day on twitter and still outperform, even with my non-political background and "only" an engineering degree.

If 66% of the MUNI budget hole was caused by just removing a State funding subsidy, things have already been effed up for a rather long time. Why the residents of Los Angeles and San Diego (let alone Redding and the rest of the State) should be paying to provide a 2/3rds transit subsidy to San Francisco residents is beyond rational explanation. That the supposed "supervisors" of San Francisco County could let it get to this point without attempting to mitigate it is something parallel to criminal. I have no doubt that Gavin Newsom plays a large part in this drama by trying to raid the State funding pool, but it really doesn't sound that like that's even close to the whole story.

@Kenton: You are right in that it's effed, but that's not quite how it works. People in San Diego aren't subsidising SF at all - what has happened in California is that after Prop 13, the state's power over local government funding got a lot bigger.

Essentially what you have now is that you no longer pay local property or whatever taxes to fund things like this - you pay taxes to the state and the state "returns" it to local authorities for the Transit Assitance fund, or any one of a number of local gov't agencies. Under Arnie, this has gotten worse, because when he cut the VLF, he cut off local funding for things like transit, and "promised" to make up the hole. (You can see where this is going).

And you're right in that the MTA, the Mayor, and the Supervisors shoulda seen this coming and made up for it. One solution that would allow us to do what we want and NOT hassle Orange County or San Diego would be to allow us to vote back in a form of the VLF and dedicate that money to MUNI (and NOT FUCKING WORK ORDERS) with some stipulations about accountability.

At least that way a city/county like ours could do what we want, and if other counties want to use their TAF for roads or whatever, or not have any roads or transit, well that's their business.

Also, the Bay Area and LA pay most of the taxes in this state...rural counties tend to have high rates of welfare, SSI, and subsidies for things way beyond what they pay in...

No matter where the deficit came from, there is no way the SFMTA can get away with raising our fast pass price from $45 a month, to $70 a month in half a year. That is a 55.5% increase. The SFMTA is making it very low key that the $60 ticket will not include use of BART within SF. I am working on a campaign to alert the public to this outrageous and pathetic plan. Anyone wanting to lend some photoshop skills would be greatly appeciated. Thanks.

No matter where the deficit came from, there is no way the SFMTA can get away with raising our fast pass price from $45 a month, to $70 a month in half a year. That is a 55.5% increase. The SFMTA is making it very low key that the $60 ticket will not include use of BART within SF. I am working on a campaign to alert the public to this outrageous and pathetic plan. Anyone wanting to lend some photoshop skills would be greatly appeciated. Thanks.

@Ben: Please keep me posted and let me know how I can help, because you are absolutely right. There's also some potential legal fallout with eliminating the SF BART rides with a fast pass - one that I intend to fully investigate, starting with a trip to BART headquarters today.

The reason that even exists is due to the complex negotiations that led to the creation of BART in the first place. BART got to use the MUNI right of ways in exchange for allowing MUNI riders to ride within SF with the pass. Otherwise BART could NOT have the current route - they essentially took away MUNI's old lines that ran the Interurban to San Mateo.

California is a disaster. In an attempt to keep taxes "low", we have completely broken the idea of local control.

Sort of off-topic, but not only is the Fast Pass increase going to suck, but my primary use of BART is to and from SFO. I really feel screwed by all of these changes. BART is adding $5 round trip as an SFO surcharge...

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