The plan to provide low-income kids with free Muni rides was dealt a possible death blow last week when the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission declined to part with the necessary millions.
Commissioners hailing from out of town were not enthused with the idea of ponying up $4 million solely to benefit San Francisco youths; the proposal failed by an 8-7 vote. One of those seven ayes, however, came from Scott Wiener, one of San Francisco's two representatives. Wiener, who is also a city supervisor, has been an avowed opponent of this plan to burden Muni with more passengers while stripping it of their fare money. He even editorialized about the follies of making Muni free for kids in the Chronicle.
"We need to increase access to transportation for low-income youth," he wrote in that April 9 op-ed. "But a new and expensive obligation for Muni — at a time when Muni cannot pay for its basic operational needs and is expanding parking meters and increasing parking fines — is a bad idea."
Wiener didn't mention that, at Muni, wrapping a bus' conducting wire in garbage bags counts as preventive maintenance. So we'll do it for him.
In any event, while proponents of making Muni free may have lost the day, at least they gained a Wiener. When did Scott come around?
"I didn't," he says. "I don't support it."
By his own reckoning, Wiener was against free Muni before he was for it, and now he's against it again.
"I don't think it's sustainable," continued Wiener, bashing the initiative he voted to enact. "I opposed it within San Francisco. I voted against it at the Board of Supervisors, at the County Transportation Authority, and wrote that op-ed in the Chronicle."
And yet he voted for it as a member of the MTC.
"My view did not prevail within San Francisco," he explained. "Even though my view about the program hasn't changed, it would be inappropriate for me as a San Francisco representative to vote against funding a program San Francisco has approved. Also, I'm the mayor's appointee on the MTC, and the mayor does support it."
When asked how he felt about the demise of a program he bitterly opposed at every level but then voted for at the highest level, Wiener laughed. "Politics is a winding road sometimes," he answered cryptically.
Perhaps. But for the proponents of making Muni free, that road has hit an impasse.