While I know from personal experience that there are many arrogant and incompetent Muni drivers (including the ones who think that their run includes a pit stop for coffee or shopping while a fully loaded bus waits for them), I believe that the majority are hard-working and conscientious.
According to Byrne, the union has too sweet a deal and is to blame for the current problems. However, the administration has the responsibility to call workers on the carpet for abusing benefits. It is the administration that ordered the disastrous Breda streetcars, foisted the unworkable and logically absurd "Proof of Payment" system on an unwitting public, and has tried to raise the price of a fast pass that would continue to include in-city BART service.
There needs to be massive firings at the management level. There needs to be pay cuts at the top. There should be an investigation (and possible criminal prosecution) of the officials who ordered these streetcars. And, most importantly, the drivers need to be placed in high administrative positions.
The problem is that the people who are in power do not have any experience working as drivers, so they do not know what problems occur and how to rectify them. I believe that the drivers are reacting to bad management attitudes, as well as from having to bear the brunt of systemwide failures whose cause lies with poor management decision-making.
Bring the drivers into the process. Make them feel as if they are doing something positive for the community. And they will do their part to improve the service. But we need to cleanse the management first.
Harry S. Pariser
Lean to the Right
Bravo for your fearless expose of Muni ("Rewarding Failure," Dec. 2, Dec. 9). It is refreshing to get investigative journalism without the usual leftist spin. This will certainly raise your editorial credibility with us readers who have been reading you solely for the arts and entertainment content.
Stand Up to Labor
Many thanks to Peter Byrne for his aptly titled article "Rewarding Failure," which cut through to the heart of Muni's chronic performance problems: the union's vise grip on the city's public transit system. The sad state of Muni is especially shocking to me because I recently returned to the U.S. after three years in Prague, the Czech Republic, where the timetable for each bus and streetcar line is posted at every one of its stops. (I've never understood why the timetables aren't posted here.) The entire transit system runs more or less like clockwork. If the struggling economies of post-Communist Eastern Europe can run a working public transit system, can't we?
Byrne makes an excellent point that any mayor who truly wants to fix Muni will have to risk angering the unions, who could potentially call a crippling citywide transit strike. If a strike occurred, I wonder where the public sympathy would lie in this bighearted town.
If the union strikes, hire nonunion drivers and keep those buses running. I, for one, will be riding. Call me cruel, but I think that breaking the union grip on city transit is actually the kindest thing that can be done in this situation for the general populace of San Francisco and especially for its poorest and working-class citizens.
Adam T. Dingle
Spite, Spite, Spite
Oh, those evil, bad, nasty unions. How dare they attempt to negotiate contracts to the advantage of the workers they represent ("Rewarding Failure"). And fie upon the guilty heads of Muni's bus drivers and mechanics for having the nerve to take time off from work that is literally backbreaking, spiritually draining, and almost totally unappreciated by the vast majority of their fellow citizens.
What an amazing piece of bile you folks coughed up disguised as some sort of revealing expose on Muni. I expect anti-union propaganda from the likes of the Chronicle or the Examiner, but I do sort of expect an alleged alternative newsweekly to avoid parroting the corporate line that it is labor unions that are to blame for all our dysfunctional society's ills.
Even more amazing was the almost total lack of actual thought that went into your little story. You simply spew figures at your readers with nary a shred of real analysis of the story behind those figures.
I'm no fan of Willie Brown. I could list a hundred reasons why he's likely to go down in history as one of the worst mayors this city has ever had, but I'm afraid I wouldn't place Muni's late buses or streetcars on that list anywhere. Your own story said it. Muni has been this way literally for decades. To expect one mayor to solve our transit problems in less than one term is just absurd and, frankly, stupid. Equally stupid, and mean-spirited, is your insistence that the workers themselves are to blame for late buses, equipment that doesn't work, and a plethora of other problems.
Your paper missed an opportunity here. You do have some talented writers capable of enlightening and enlightened research. You could have used your pages to talk about the real source of Muni misery -- strained resources. A little bit of observation (you know, the kind you do with your eyes open) will show anyone who cares to look that Muni and practically every other municipal service in S.F. is strained to the breaking point for the very simple reason that there are more people depending on those systems than they were ever intended to support.
As a fourth-generation American of Japanese descent, I read with interest George Cothran's piece on the Native Sons of the Golden West ("Sons and Others," Cothran, Dec. 9).
However, my hair stood up on end when Cothran specified "Japanese," in contrast with "Irish-American." Although he meant well -- and I certainly appreciate his mentioning of this group's support of the internment -- Cothran unwittingly reinforced the exclusionary beliefs of many, most especially of the Native Sons/Daughters: that those of Japanese ancestry could never be "true" Americans.
At least two-thirds of those interned during World War II were U.S. citizens (i.e., they were Japanese-Americans as opposed to being just "Japanese," as Cothran wrote). Yes indeed, they were just as American as Jimmy, Cothran's "sweet old Irish-American." Furthermore, many also were so-called native sons and daughters of the Golden West. Again, just like Jimmy.
However, had those native children attempted to join Jimmy's club they would undoubtedly have faced the same reaction that many of his own ancestors once endured -- that they "need not apply."