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Monday, April 26, 2010

Muni Budget Leaves Board Prez David Chiu Mystified

Posted By on Mon, Apr 26, 2010 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Board President David Chiu to Muni: Show me the money! - N-JUDAH CHRONICLES/LAUREN OLIVER -- USED WITH PERMISSION
  • N-Judah Chronicles/Lauren Oliver -- Used with Permission
  • Board President David Chiu to Muni: Show me the money!
Board of Supervisors President David Chiu likes to remind people that he's a Muni rider. Come May 8, with 10 percent service cuts taking effect, he'll be a Muni waiter, just like everyone else.

Unlike everyone else, however, Chiu has the option of casting a vote for Muni to scrap its proposed budget and start anew. He wouldn't confirm to SF Weekly that he'd do that if Muni refused to significantly alter with the budget its board approved on April 20 -- but he came close.

"I am not at all prepared to accept it," said Chiu, who last year initiated an effort to squelch the Municipal Transportation Authority's budget leading to a "compromise" that didn't really please anybody. "I think the MTA budget, as presented, will need to change."

Here are Chiu's sticking points:

click to enlarge David Chiu
  • David Chiu
Chiu is confused why Muni is proposing its 10-percent service cuts stay in effect through fiscal 2011 and then are only reduced by half in 2012. With $36 million coming from the state in Fiscal '11 and $7 million potentially on the way from the County Transit Authority (that's the Board, with a different name, doling out transit money), how can that not change things?

"I was very surprised to learn in the last week that the $36 million plus the $7 million we are contemplating will not affect service cuts one bit," he said. "There were statements coming out of MTA management that some portion would be rolled back." 

In short, Chiu is puzzled why the MTA indicated it needed to cut service by 10 percent in fiscal 2011 to make ends meet, then came up with between $36 million and $43 million in found money, and stuck with those cuts. (Ten percent service cuts save Muni nearly $29 million a year, incidentally).

Chiu's other key concern is, not surprisingly, Muni "work orders," the payments the MTA makes to other city agencies for Muni-related work. The current two-year budget calls for nearly $120 million to be paid to the police, ambulance services, the city attorney, and others. Poring over the documents, it's easy to see where the money is going. It's not so easy to see why it's going there.

"Last year, during the budget negotiation process with the mayor, I had asked for a study of work orders and an analysis. We are still waiting for that from the controller's office," says Chiu. "My understanding is, the situation has not improved. There is a significant lack of clarity [on] what the MTA gets for its work orders. No one can articulate what the money is being used for."

Chiu's going to be asking some pretty tough questions in the coming days and weeks. We'd say "fasten your seatbelts" -- but, then, Muni doesn't have any.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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