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Monday, April 30, 2012

Bruce Oka off Muni Board -- Just Five Commissioners Left to Vote on Central Subway Bond

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Bruce is loose
  • Bruce is loose

"You never call, you never write" isn't just the lament of parents and grandparents everywhere. It's come to be the gripe of several former city commissioners.

Bruce Oka's four-year term as a Municipal Transportation Agency board member expired on April 29, and he says neither Mayor Ed Lee nor anyone connected to Lee bothered to pick up the phone and dial Oka's number. And no, no one wrote, either. Oka, in fact, says he's been trying to arrange a meeting with Lee for more than a year -- "and I was a sitting commissioner!" But, always, he was told "soon."

"I'm not gonna publicly criticize the mayor for what he's doing," says Oka, a Gavin Newsom appointee who was unafraid to criticize the denizens of City Hall. "But somebody could have called me and let me know whether I'm back or I should make other plans. I could have accepted that. This appointment is important to me; don't get me wrong. But if the mayor doesn't want me, so be it."

Nicole Wheaton, Lee's appointments secretary, told SF Weekly "no call has been made" on whether to reappoint Oka -- which, inadvertently, also serves as a double-entendre regarding the mayor's phone-averse style. With Oka in limbo and Malcolm Heinicke's reappointment not yet approved by the Board of Supervisors, only five Muni board members will tomorrow vote on a lightly publicized bond measure that could add upwards of $61 million to the city's costs for the Central Subway.

Interestingly, Muni's explanation for the bond is that there is "uncertainty" on when $61 million in California voter-approved Proposition 1A High-Speed Rail money will come the city's way. That's one way of putting things. Another is that it's almost certainly not coming -- and, therefore, the Central Subway's local price tag figures to grow by many millions.

You may recall Gov. Jerry Brown vetoing the use of High-Speed Rail (HSR) money for the Central Subway and other local projects last year, bluntly stating they "appear unrelated to the high-speed rail project or an integrated rail plan." This year, officials at the state Department of Transportation indicated the governor would veto use of HSR money for the Central Subway again if it came to it. That doesn't sound very "uncertain."

Here's what is "uncertain," though: The prospects of any MTA board member who doesn't toe the mayor's line.

Coda: Less than 15 minutes after we called Wheaton to ask her about Oka, the former MTA commissioner reported that he'd subsequently received a call from the mayor's office. He is officially off the MTA Board. "I have been thanked for my service," he adds. "They said they were going with someone else. But they won't tell me who, because it doesn't become official until tomorrow."

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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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