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Wednesday, Jan 24 1996
Missing Out in the Mist
You're standing in the dense drizzle next to a Muni shelter (An ironic label for a billboard, you think), waiting for the J train. It has been more than half an hour on a weekday. A fellow delayed commuter bellows his frustration: "It's because of those drivers not showing up for work" -- referring to the controversial union rules that allow Muni operators to miss a shift on any given day with no excuse. Finally at work yourself (an hour and a half late), you call Anne Milner, a representative of Muni's community affairs department. Though she can't say how many drivers "miss out" on a daily basis (in good weather or bad), she points out that only .5 percent of bus and streetcar service lapses can be blamed on driver miss-outs. Figures show that in the last six months of 1995, 3.25 percent of all drivers were absent daily -- on vacation, sick, or missing out. Of more than 1,800 drivers, that's about 60 per day. Combine driver absenteeism with runs missed because of broken-down equipment, Milner says, and Muni missed 4.3 percent of its runs in the last six months of 1995 (that's down from 5.1 percent in the same months of 1994). Milner acknowledges that rainy days can exacerbate the problem; many Muni drivers live out of town and arrive late after battling traffic-clogged highways and bridges. Still, she points out that the perception of drivers missing out without being disciplined is false. For every quarter, she explains, the first instance draws a caution; the second, a warning; the third, a five-day suspension without pay; the fourth, a 10-day suspension without pay. Five or more days, Milner says, means the driver is up for dismissal. You resolve to remember this the next time you're waiting for Muni in the rain.

Capt. Cairns Rolls Lemons
In a town where cronyism and money too often determine who wins and loses in politics, it's sweet justice to see someone lose big and ugly playing the inside game. SFPD Capt. Richard Cairns thought he'd use the mayor's race as a way of advancing himself through the ranks, even perhaps winning the police chief's job. He sprinkled money into the campaign stashes of three major contenders: Willie Brown, Frank Jordan, and Angela Alioto. He went as far as to hold a fund-raiser for Brown. But the new mayor passed him over for the chief's job, opting instead for Fred Lau and the opportunity to make history appointing the first Asian-American chief. But that was only the beginning of Cairns' losing streak. Cairns' biggest backer, Brown's campaign manager, Jack Davis, is now going around town spreading vicious falsehoods about Lau, saying the new chief lied on his rŽsumŽ and that he was less than truthful in filing police reports in the '70s. Gee, did Davis think this would help his friend maybe win a conciliation command post promotion from Lau? If he did, he's flat-ass wrong. Taking the highroad, Lau simply says, "There are no vacancies in the command staff right now. If one opens up, everyone who is qualified will be considered." You can bet a bundle Cairns won't be on any promo list for a while.

Willie Week 2
Extending his philosophy of government of glib, the Emperor glided into Week 2 by resolving a minor crisis as if it were a sitcom instead of, in Frank Jordan's immortal words, "a third-rate soap opera." It's easy to force the squabbling subordinates on your payroll to smile and shake hands, but in the process has Brown created expectations that he can get San Francisco's lions to lie down with its tigers? The Lau/Davis tiff was just that, a tiff, a war of words, where neither side could win. We'll endorse Brown for the Nobel Peace Prize when he gets Larry Martin and the Muni drivers to slow dance with Doug Shorenstein and his Men From Jobs.

By John Sullivan, George Cothran, Jack Shafer


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