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Letters to the Editor 

Week of April 24, 2002

Muni Money

If it's good enough for New Jersey, it's good enough for us: I'd like to clarify for your readers several points made in Matt Smith's article in the April 10 SF Weekly ("Runaway Train," on a complex, $1 billion Muni leasing deal). The purpose of Muni's proposed transaction is to earn one-time revenue from the legal transfer of an asset associated with our rail cars, helping us to fulfill our Proposition E mandate to generate new revenues.

When voters passed Proposition E in November 1999, they required that Muni "diligently seek to develop new sources of funding for the agency's operations." Muni consistently looks into new options to generate revenue as we struggle with operating expenses that are projected to increase by approximately 41 percent over the next 10 years, as well as with capital needs that far exceed our capital budget. This new revenue will help us fund many important projects, such as our clean air initiatives, an expanded NextBus program, and increased security and safety measures, to name a few.

Muni is the last major national transit agency in the past decade to utilize this financing option. Over 30 transit agencies, including our local partners BART, Caltrain, and Santa Clara's VTA, have completed similar transactions. New Jersey is working on their 10th such transaction and has generated over $200 million in new revenues.

Rather than crying "Runaway Train," we hope that SF Weekly, its readers, and our riders will support Muni in its many efforts to seek new revenue. The train we are riding helps us get that much closer to a first-class transit agency, the type of transit agency San Francisco deserves.

Michael Burns
General Manager, Muni
Civic Center

Confused by Copia

Food for thought: That was fun. Thanks for the first-rate secondhand tour of the cultural and culinary quandary of Copia ("What the Hell Is Copia?," April 10). May it last to grow into a palatable version of its promise.

Name Withheld

Spread the Word

Let's send a tutor to the Middle East: I've read the very interesting article by Mark Athitakis ("Slow Movement," Bay View, April 3, on an Esperanto language course that will no longer be taught in San Francisco), and I want to congratulate you. As a consequence of technology and globalization, the world is becoming smaller. So the need of an international language is imperative. Esperanto is the best solution, because it is easy to learn and, besides, it is the language of friendship and peace. I hope that, after reading your article, many Americans will learn it.

Dr. Marcelo Casartelli
Córdoba, Argentina

The Poor Next Door

Take this story and shovel it: Matt Smith makes live-work loft dwellers like me seem surprised to learn that their neighborhoods are challenged by problems involving addicts, prostitution, homelessness, hookers, crime, and that omnipresent smell of urine ("Now That's Amore," April 3). Well, Matt, I researched the neighborhood and was realistic about its challenges, and I strongly believe that things will improve. To suggest that these problems have to be part and parcel of living in a low-income neighborhood is an insult to the poor you appear to be crusading for. Everybody deserves to live in a good, safe neighborhood regardless of their income level. Mothers who walk their children to school deserve not to walk past a gauntlet of drunks, junkies, and prostitutes whether they live in the Mission or in the Marina.

You also claim that I want to keep 76 poor people from moving into my neighborhood because I'm opposed to the SRO [Mission] Hotel's expansion. What I'm opposed to is 76 poor people being exploited by for-profit SRO housing that provides no services to help people get back on their feet.

Next time, Matt, dig a little deeper.

Paul Sauer

Math Problem

Maybe he worked a lot of overtime: Love your comic strip (Puni, by Dan Siegler). I have been intrigued by the latest round of Muni ads boasting about a specific Muni driver and how many miles he/she has driven. There's some real fuzzy math going on here. [I] saw this example posted on the side of a 1 California bus: "Rafael Cabrera -- Cable Car Driver. Over 1,746,000 miles driven." That means Rafael would have had to start working for Muni at age 20 and worked for the last 45 years, putting him presently at 65 years old. If you divide 1,746,000 by the 45 years he drove the cable car, or any other Muni vehicle, 365 days a year, [you get] a total of 38,800 miles per year, or 106.3 miles a day. He would have had to cross the full length or width of our fair city, estimating San Francisco proper at approximately seven miles by seven miles, 15 times a day. Whew! He must be one burned-out dude!

Carol Bella
Richmond District


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