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Letters to the Editor 

Week of Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Mr. Peter's Questions

Or why Mr. Bill isn't a likely savior: It appears that your piece ("Gridlock," Matt Smith, May 4) is mostly the recycled mantra that the press has over the years reported by "rounding up the usual suspects" at Muni and City Hall. Good journalism would require you to name some examples of the people, the incidents, and processes involved that support your claim that union officials, elected officials, bureaucrats, etc., have deliberately worked against the public interest in transit service.

You accuse transit operators of providing less service and getting more overtime because the system allows them to miss work and not be punished. (Sounds like news articles in the 1990s.) Where is your evidence? Prop. E specifically punishes operators who have miss outs. If service is bad, it's not the miss outs, as records would show. Where is your data on absenteeism and overtime?

According to other newspapers and the previous [civil] grand jury report (a report critical of Michael Burns), there had not been any data showing that transit operators have abused overtime. However, there were harsh accusations from these sources on overtime at the Police and Fire Departments. Mr. Matt, where is your evidence?

As in an earlier article by you, you showed great disdain that the 38 Geary stops at several locations in the Tenderloin. Let me apologize to you for the city that poor people would be near you if you ride the 38 Geary. Again you have your facts wrong, despite some of the letters to your editor correcting you. Muni already has provided people like you the means to avoid poor people. The 38 Geary has for decades operated the 38L from dawn to 7 p.m. that has only one stop in the Tenderloin between Van Ness and Powell. Also there are the 38BX and 38AX lines that avoid the Tenderloin entirely and also every street after Masonic and 25th Avenue respectively. Yet, Muni scandalously paid the private consultants Nelson-Nygaard money better used for other needs, to come up with the no-brainer that the 38 Geary would go faster if bus stops were eliminated.

Without any facts you have already crowned Bill Lieberman the savior of Muni. Why don't you wait and see first? Michael Burns had similarly been crowned when he first arrived. Yet, when he first arrived [Michael Burns had] a $185 million budget increase; Michael Burns now has a $57 million budget deficit, service targets that were never met in his five years at Muni, millions in lawsuits paid out to people injured or killed by Muni due to failed accident programs costing millions, hundreds of thousands paid out for sexual and racial harassments lawsuits, etc.

If Michael Burns is a savior, why do we now after five years need another one? If Michael Burns chose Mr. Bill, then that would be bad news.

Peter Der

Dearth of Reporting on Darth Vega

Journalism even worse than Detroit's: I have read some poor journalism in my time (I live in Detroit), but nothing that could come close to your piece on Frank Vega ("Darth Vega to the Rescue," May 4). How does it feel to have that much smoke blown up your ass? I'd really like to know. Reporter Craggs wrote as if he had a schoolgirl crush on the bad man from Detroit. Embedded inside the valentine were moments of jaw-dropping stupidity. A little bit of research, a little less breathlessness on the part of your reporter would have revealed a few insights.

If you think the San Francisco Chronicle lost money before this year, just wait. Circulation and ad revenues at the Detroit Newspapers have plunged to an industry low. Even as overall circulation in the United States has dropped, we have astonishingly low numbers, and this from a newspaper town. In 1994, the year before the lockout the papers made $55 million. They will never see those numbers again. Ad revenues are flat. Interest is zero. Ask people why they don't buy the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press and the answer is usually the same: They resubscribed when the labor struggle was over, but the newspapers suck.

It's telling that on the week of the Pulitzer announcements, the big story in Detroit was how the Free Press star writer, Mitch Albom, had lied in a column he wrote. There will be no more champagne corks popping in Detroit on Pulitzer day, and this is something that writers at the Chronicle should know.

The cost cutting measures applied due to the poor fortunes of the paper has meant no money for investigative reporting, less money for real reporters (and not the mooks they brought in to scab). The papers are filled with wire stories. At the same time, Vega raked in huge bonuses for each year of the lockout, despite his relatively poor performance.

If you want to know why Frank Vega left Detroit, the answer is simple. [The Chronicle] offered him bags full of money. Everyone from Detroit who left to join his team spent the last days at the paper bragging about how much money they were making. If they're making job cuts and benefit cuts, it's going to be to justify the huge salaries being made by these carpetbaggers.

What the writer found as charming, Runyon-esque -- Vega's habit of drinking and driving -- also had a great deal to do with his arrival in San Francisco. Vega is an embarrassing character in corporate Detroit. His last DUI, in Cocoa Beach, Fla., must have been the last straw. In a time when CEOs are facing real time for their dishonest ways with stock information, Vega's insider trading should be taken much, much more seriously. Vega's corporate behavior between 1995 and 2001 is well documented and chronicled in places like court documents, something you might have checked.

The writer also ignored (it would hurt a story about a misunderstood good guy, I guess) the incredible physical violence used on the strikers. You can find plenty of broken windshields and knife attacks on newspapers and upholstery, but where is the story of Vito Sciuto, beaten so badly in the head by security guards in 1995 at the Clayton Street Distribution Center that medics could see his brains while he lay in the street? Or how about the incident at Gate 3 in Sterling Heights, where a semi truck plowed through a locked gate into a group of picketers? One person was hurt in that incident; wasn't that newsworthy enough for Craggs?

The people of San Francisco should know that these same guards are either in S.F. or on their way. It's headed straight for you, citizens of San Francisco.

This is not a nice guy, this is not the savior of the San Francisco Chronicle, this is no colorful, ethnic-type character. This person helped to destroy two newspapers and more lives than he could ever count. The good news for Detroit is his departure. The bad news is for San Francisco, a beautiful city and a strong labor town.

Barbara Ingalls
Royal Oak, Michigan


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