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Thursday, August 2, 2007

MUNI To Run Faster, Cheaper and On-Time Under New Act

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2007 at 6:00 AM

The Emissions Reduction and Transit Reform Act of 2007 means:

-Buses will run faster because politics will be out of the way.

-Rides will cost the same amount or less, because MUNI will get more money from new parking and tax revenues.

-Rides will arrive about as often, but there will less delays.

News Analysis By Benjamin Wachs

The “Emissions Reduction and Transit Reform Act of 2007” is way too boring a name for what will happen if voters sign off on the latest MUNI bill approved by the Board of Supervisors this week. It should be called “The MUNI on Crack Act,” or the “Super MUNI Power Punch Transit Management Act.”

That’s because this proposed charter amendment, is the most sweeping change to the MUNI system since 1999.

Supporters say the amendment, drafted by Board President Aaron Peskin, will guarantee a smoother MUNI ride. Opponents say it makes MUNI unaccountable to the voters.

Citizens can read through all 58 pages, but here’s a bite-sized summary:

Traffic: The Peskin Amendment puts all aspects of traffic and parking under the MTA. This includes regulations for taxis, parking spaces, bicycle lanes, stop lights, driving regulations, fines, fees, and rates. The MTA Board of Directors won’t have to win approval from the Supes to change the rules on any of this stuff.

However, the public can seek a Board of Supervisors review of many decisions like the instillation or removal of a stop sign, the creation or elimination of a parking zone, or the creation or elimination of a bicycle lane. The Supes can overturn the MTA’s decision if they act within 60 days of the complaint. Ha!

Personnel: The Peskin Amendment lets the MTA run its own shop, almost entirely separate from the city’s HR department. All personnel decisions will be handled internally. The number of employees exempt from civil service protection will rise from 1.5% to 2.75%. Transit operators will legally be required to get wages that are “at least equivalent to he wages of the two highest paid comparable systems,” and incentive-based compensation will be created. That means we pay them more, though no one’s sure just how much more yet.

Money: The budget deadline would move from March 1 to May 1. The MTA would use a two-year budget cycle, and have the power to incur debt so long as the Supes don’t argue. The MTA will also get more sources of money that the city can’t touch: virtually all parking meter revenue will go directly to the MTA, as will revenues from municipal off-street parking facilities; fines from parking violations; and “80 percent of the revenues received from the City’s tax on occupation of parking spaces.” Bottom line: MUNI gets more dedicated revenue every year, but it has to plan its spending an extra year out.

The Supes will be unable to modify an MTA budget – at all. However, the threshold for them to entirely reject a budget has been lowered from two-thirds of the board (8 members) to 7.

Pollution: The MTA needs to come up with a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80% of 1990 levels by 2012. The MTA is also required to lower MUNI vehicle energy consumption, have zero greenhouse gas emissions from transit vehicles, and increase the use of bicycles as an alternate form of transportation.

Who wins: Board President Aaron Peskin, who fought, pleaded, compromised, and did everything short of selling his soul to the Mayor to get this thing passed.

Unions, had enough clout to doom the measure unless Peskin agreed to drop his original plans to have a full 10% of the workers removed from civil service protection. He did.

The MTA Board of Directors, who wet dream about some of these provisions ever since they were little Directors and picked up their first copy of “Transit Magazine.” Oh, those centerfolds and their naughty zoning laws!

The Mayor, who appoints the MTA board of directors (with the Supes approval). In the end, this gives people who are likely to be his loyalists more power. But, not content with getting a transit measure he really, really, wanted, Newsom also managed to come up with a half-way convincing reason to oppose it (see below), so that he doesn’t have to answer to its opponents in this year’s election.

Who loses: Supervisors Jack McGoldrick and Gerardo Sandoval, who proposed a ballot measure that would have done exactly the opposite of almost everything the Peskin Amendment does. Their bill died in committee after both the Mayor, Peskin, and most of the board’s progressives decided it was an incredibly bad idea.

Unions, because even though they made Peskin beg like a hippie on Market Street for their support – and kept their civil service protection – they still know that having the Board of Supervisors able to review personnel decisions means nobody has to get fired, ever, for anything. If the Peskin Amendment is passed by the voters, they lose that.

Who got screwed: Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier, who first supported it at the Mayor’s behest and didn’t realize … until it was too late … that he’d found an exit strategy.

Here’s that back story: Mayor Newsom held a press conference last week supporting the Peskin Amendment. But he asked Peskin to leave out a provision that will tighten restrictions on new parking spaces off the copies of the bill that were presented at that conference. Those provisions, however, still remained on the legal version of the bill as it was before the Board of Supervisors.

That provision kills Alioto-Pier’s pet project to create more parking spaces downtown, but she didn’t realize it until McGoldrick brought it up during debate the next day.

Before that point, the Peskin Amendment had survived several close votes by a 6 – 5 majority, with Alioto-Pier in the majority. After she found out about the parking provision, she changed her vote to oppose it – but by then it was too late. She’d kept it alive just long enough that she couldn’t kill it any longer.

Meanwhile, Mayor Newsom said he’s shocked … shocked! … to learn there’s an anti-parking provision in the Peskin Amendment, and said that he now opposes it.

As they say in the movies “Your winnings, sir.”

Does anyone else see it this way?

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David Downs


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