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Thursday, February 25, 2010

'March Against Muni' Organizers Say They're Just Two Frustrated Bus-Riders

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2010 at 12:01 AM

They're mad as hell... - JIM HERD
  • Jim Herd
  • They're mad as hell...
As the March 1 "March Against Muni" draws near, a number of questions are being bandied about with greater frequency. No. 1 is, "Who are these people?" You won't find out on their Web site, leading to rumors even among intelligent, Muni-knowledgeable people that this was yet another crusade of International ANSWER -- the people who ruined the antiwar movement and can find ways to blame Israel for the weather in the Pacific Northwest.

Well, the organizers claim it's not. Jared Roussel and Blake Bakken say they're just two city guys who ride Muni, have had enough, and aren't affiliated with any larger groups. Bakken is a graphic designer -- that's why they've got stellar visuals on their Web site -- and Russo is a Web guy, too. They've amassed 600 Facebook friends and come Monday, they're hoping to march down Market Street, ululate with righteous discontent, and revive this moribund transit system.

Good luck with that.

Muni is a Gordian Knot of politics, ill will, fiscal mismanagement, and, of course, urine; you can't solve its myriad problems by pulling a Howard Beale and bellowing that you're mad as hell and you're not going to take this anymore. You have to take this -- there's no other bus system in town.

  • Jim Herd
Bakken and Roussel -- who came across as nice, well-meaning guys -- say they've never before organized a protest. This was something they just decided to pull the trigger on back on Feb. 15. They've amassed a lot of Facebook support -- but, then, so did Gavin Newsom.

"I'm a design director," says Bakken. "I don't know politics, unions, the in-and-outs. I don't pretend to know this stuff."

Well, that's important. You can be justified in your anger at waiting 48 minutes for a full, stinking bus. But it's not going beyond that without tangible, organized, goals. Look at these demands. Tangible and organized these are not.

One of the graphics on the March Against Muni page reads "no more automatic pay raises." Yes, one can be righteously miffed that bus drivers are getting non-negotiable raises this year, even though they voted down wage concessions that could have eased the blow of service cuts and fare hikes. But you can't do away with automatic pay raises without altering the City Charter. You can't place a grass-roots charter amendment on the ballot without gathering 70,000-odd signatures. You can't do that without scads of money. And you can't do anything without running headlong into the Transit Workers Union. And they just hired political pit bull Eric Jaye to kill that charter amendment by any means necessary. And, guess what? Jaye does know politics, unions, the in-and-outs. He knows this stuff.

We could go on: Is two weeks enough to organize an effective citywide Muni boycott -- considering most people are riding Muni because driving, walking, or biking aren't valid options? And is it really such a great idea for Bakken and Roussel to blithely note that giving up Muni would hardly be a chore because it's quicker to walk anyway? Try telling that to the elderly and disabled. And, finally, the last of March Against Muni's "demands" is "No More Paper Fast Passes." Bakken and Roussel told SF Weekly Muni would be better served to go whole hog to TransLink (Clipper!), which would cut down on fare evasion and give more accurate ridership numbers.

Okay -- then should Muni get rid of transfers, too? Bakken says he doesn't have a "firm viewpoint" on that. But, really, the larger point is: Do these guys think people are going to march down the streets demanding an end to paper Fast Passes?

The breakdown of public transportation -- in this nation, state, and city -- is a complicated matter. You can't solve these problems with simple solutions. You can't ward off crises decades in the making by shaking your fist at them. Best of luck to Bakken and Roussel. Their hearts are in the right place. This movement of theirs is not.

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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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