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Friday, February 26, 2010

¡Arriba! Class Warfare Erupts During Muni Hearing.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2010 at 4:22 PM

Seen on the J-Church
  • Seen on the J-Church

UPDATE, 4:22 p.m. -- The San Francisco Business Times reports that the MTA board has voted not to enact rate hikes for elders, young people, and the disabled (yet), but will cut service citywide by 10 percent to alleviate its budget woes. It'll be interesting to see how the Transit Workers Union reacts, since the MTA may now be expecting labor to approve concessions that would also help balance the budget. (See below.)  

12:12 p.m. -- The San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Board is facing some tough decisions. Confronted with a $17 million budget deficit and hamstrung by an army of pampered transit operators represented by a stubborn union, the MTA is looking at a rate hike targeted at those who need public transportation most -- elders, the disabled, and young people. (We've also heard rumors that fees could rise for puppies, the Dalai Lama, and extremely cute, helpless bunny rabbits.)

The board convened for a public hearing on this deeply unpopular proposal this morning; as we write, the contentious gathering is still going full-steam. This being San Francisco, however, many of the firebrand orators who took to the podium during the public comment period digressed from the bureaucratic nightmare at hand to other issues. Like bank and insurer bailouts. Or Barack Obama. Or the plight of Afghan transit workers.

We're not kidding. As fliers circulated in the crowd with such labor slogans as "¡Mochen desde arriba!" (Chop from the top) and "¡Cobren a los ricos!" (Tax the rich), the rafters echoed with leftist outrage against the MTA Board -- and not just against the Muni operators' union, which so far has taken plenty of lumps for its members' intransigence.

"The lack of federal funding is the result of the war -- Obama's war on the Afghan transit workers!" This was the observation of David Reardon, a Muni operator. Gifford Hartman, a San Francisco resident and self-declared Working Class Historian, likened the MTA Board to authorities who ordered violent action against striking laborers in the early 20th Century.

"People like you killed ... people like us, the working class!" Hartman extended his analogy to include the corporate heads of bailed-out insurer AIG. "You're acting like the AIG executives! We're going to have to rise up and we're going to fight back against you!"

We'll see where that goes. In the meantime, the MTA Board appears poised for an interesting display of brinkmanship. Before public comment began, board chairman Tom Nolan suggested that the board nix the proposed rate hikes on the assumption that Transit Workers United will agree to money-saving concessions.

Stay tuned for an update this afternoon on what the board decides.

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Peter Jamison

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