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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

David Chiu Kills Muni Charter Amendment -- Which Would Have Failed Miserably

Posted By on Wed, Jul 28, 2010 at 11:59 AM

click to enlarge End of the line for the progressive Muni charter amendment - JIM HERD
  • Jim Herd
  • End of the line for the progressive Muni charter amendment
Call Supervisor David Chiu what you will, but don't call him sentimental. The Board of Supervisors' president last night tossed the "Progressive Muni Charter Amendment" he'd crafted alongside Ross Mirkarimi, Eric Mar, and David Campos under the bus, hammering out an agreement with the mayor that killed his legislation.

It was a smart move. Chiu hasn't yet returned our calls, but after talking with a few politicos in the know, SF Weekly can report that Chiu made this deal because it was the best deal he could make: The progs' Muni charter amendment would have been beaten mercilessly at the polls -- it would have been swamped by Supervisor Sean Elsbernd's "Fix Muni Now" amendment. And, yes, killing the Muni charter amendment and the supes' amendment regarding split appointments to the Recreation and Park Commission made Mayor Gavin Newsom happy. Yes, this is vote-trading, and, yes, that would be illegal. So's your NCAA Tournament bracket.

The progs' still-warm charter amendment had several major components: Appointments to the Muni board by the supes; Greater supervisorial control of Muni service cuts and budgetary matters; More money for Muni; and more auditing of Muni expenses and management practices.

click to enlarge David Chiu apparently took what there was to take
  • David Chiu apparently took what there was to take
The strongest elements of the charter are gone -- and, to be realistic, Newsom opting to cede appointments to Muni's board was as likely as finding a crisp $100 bill on the 38 Geary. But Chiu did manage to get something out of the mayor, which is more than he'd have gotten if the charter amendment was spiked by voters. Here's what he got:

  • Muni will now have to submit a plan to the Board of Supervisors explaining exactly how they plan on restoring prior service cuts -- which should, ostensibly, do away with rosy Muni budget scenarios of summer collapsing by the beginning of the new year and mandating service cuts. Now the transit agency will be forced to make its financial plans ahead of time;

  • Rather than concede the supes' desire to make appointments to the Muni Board, Newsom has agreed to convene a task force to review Muni's "governance" issues. Let's be frank: This is a waste of time. This problem will be solved to the progressive board's liking if the next mayor is a progressive. And if he or she is not -- nothing.

  • Muni will now have to explain to the Board of Supervisors exactly what it's getting for its "work orders," the charges other city departments make of Muni for services rendered (or not). A no-brainer.

  • Finally, Muni will now hire an auditor who will more closely oversee the transit agency's expenditures and practices. Hopefully he or she will find ways to save the agency more than it costs to hire yet another well-compensated Muni manager.

You can read the compromise between Chiu and Newsom regarding Muni here: MTA Reform Framework 7-27-10.pdf

Both Supervisors Ross Mirkarimi and David Campos told SF Weekly they don't think the above measures go far enough, and they'd have rather put the amendment before voters. Fair enough. But not only were the progs' Muni ideas likely not appealing to voters, there was no financing nor foot soldiers to mount a campaign. Lackluster support and no resources = a DOA charter amendment.

Moral victories are for losers. David Chiu weighed the situation and he pulled the trigger. Time will tell how wise a deal it was -- but, from here, it looks like the shrewd move.

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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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