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Friday, June 17, 2011

Nat Ford's Departure Is Timed Well

Posted By on Fri, Jun 17, 2011 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge Is help on the way?
  • Is help on the way?

Yesterday we pondered departing Muni CEO Nat Ford's legacy. It's hard to assess. In a way, under Ford, Muni is a bit like a meal at McDonald's -- you always get what you expected to get, and you're never all that thrilled with it.

There is a case to be made, however, that Ford is doing Muni a great service by leaving -- specifically by leaving now.

This may come as a surprise to anyone who's seen how things work here in the big city over the past six-odd years, but Muni's CEO doesn't work for the mayor. He works for the Municipal Transportation Agency board. That the MTA board will do whatever the mayor commands it to do is a truism akin to "drinking battery acid is bad for you."

That being said, San Francisco is ostensibly being run by an unelected bureaucrat who doesn't have designs on making political points. So this may be the only time in the foreseeable future that the MTA board can make a truly independent decision on who should next run the agency without the mayor leaning on it to do his bidding.

Kind of makes you wonder why the MTA board was so keen that Ford pack his bags and roll out of town by the end of the month, no?

Still, MTA board chairman Tom Nolan told SF Weekly's Erin Sherbert that he has no plans to conduct a national search to fill Ford's position. We're not sure what to make of that. If Nolan thinks there's someone already in the system who can answer to the board and the riders instead of kowtowing to future mayors -- well, that'd be spectacular.

This is a big chance for the MTA board to hire someone who can use the phrase "transit-first city" without inadvertently smirking. We'll learn a lot about how seriously we can take this board by how they go about filling this vacancy.

Muni continues to struggle with its on-time arrival rate. We'll see how timely Ford's departure is.

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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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