Chiu moves to reject Muni budget


At the May 4 Board of Supervisors meeting, Board President David Chiu introduced a motion to reject the Municipal Transportation Agency budget, approved by the MTA Board on April 20.

Noting the deep service cuts that are scheduled to inflict the city’s public transportation system on Saturday, May 8, Chiu said riders could expect “longer wait times, more crowding, and people being passed up by full trains.”

Chiu has signaled his frustration with the MTA before and called for reform. “We will be having many conversations with the MTA and with the Mayor’s Office, but I do think at this time we can do better than the budget that we have in front of us,” he said.

Chiu also referenced a recently issued City Controller’s review of SFMTA work orders, conducted to find out if various city departments contracted to provide services for Muni are fairly and accurately billing the agency. The report indicated that MTA work order expenditures have been on the rise, while various city departments “did not often provide sufficient reporting documentation in their billings, and we don’t have a strong sense of whether these bills were paid appropriately for services rendered,” Chiu noted.

Accordingly, he introduced accompanying legislation requesting that the City Attorney draft legislation to implement key recommendations in the controllers’ review.

“It’s just not responsible,” said Tony Winnicker, press secretary to Mayor Gavin Newsom, when asked for a comment on the proposal to reject the Muni budget. “If they’ve got specific solutions … then that’s different. But for now it’s just political grandstanding of the worst kind, and it’s really irresponsible.”

According to section of the City Charter that deals with the public-transit system, however, the board doesn’t have the power to modify the MTA’s budget -- it can only accept it or give it a thumbs down. According to Section VIII A 106 (c): “the Board of Supervisors may allow the Agency's budget to take effect without any action on its part or it may reject but not modify the Agency's budget by a seven-elevenths' vote.”


We need to totally eliminate boards and commissions that are dominated by mayoral appointments and replace them with appointments from the board of supervisors, which is much more representative. That's the root of the problem here, and these problems will not go away until that's fixed.

When he was supervisor, had a discussion with Tom Ammiano about changing to a weak mayor form of government like that of Berkeley or what Oakland used to have until Jerry Brown took over as mayor. Instead of a tyrannical mayor wielding a ton of power, power is vested in the city council or board of supervisors, who are nowhere near as dependent on campaign contributions as a mayor. Unfortunately, while Supervisor Ammiano liked the idea, we both realized that doing this would be very difficult, requiring a lot of time, money, effort, and a massive volunteer effort, and he didn't want to take it on at that time. Too bad, getting that done would have done a lot to fix what's wrong with SF politics.

Posted by Jeff Hoffman on May. 08, 2010 @ 10:35 am