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Divided board moves ahead with MUNI reforms

Supervisors Aaron Peskin (right) and Jake McGoldrick (left), each had separate competing MUNI reform proposals heard at yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting. In a close vote, Supervisors leant their support to Peskin's reform proposal, but not without contention or controversy.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Emmett Berg

July 25, 2007

A coalition led by Supervisor Aaron Peskin beat back challenges on the Board of Supervisors yesterday to an omnibus charter amendment seeking wide alterations to how the city Municipal Transportation Agency operates in conjunction with elected lawmakers.

The proposed charter amendment is the largest transit overhaul since the approval by voters in 1999 of Proposition E, which created the San Francisco MTA.

"This charter amendment will allow Muni to move into the 21st century," Peskin said at yesterday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Yet not all lawmakers showed immediate support. Board votes barely fell short on at least five proposed changes to the Muni reform plan supported by Mayor Gavin Newsom and Peskin. Two substitute amendments lost by the slender margin of five votes in favor and six supervisors against.

The Board of Supervisors next week faces a more consequential vote on the suggested changes to Muni, reforms that would require later ratification by city voters.

The changes include transfer to Muni some of the functions now belonging to the city Department of Parking and Traffic, like parking rates and fees. It would abolish the Taxi Commission and fold those responsibilities into Muni. And it would remove from future supervisors' agendas votes over placement of stop signs, curb matters or traffic control measures.

Personnel changes would also take effect such as increasing the number of employees serving at the pleasure of the executive director, and enshrining performance bonuses that could upend in part the seniority-based salary system unionized employees now work under.

The agency will spend about $668 million providing service this fiscal year.

The proposed charter amendment would increase by $26 million, or double, the current yearly amount Muni takes in from parking taxes. Executive Director Nat Ford said in the news conference on Monday that the extra funds would be directed toward improving service.

Peskin, Mayor Gavin Newsom, MUNI Director Nathaniel Ford and labor union leaders announced Monday they have reached agreement on moving forward with Peskin's Muni reform package.

Finally the charter amendment would allow Muni for the first time to float revenue bonds and raise cash to meet agency-specific priorities. A half-cent portion of the city sales tax flows to Muni and could be useful for raising even more money.

In a news conference on Monday the mayor was asked to defend the plan against charges that it might be an abdication of elected officials' responsibility, even for garden variety decisions over street signs.

"It's not a duck by any stretch," Newsom responded. "It consolidates authority in a very transparent body."

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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