Time to tie pay to Muni’s on-time performance

By Jon Golinger : sfexaminer – excerpt

Jerry Brown had a great idea: The people who run Muni should actually ride Muni.

In 1993, a grass-roots citizens group founded by Brown collected thousands of petition signatures and put a measure on the San Francisco ballot requiring the mayor, supervisors, and top city officials to ride Muni or other public transit to work at least twice every week.

In the voter information pamphlet, Brown wrote: “Government is getting out of touch because too many officeholders and city workers act like potentates, not public servants. Send them a message! VOTE YES on AA to get them back to reality by riding the Muni twice a week.”…

In fact, according to a report presented to the Board of Supervisors this spring, Muni’s on-time performance rate last year fell to an all-time low of 57.2 percent, rising this spring to a whopping 60.2 percent — 25 percentage points short of the required goal. Hearing this, Supervisor Scott Wiener reportedly said that he was “pleased with the progress” Muni is making. If that’s progress, what’s failure?

Two measures on November’s ballot propose that San Francisco taxpayers contribute more money for Muni. I think most Muni riders and residents will support these measures and gladly contribute our fair share to fix Muni – as long as we believe we will actually get better service as a result. But clearly, as the last 15 years have shown, more money from riders and taxpayers alone isn’t the only answer to fixing what ails Muni — we also need something else to ensure we get real results: accountability.

A fundamental flaw with prior Muni reforms is that they failed to link measurable performance standards with enforcement mechanisms that would ensure the penalty for failure was felt by the people in charge who failed to do their jobs, not just by Muni riders.

Instead, the salaries for top Muni executives have gone up at the very same time that Muni service has gone down and riders have been repeatedly asked to pay more. According to a report by the city controller, the transportation director of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which runs Muni, is one of the highest-paid department heads in San Francisco, making more money than even the mayor, with a salary of $294,000 per year (Ed Lee makes $285,319). Ed Reiskin has nine top deputies who each get paid more than $169,000 per year — a bigger salary than the director of transportation for the entire state of California.

Let’s ensure some real accountability from the people who run Muni by requiring that, any year that Muni fails to meet the 85 percent on-time performance requirement mandated by voters, the head of Muni and his top executives will have their generous salaries reduced by the same percentage that Muni failed to meet its performance goal, with those funds put right back into improving Muni service… (more)

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