By Michael Cabanatuan : sfchronicle – excerpt
As the agency in charge of parking, traffic, taxis and Muni — basically everything in San Francisco that’s supposed to move people — the Municipal Transportation Agency is, quite naturally, a popular target of criticism.
Some critics say the MTA, as it’s often known, is trying to force everyone to get rid of their
cars, while others say the agency is too timid and too reluctant to radically improve
transportation in the city. They also say the mayor has way too much influence as the one
who appoints its Board of Directors.
Those critics have united behind Proposition L on the Nov. 8 ballot. The proposal, which
requires a simple majority vote to pass, seeks to give the Board of Supervisors more
authority over the seven-member board.
Although the mayor appoints its members, they are confirmed by the Board of Supervisors.
They serve four-year terms and have to leave after three terms. Prop. L would change the
appointment process so that four of the members would be appointed by the mayor and
three by the supervisors. The mayor’s appointees would still be subject to the supervisors’
The proposition would also give supervisors a slightly stronger hand in the agency’s
budget. The MTA board passes its own budget, which must be approved or rejected in its
entirety by the supervisors — unless they can muster seven votes to send it back for
revision. Prop. L would lower that requirement to six votes… (more)
Proponents say the changes would bring more transparency to the agency. Opponents say
it would shift power to the Board of Supervisors and return the city to the transportation
mess that existed in the 1990s, when a series of problems with Muni Metro culminated
with a systemwide meltdown after its then-new computerized train control system failed.
Political observers says Prop. L is a power grab — or at least a jab at the mayor.
Supervisor Norman Yee, who placed Prop. L on the ballot, said it’s an effort to bring more
diversity to the MTA board and to make the appointment and budget processes similar to
city commissions, committees and other city departments. Supervisors have appointment
powers over those commissions and committees.
“Lets keep it consistent,” he said. “Why not?”
Yee said the proposition is not an attempt to give the supervisors more say over Muni,
traffic or parking. And he said it was not intended to dismantle the MTA or object to its
policies and direction. Some critics of the agency, like Stop SFMTA, support the measure
because they hope it will lead to an agency overhaul.
“They work for us. We don’t work for them,” the group says in a pro-L statement on its
website. “San Francisco needs a transportation system that works today, not a plan for the
future. We need a board who listens to the public, not one that dictates to us.”…
Some of the MTA’s more controversial steps, like redesigning streets to speed transit or to
accommodate bikes and pedestrians, would have been far more difficult to achieve with a board appointed by both the mayor and supervisors, he said “So many good things have happened that would have been difficult for political people to do,” Nolan said.
Nolan makes a good selling point to support Prop L for people who oppose what the SFMTA is doing.
“Prop. L will make it much easier for the Board of Supervisors to meddle in Muni’s
budget and take us back to the bad old days — the 1990s, when the board controlled
Muni and ran it into the ground,” he said. “You may have problems with Muni, but
those of us around in ’90s, when Muni was falling apart, will remember how bad it was.
Let’s bring back the bad old days before before SFMTA cut Muni service and created gridlock on our streets. Let’s go back to the public being served instead of being ignored. Let’s go back to a healthy mixed economy and friendly city streets.
Let’s go back to a Muni that serves the public, not one that spend millions of dollars on toys to pacify us while we wait for the bus.
Let’s go back to a Muni that is not in the destruction/construction business.