MTA Public Meeting Disappoints as its Transparency Continues to Erode.

By Rick Hall and Ted Lowenberg

The SFMTA is becoming much less transparent. We have noticed the bundling of “projects” into an incomprehensible mass. For example, TEP (now Muni-Forward) – proposed massive changes that reduced neighborhood service but promised – system wide improvement. The massive scope of this plan made it unlikely that any but the most astute would detect the impacts on their commute. SFMTA’s “community meetings” are structured by their consultants in an “open house” setting to discourage individual attendees from hearing other’s comments and (heaven forbid) coming together on an issue as a real community.

One of our readers was disturbed by this charade at a recent SFMTA Board of Directors Meeting (April 21, 2015). He was particularly concerned about the confusing manner in which street parking removal was described in the consent calendar, where it would presumably be approved en mass, along with other items. The notice was vague and it was difficult to discuss individual streets with any clarity or precision.

He wanted to know exactly how many spots were to be removed in each area and why there were no proposed mitigation measures or consideration of environmental impact. The curb space was targeted by MTA for “car share parking” but there was no mention of how much revenue was expected from the sale of the space. He sees this project as “selling public assets to private companies at bargain prices” for the benefit of the regulatory agency that is proposing the contract. Is this legal or ethical?

During the meeting the Chairman was not speaking into the microphone, so much was missed by the audience of about 35 persons. When our reader pointed this out twice, he was ignored. He said ”it’s not a public meeting if the conversation cannot be heard by the public,” in reference to the Brown Act.

There will be a chance at a future meeting to argue against this public give-away to private, profit companies. We will let you know when to turn out for this – the more people the better. As the commission “goes silent,” we need to go LOUD.

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Problems with public meetings that may be addressed soon in a ballot initiative.

Report on the April 21st MTA Commission Meeting:

I attended the MTA Commission meeting on the 21st to object to the Consent calendar containing removal from public parking, all the car rental parking spots around the city. (On the attached link to the agenda is the list of the particular spots. )

http://www.sfmta.com/calendar/meetings/board-directors-meeting-april-21-2015
No description of how many parking spots are being lost this way. No mitigation measures. No environmental impact consideration. Bargain pricing of a pubic asset. This is clearly an example of MTA following in the railroad tracks of Il Duce. Since when has our democracy in SF taken such a severe hit to the groin?

I also admonished the chairman for conducting a meeting without being able to be heard by the audience. When I first asked him to speak into the microphone, he looked up at me, and then went right back to mumbling whatever he said. After I denounced his contempt for the folks who came to participate, he went, again, right back to speaking without being heard. It is not a public meeting if the conversation of all the speakers cannot be heard.

Back to the car rental spots, this item will be heard on its own in some future meeting (not indicated at the time). Can you please get the word out to your mailing list that will be their chance to  argue against this public give-away to private profit companies.The more people the better, and the objective should be to take as much of the commission’s time as possible. Let them feel the pain of our outrage, since I’m sure they’ll approve the matter regardless of what the people have to say. After all, it is the MO of the MTA. “Muni: We don’t give a shit what YOU think”

– Ted

SFMTA ruling might cost cabbies

By: Will Reisman : SFExaminer.com – excerpt

A controversial proposal to reform how The City issues its taxi operating permits will be up for approval today, despite the recent mass resignations from an industry advisory board.
For the past two years, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which regulates cabs in The City, has run a pilot program that allows cabbies to sell their medallions for $250,000 to prospective drivers…
The SFMTA has now offered up a full-time replacement program.
“For 34 years, there was a written promise that if you were a good boy and waited your turn, you’d get a medallion,” said Rich Hybels, owner of Metro Cab. “Now, the SFMTA is using the plan solely to suck money out of the industry.”
Under the new program, the cost of purchasing taxi medallions would increase to $300,000 and the minimum age for selling one would be reduced from 65 to 60. But the major sticking point for the industry is the SFMTA’s plan to collect a 50 percent transfer fee from the sales, up from the pilot program’s 15 percent.
Hybels is one of seven members of The City’s Taxi Advisory Council — established to inform the SFMTA board of directors about industry recommendations — who resigned from the 14-person body in protest of the proposal. The council made a unanimous recommendation that the SFMTA should receive no profits from medallion sales. Hybels said the SFMTA refused to consider the recommendation.
“While it’s disappointing that these individuals stepped down on the eve of such an important discussion, we will continue to work with the industry as we improve taxi service, conditions for our drivers and the overall transportation network,” said SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose.
Athan Rebelos, the general manager at DeSoto Cab, said the $300,000 price tag is a reasonable rate. But he said the 50 percent transfer fee to the SFMTA is too high.
“Nobody should be paying a tax that high,” Rebelos said. “This proposal seemed to come completely out of left field.”
Malcolm Heinicke, an SFMTA board member, said medallions are public assets and money from sales should benefit the public. Heinicke said the agency has partnered with a credit union to finance loans so drivers can afford to purchase medallions.
Along with taking a cut from driver-to-driver medallion sales, the SFMTA also has sold medallions directly to drivers in the past two years, making more than $20 million. And an additional $3.1 million has been diverted to a cabdrivers fund. However, Hybels said, the agency hasn’t made efforts to curb illegal taxis.
The SFMTA board of directors is scheduled to vote on the proposal today. If approved, the agency projects to receive $14 million from medallion sales over the next two years.
(more)

Aside from the 50% tax which the SFMTA seems to think is a reasonable rate, the math is highly suspicious. How can they claim to make $20 million dollars over the past two years at 250K per medallion, but expect to make only $14 million dollars over the next two years after increasing the price to 300K per medallion? What is the point in raising the costs if they expect lower profits?

What is NOT a public asset? This is one of those terms we are hearing constantly now whenever the SFMTA wants to impose a new tax, fee, or fine.