What Will 2009 Be Like for San Franciscans and MUNI?

There’s been no shortage of news, good and bad, these last few months. The economy is spiraling downward, and state and local governments are following down the drain as well. MUNI continues to provide plenty of drama for daily commuters, and that sense that no one is at City Hall minding the store continues.
That all said, 2009 might not be so bad for those of us who rely on MUNI, and those of us who need to be able to get around, be it by car, bike, or walking. That’s because despite all the doom and gloom, there are some opportunities for us to take an active role in making things work for us for a change. None of it will happen, however, unless folks are willing to own the problem and start demanding real solutions.
There’s a new President coming on board in a few weeks, and there’s lots of talk about “investing” and “projects” and the like. Our Speaker, who happens to hail from Our Fair City, no longer has the excuse of a presidential veto to keep her from playing a real role in making things better. That said, neither the Obama Administration, or the Congress will do anything different unless we start sending a strong message that blowing tax money on make-work projects won’t help the country.
Only by investing wisely in projects that will have a long term benefit and move this country forward will we see any change. More federal money, spent wisely, could take a lot of the cost of infrastructure off of MUNI’s shoulders. This will only happen if people put a lot of pressure on Obama and Pelosi to do the right thing. Streetsblog SF and the the Overhead Wire have been doing some great work covering these issues in the media – start there, and then let the emails and phone calls fly.
The same cannot be said for the State of California, which has elevated looting to an art form. The Legislature (including two of San Francisco’s legislators) have consistently voted for huge cuts to MUNI, taking money voters wanted spent on transit and roads, and repurposing it elsewhere. Now, when times are really bad, more cuts are on the way. And those bonds you voted for? They’re not getting issued – the economic crisis is making sure of that.
Doom and gloom. But wait, there’s hope! Incoming Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has been one of the few politicians who literally walks the talk on mass transit, having been a Fast Pass holder for years and who relies on transit in his daily life, much as the rest of us do.
Assemblyman Ammiano can’t singlehandedly change the legislature in one term, but it may be an opportunity to have someone in Sacramento that can explain to the geniuses up there why their half-assed budgeting has been so harmful. And again, people need to stop accepting the nonsense these folks pump out, and ask them to do their jobs, not just spend time running for office.
Most importantly though, we live in San Francisco, which has a lot of faults, but in the end it’s a nice little city to live in. Sure, our Mayor may be absent as he seeks greener pastures, and yes, the Board of Supervisors and the MTA might drive us nuts once in a while, but in the end it’s our city, not theirs.
Every day we have the chance to help make this city just a little bit nicer, be it from simple politeness on the bus, refraining from using the 1-finger salute in traffic, or finding a better way to air our differences. It’s not easy when times are frustrating, but I’ve realized lately sometimes dialing down the noise, and trying to replace it with even the smallest gesture of goodwill can reap real results.
Finally, we are lucky to live in a city where we have a veritable life in San Francisco.
It says a lot about a city like SF that so many people are interested in contributing in their own way via blogs and elsewhere, and in the end that’s why I prefer to stay and fight instead of giving up and moving elsewhere. Happy 2009!

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