This article also appeared in a slightly edited form at the SFGate Transit Blog also. If you’re a new arrival from the Gate, welcome!
It’s no secret that Muni’s problems are on people’s minds these days. Sunday’s FailWhale Regatta in the tunnel, which led to a total shutdown of service downtown is the latest reminder that Muni Has Problems, and they’re not going away anytime soon.
Thus, while I hate the discussion of Big “P” Politics when talking about making Muni the best system possible, there’s no denying that the people we hire/elect to run San Francisco have a direct influence on what happens to Muni.
However, if we leave rating our job seekers/candidates to the “professional” politicians and interest groups, we can’t expect things to change. Tonight, the San Francisco Democratic Party, often claimed to be the most powerful force in local elections will be voting on endorsements tonight at the UNITE HERE union hall located at 209 Golden Gate Avenue.
They’ll do so without asking any of the prospective candidates one single question about transit, Muni, or how to improve it. Neither will the have been asked their position on the Fix Muni Now Charter Amendment – which 75,000 people signed a petition to amend the City Charter and fix arcane work rules at Muni in the hopes of making the agency use its resources more efficiently. At least, that’s according to the latest download of the questionnaire on their site.
This is especially surprising because Party Chair Aaron Peskin has been one of the few people, as an elected official and as a civilian since leaving office, to try and take on the challenges of fixing Muni. He has always been candid about what’s worked, what’s not, and how difficult it is to fix a large city department like the SFMTA. (Yes, really. Calm down.)
It’s not surprising, however, given that there are candidates voting for their own endorsements, and incumbent Supervisors serve on the party’s board of directors, that Muni issues might get swept under the rug. An Ivy League degree is apparently no guarantee someone won’t play games with your fare and tax dollars, or engage in political shenanigans.
You, the Muni Owner/Rider lose in the end. A good transit system isn’t a Democrat or Republican issue, and I don’t care if someone is left, right, up, down, or whatever – there are no partisans when you’re stuck in a crowded N-Judah at rush hour and can’t get home. So to see a political organization with this much power simply ignore anything Muni related is a disappointment.
However, I’m going to quit complaining and propose a solution.
Today I’m announcing the launch of Muni Rider Voter Guide. I will be sending out a short, simple questionnaire out to every candidate I can find an email address for, and I will be giving candidates time to respond in a thoughtful (and hopefully honest) manner.
Unlike a special interest group, the Muni Rider Voter Guide will not be making any endorsements. Instead, results from each Supervisorial district will be collected, and you, the Muni Owner/Rider, will be able to read for yourself their responses, and compare them to your own ideas about Muni.
It’s easy for politicians to spew out platitudes at election time that sound great on a robocall or a piece of junk mail. It’s harder to avoid specifics when asked in public. And if you don’t like the questionnaire, then take matters into your own hands and ask the candidates directly what you want to know, and don’t accept soundbites and junk mailers as a response.
You own Muni, and you have a right to a system that serves you and your hundreds of thousands of Muni owners well. You also have a responsibility to make sure we hire/elect people who know something about it, or at least are honest enough to say they don’t, but are willing to learn in order to serve us as best they can.
UPDATE: The San Francisco Democratic Party refused to endorse Prop. G – Fix Muni Now. Not entirely surprising since time and again, so-called “progressives” have always been against a better Muni, opting to find new ways to de-fund the agency, and don’t really care about something that matters. They’d rather pass some symbolic BS resolution instead. Epic FAIL, progressives.