Mayor Newsom Between A Rock and a Hard Place, Thanks to Sup. Peskin’s Legislative Skillz

Over at my more popular, likeable, and well-read blog on MUNI and urban life there’s the usual grumbling about MUNI follies, as well as discussion on how to make the system work better. Obviously the charter amendment to reform MUNI has been a topic of discussion as it has weaved its way through the corridors of power.

Today’s snark, however, is not as much about MUNI, or about the usual topics of discussion at the popular blog, but instead a look at how the Mayor has been put between a rock and a hard place, due in large part to the mad legislative skillz of Board President Aaron Peskin, and the lack thereof of some of his colleagues.

First, as originally written, one of the many details the provision contained included serious attempts to change middle-management jobs from cushy jobs-for-life into “at will” positions to give MUNI management some more control over who serves the public.

That went over like a lead balloon with labor unions in the city. But, as we read on Monday, Peskin managed a compromise that kept the essence of the labor reform rules alive but not to the degree the original measure had proposed. As of Tuesday, the Mayor, labor, MUNI, and Everyone Else was holding hands and singing Kumbaya together.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the singalong when a little noticed paragraph popped up that would negate the “>developer-backed parking initiative that made its way onto the ballot. Because the MUNI reform measure is a charter amendment, it trumps any initiative on the ballot, as per the rules. D’oh!

Now, what started with hugs and pats on the back is ending in tears as people who have talked big about MUNI reform and green-city this and green-city that are in the position of having to decide which is more important – comprehensive reform of MUNI, the MTA, and a cohesive transit plan, or more parking for more cars.

In particular, it is putting the Mayor between a rock (reforming MUNI has been one of his talking points on his website) and a hard place (his support in the development community). No wonder his press office is firing off tersely, carefully worded press releases today. Either choice comes with some pretty serious consequences, both for him, and for us.
Some have already given in to the temptation to throw a tantrum over Sup. Peskin’s tactics, but the sad fact is, he is playing by the rules and has given this (as well as many, many other changes to the charter amendment) a public hearing and a vote by the full board. It should not surprise anyone that he’d support this move – after all, he did author the rules the parking initiative would invalidate. The only thing he’s guilty of is knowing how to move legislation and craft compromises amongst different factions.
While the daily papers are content to write about personality clashes and call the board a bunch of “fruits and nuts,” their oversimplification ignores the fact that success in a legislative body is the ability to negotiate treacherous political waters to produce something of value in the end, and right now if one had to pick who can do that best, it would be folks such as Supervisor Peskin, and other “evil progressives” who learned the rules, showed up to work, and did their job.

Plus, Sup. Peskin is forcing a tough decision by the Mayor, the “People Who Know Best” crowd, and San Francisco’s citizens about the future of city transportation policy, which I think is a great thing. We are a city that loves to tell others what to do, from banning plastic bottles and bags, to tut-tutting the rest of the world with glossy magazine covers about how supposedly “earth carbon neutral” our leaders are.
Now, we’ll be asked to make a tough choice – reform MUNI and enforce fiscal, managerial, and good policy sense on an aging bureaucracy that needs a kick in the butt, or side with the “cars-only-transit-cabs-bikes-and-pedestrians-can-suck-it” crowd, and their wealthy allies.
There’s no room for tricky triangulation, and maybe once and for all San Franciscans can finally decide which is more important. People are free to choose which side they wanna support, and I’m sure both sides will make their case, which I think is great.
And frankly, if they choose “cars only” over a comprehensive fiscal and managment reform of MUNI, and smarter transit policy, I surely hope that in the future, San Franciscans will shut the frak up and stop telling the rest of the world how to live. Green posturing is easy – green living is not. Make up your own minds and let the chips fall where they may. Either way, it’s you who decides, not them.
PS: For the record, I’m not 100% anti-car, and I have a nice stack of receipts from DPT tickets from when I had a car in one of the worst parts of town to own one, parking-wise. Believe me, I know how much it can suck when you need a car in this town!

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