Thursday, July 11, 2013

The story behind the phony movement to "fix" Masonic Avenue

The Bicycle Coalition celebrates the success
of its Masonic Avenue fraud

Below in italics are excerpts from an exchange between attorney Mary Miles and the SFMTA about gettting information on the Masonic Avenue bicycle project. Note that the MTA first told Miles that to get a copy of the "community" petition on Masonic Avenue she had to contact Fix Masonic, the Bicycle Coalition's now defunct front group. When you click on old links to Fix Masonic, you get the Coalition's Masonic Avenue page, which provides a helpful timeline showing the coalition's creation of the group that supposedly wanted to "fix" Masonic.

The website for the phony group was created by---surprise!---a member of the Bicycle Coalition, Mark Christiansen: "The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has been organizing members who live and travel near Masonic Avenue for years, starting in 2007 with the founding of the group Fix Masonic."
The Fix Masonic front group was actually conceived as early as December, 2006, as the coalition's Biker Bulletin told us at the time:
The Fix Masonic campaign has wheels thanks to the work of Mark Christiansen, an SFBC member and Masonic Avenue resident who designed the website to develop community support and act as an organizing tool for the campaign. It's designed to bring together a broad coalition of neighbors, pedestrians, cyclists, and transit riders who all agree the street needs to be changed and improved for alternative uses than the speeding automobile.
In short Fix Masonic was always a Bicycle Coalition project, beginning with a sketchy website that created the illusion that people in the neighborhood wanted to "fix" the street. (I blogged about Fix Masonic back in 2007 when it first emerged.) 
That means that the petition referred to below was also created by the Bicycle Coalition, not by a grassroots neighborhood organization. After creating the phony "community" group to "fix" Masonic, the Bicycle Coalition parlayed that fraud into city contracts to do more "outreach" for the bogus movement:

After nearly a year-long delay, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) is about to implement comprehensive outreach to nearby residents and other interested parties in a redesign of Masonic from Fell to Geary Streets. In addition, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC) has received a grant to help prepare for that community process....This month SFMTA is expected to announce staff to lead the Masonic project and a timeline for its implementation. To help the effort transition from low to high gear, the SFBC received a $15,000 short-term "Pedestrian Safety" grant from the Department of Public Health (DPH). SFBC Project Manager Marc Caswell will coordinate the effort for the SFBC, and the funds will cover a portion of his time along with initial outreach materials...Caswell will also help recruit a new community leader for the grassroots group FIX Masonic, now that founder Mark Christiansen has relocated and undertaken new pursuits after several years of pivotal leadership.

Caswell never did "recruit a new community leader" for Fix Masonic, maybe because I pointed out at the time that doing so would make it an official Bicycle Coalition front group. Besides, since they already had the contracts for more "outreach" to keep the phony movement going, why continue the "community" charade?

Hence, the whole push to "fix" Masonic Avenue was always nothing but a creation of the Bicycle Coalition and its enablers in City Hall and the MTA, which is why Ed Reiskin and City Hall will never allow the neighborhood to vote on a project that's going to screw up traffic on that busy street for everyone but the bike people. 
From a request for information on the Masonic Avenue bicycle project from the SFMTA by attorney Mary Miles under the San Francisco Sunshine Ordinance and the California Public Records Act: 

The SFCTA  Memorandum of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) dated June 12, 2013, p. 3, states, "The initiative for this project emerged from the community with a 500 signature petition to the SFMTA asking that something be done to improve safety in the corridor." Please provide access to and the opportunity to make or get copies of the "500 signature petition to the SFMTA asking that something be done."
The MTA's response said that they didn't have a copy of the petition:
The SFMTA does not have any documents responsive to item #3 of your request. In accordance with our Records Retention Policy, this type of correspondence is retained for ony two years and is thus no longer in the SFMTA's possession. The original petition came from the "Fix Masonic" group. You may wish to contact that group to obtain a copy of the petition.
Ms. Miles responded:
I consider your response to be a deliberate refusal to provide records that were stated in public proceedings to be the basis of approving tens of millions in funding for your Masonic Avenue bicycle project. The memo on which that funding was based specifically stated that the petition I have requested was MTA's basis for that project. No, I will not contact a private entity as you suggest, as they are not responsible for your public agency records...
A response today from the SFMTA:
I am writing on behalf of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority in response to your request received on July 9, 2013. The Authority did not receive a copy of the original petition that was delivered to the SFMTA, but we are reaching out to community members to see if we can obtain a copy.

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At 2:11 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

Git 'em, Ms. Miles!

500 WHOLE PEOPLE prompted this. 500 out of a neighborhood of tens of thousands, out of even more than use the street. Out of the 800,000 folks in this city.

That is not "overwhelming community support." That is biased polling.

At 2:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

created by the Bicycle Coalition, not by a grassroots neighborhood organization.

You make it sound like the Bicycle Coalition is the Koch Brothers or the Muslim Brotherhood. They have 13,000 dues paying members, most living in San Francisco. Name any other organization in SF that is more "grassroots" than that.

Where does the SFBC's funding come from? Its members, in small donations, and frankly the overall budget is pretty damn small.

If the SFBC is not grassroots, what is?

No, ENUF and SAVE MASONIC are not grassroots. They are simply a smudge of excrement
on a tissue surging out to sea with
a million tons of raw sewage.

At 2:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a "member" is not the same as being an employee, you do realize this right? Guess not. You are trying way to hard to make something out of nothing with this "front" talk.

At 2:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the law states they only have to hold onto that petition for 2 years, then change the law. The MTA did nothing wrong with respect to the petition, you are just late to the game.

At 2:34 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The city was still voting on the project last month. Why would they dump the only piece of evidence mentioned in the SFCTA memo justifying the project while it was still going through the approval process?

At 2:53 PM, Blogger Rkeezy said...

13,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to 800,000.

"Grassroots" does not mean "small". Grassroots means "of the people". You know, all of them. Not just people who attend SFBC meetings.

Using the terms grassroots is laughable. Call it what it is - the bicycle lobby.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

If and when a copy of the petition ever surfaces, I bet almost all of the signatures will be of SFBC members.

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call it what it is - the bicycle lobby.

What does that mean? What does that imply? Is there some secret moneyed cabal in Vicenza, Italy, funneling the profits from Pegoretti Bicycles to members of the Board of Supervisors inside the head of a dead horse?

If and when a copy of the petition ever surfaces, I bet almost all of the signatures will be of SFBC members.

Your point? Are members of the SFBC supposed to be disenfranchised when they give the Bike Coalition their $35? Are they expected *NOT* to sign petitions for things they want? Does it surprise you that people who *want* something join an organization that supports those goals? File this under "DUH"

At 4:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bet Mary Miles is a member of AAA!

AAA is behind Rob's suit against the city!!!

At 6:34 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Are members of the SFBC supposed to be disenfranchised when they give the Bike Coalition their $35? Are they expected NOT to sign petitions for things they want? Does it surprise you that people who *want* something join an organization that supports those goals? File this under DUH."

The point is obvious to the rest of us: the issue---the phony safety emergency---was concocted by the leadership of an organization that represents a special interest group of cyclists---a small minority of 13,000 in a city of more than 800,000. (Is the official SFBC number still 13,000? Seems like every time Leah Shahum is interviewed, 1,000 members are added.)

After using the petition to justify the project, the city now says it doesn't even have a copy. The whole process has been a political shell game to allow an important city street to be redesigned to the specifications of a small special interest group against the interests of the overwhelming majority of city residents---and, in fact, residents of the region---who now use Masonic Avenue.

At 7:01 PM, Anonymous James said...

"Masonic Avenue is in fact part of the city's Bicycle Plan---there are seven pages on the street in the Network Document, complete with engineering drawings---and thus subject to Judge Busch's injunction, " Hrmm... last time I remember you lost that injunction... sooo it wasn't a grass roots project and it was going to happen at some point anyway. Thanks for pointing that out!

At 8:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

in fact, residents of the region---who now use Masonic Avenue.

What region is that? Marin County?

At 10:01 AM, Anonymous Concerned Citizen said...

I want the truth about AAA's involvement in Rob Anderson's CEQA lawsuit! Mary Miles is a dues paying member of AAA and clearly this was a "astroturf" effort to suppress the removal of car only traffic lanes. I hope the city investigates this.

At 10:15 AM, Anonymous James said...

Put your sleuthing to good use here. The SF pedestrian coalition save masonic mentions? It doesn't appear to exist. Because are you SERIOUSLY going to try to tell me that pedestrians wouldn't benefit from the masonic redesign? I imagine the SFPC as a sort of transit log cabin republican group. I guess two can play at this game, and you choose which one to side with.

At 3:08 PM, Anonymous Jesse said...

The SFMTA already had Masonic on the books to add a bike lane back in 2005, 2 years before "Fix Masonic" cropped up, so your idea that this was a grass roots effort is bogus.

You can argue all you want over the the merits of changing masonic, but your attempts at painting this as only a grass roots safety concern are bullshit.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm so happy to see this project finally happening, Masonic will be so much more pleasant with the new landscaping and traffic calming.

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

The only verifiable petition on Masonic Avenue is one signed by more than 1,300 people opposed to the city's plan to screw up Masonic on behalf of the bike lobby.


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