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 fixmasonic.org 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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