Tuesday, February 19, 2013

"The biggest company you've never heard of" is managing the city's parking meters

MTA documents show that Andy Thornley, formerly of the Bicycle Coalition, is actually working for Serco, not the MTA, under a $43 million contract with the city to manage the city's parking meters. (I wrote about Thornley leaving the SFBC here.) How Serco handles refugees in Australia. How Serco manages juvenile detention in Australia. Serco requires a lot of oversight after it gets a contract. Serco and privatization.

Andy "We need to take space from cars" Thornley

Why we need to keep an eye on Serco in San Francisco:



Respondent Serco Management Services, Inc. ("Respondent Serco") is a service company providing infrastructure support services to state and local governments. Respondent Serco has multi-million dollar contracts with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency ("SFMTA") to provide parking services. In 2006, Bevan Dufty, Chris Daly and Doug Chan were all candidates for San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which approves contracts made with SFMTA. Paul Carpmeal was at all times relevant to this matter a supervisor for Serco out of their San Francisco office, supervising, among others, Timothy Sanocki, Andrew Kang, and Alexiy Sukhendo.

In this matter, Respondent Serco made five contributions, totaling $1,100, to the controlled committees of Bevan Dufty, Chris Daly and Doug Chan between June and October, 2006, in names other than its own name, in violation of Government Code Section 84301 of the Political Reform Act (the "Act").
1 These violations denied the public of information regarding the true source of these candidates’ financial support.


An express purpose of the Act, as set forth in Section 81002, subdivision (a), is to ensure that receipts and expenditures in election campaigns are fully and truthfully disclosed, so that voters may be fully informed, and improper practices may be inhibited. The Act therefore provides for the full disclosure of receipts and expenditures in election campaigns through the periodic filing of campaign statements, as provided in Sections 84200 through 84211.

In order to obtain disclosure of the true source of a contribution, Section 84301 provides that no contribution shall be made, directly or indirectly, by any person in a name other than the name by which that person is identified for legal purposes.


Respondent Serco has multi-million dollar contracts with the SFMTA to provide parking services. In 2006, Bevan Dufty, Chris Daly and Doug Chan were all candidates for San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which approves contracts made with SFMTA. Paul Carpmeal was at all times relevant to this matter a supervisor for Serco out of their San Francisco office, supervising, among others, Timothy Sanocki, Andrew Kang, and Alexiy Sukhendo.

During 2006, Paul Carpmeal directed these three Serco employees to make a total of five contributions to various candidates for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors out of their personal funds and then receive reimbursement from Serco petty cash. Mr. Carpmeal had been advised that he, as a foreign national, could not make contributions personally. Additionally, Respondent Serco was prohibited by the San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code from making contributions to any individuals holding a position on the Board of Supervisors, or candidates for the Board of Supervisors, since the Board ultimately approves the SFMTA contracts with Serco.


Making a Contribution in a Name Other Than One’s Own Name

Respondent Serco made five contributions, totaling $1,100, to three candidate controlled committees between June and October 2006, in names other than its own name, in violation of Section 84301. Respondent made the contributions by reimbursing through petty cash to three individuals who were Serco employees who had made a contribution to the campaign committees of Bevan Dufty, Chris Daly, and Doug Chan at the request of their supervisor, Paul Carpmeal. Respondent Serco did not inform any of the three campaign committees that it was the true source of these contributions.

At the time of the violations, a San Francisco city ordinance imposed a ban on campaign contributions made to candidates for certain elected offices, ones which had the power to approve contracts with the company making the contributions, and prohibited contributions from corporations or businesses if a separate committee was not used. (San Francisco Campaign and Governmental Conduct Code Sections 1.114(b) and 1.126.) As such, Respondent Serco was prohibited from giving to these three committees for candidates for the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors since the Board of Supervisors ultimately approves the SFMTA contracts with Serco...

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Riding the Google bus

Photo from Noe Valley SF

From the Feb. 7 London Review of Books by Rebecca Solnit:
The buses roll up to San Francisco’s bus stops in the morning and evening, but they are unmarked, or nearly so, and not for the public. They have no signs or have discreet acronyms on the front windshield, and because they also have no rear doors they ingest and disgorge their passengers slowly, while the brightly lit funky orange public buses wait behind them. The luxury coach passengers ride for free and many take out their laptops and begin their work day on board; there is of course wifi. Most of them are gleaming white, with dark-tinted windows, like limousines, and some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us...
My brother says that the first time he saw one unload its riders he thought they were German tourists---neatly dressed, uncool, a little out of place, blinking in the light as they emerged from their pod. The tech workers, many of them new to the region, are mostly white or Asian male nerds in their twenties and thirties; you often hear that to be over fifty in that world is to be a fossil, and the two founders of Google (currently tied for 13th richest person on earth) are not yet forty...
The Google Bus means so many things. It means that the minions of the non-petroleum company most bent on world domination can live in San Francisco but work in Silicon Valley without going through a hair-raising commute by car---I overheard someone note recently that the buses shortened her daily commute to 3.5 hours from 4.5. It means that unlike gigantic employers in other times and places, the corporations of Silicon Valley aren’t much interested in improving public transport, and in fact the many corporations providing private transport are undermining the financial basis for the commuter train. It means that San Francisco, capital of the west from the Gold Rush to some point in the 20th century when Los Angeles overshadowed it, is now a bedroom community for the tech capital of the world at the other end of the peninsula...
Fifty years ago, this was the ‘valley of heart’s delight’, one of the biggest orchard-growing regions in the world. It wasn’t to everyone’s delight: Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers movement started in San Jose, because the people who actually picked all those plums and apricots worked long hours for abysmal wages, but the sight and smell of the 125,000 acres of orchard in bloom was supposed to be spectacular.
Where orchards grew Apple stands. The work hours are still extreme but now the wages are colossal---you hear tech workers complaining about not having time to spend their money. They eat out often, though, because their work schedules don’t include a lot of time for shopping and cooking, and San Francisco’s restaurants are booming. Cafés, which proliferated in the 1980s as places to mingle and idle, are now workstations for freelancers, and many of the sleeker locales are routinely populated by silent ranks staring at their Apple-product screens, as though an office had suddenly been stripped of its cubicles. The more than 1700 tech firms in San Francisco officially employ 44,000 people, and a lot more are independent contractors doing piecework: not everyone rides the bus down south. Young people routinely make six-figure salaries, not necessarily beginning with a 1, and they have enormous clout in the housing market (the drivers of the Google Bus, on the other hand, make between $17 and $30 an hour).
I weathered the dot-com boom of the late 1990s as an observer, but I sold my apartment to a Google engineer last year and ventured out into both the rental market (for the short term) and home buying market (for the long term) with confidence that my long standing in this city and respectable finances would open a path. That confidence got crushed fast. It turned out that the competition for any apartment in San Francisco was so intense that you had to respond to the listings---all on San Francisco-based Craigslist of course, the classifieds website that whittled away newspaper ad revenue nationally---within a few hours of their posting to receive a reply from the landlord or agency. The listings for both rentals and homes for sale often mentioned their proximity to the Google or Apple bus stops...
Read the rest here.
A letter to the LRB in response to Solnit's piece:
As a San Franciscan who has worked a couple of years now at Google, riding the ominous white shuttle to Mountain View, I was naturally piqued by Rebecca Solnit’s Diary. Solnit doesn’t like the way I dress: it makes me look like a German. I understand the power of tribal identification---as an engineer, I have to fight not to be irritated by business people in business dress---but it’s an emotion more than an argument, and (obviously) illiberal. Nobody likes their own place to be overrun by others, but as Solnit seems to acknowledge, such overrunning is not about to stop, especially in cities.
I wonder what positive change she would propose. I’m sure we’re agreed that evictions and economic segregation are bad (and not only for their direct victims). But how specifically should San Francisco, or the Bay Area, or Google act to make things better---and what counts as better? Should Google, Apple, Genentech etc, as she seems to imply, extend public transportation so that it serves everyone on the peninsula? Even leaving aside the politics, the cost would be extravagant for a group of private firms that employ perhaps fifty thousand of the seven million people in the region.
Two things that I think would help are a reduction in income inequality and a redevelopment of all areas of California (and the US) in the direction of the urban values championed by Jane Jacobs and others. Can we talk?
Vance Maverick
San Francisco