Monday, August 08, 2016

Raise the sales tax because the MTA doesn't have enough money

Central Subway tunnel at the 4th Street Portal
Central Subway Project

Riding Backs of Homeless
by Paul Kozakiewicz
Editor, Sunset Beacon

Do our elected officials have sight of the public good?

A ballot measure on the Nov. 8 ballot would hurt the poor and pour billions of dollars into a transportation rat hole for the next 25 years.

If the tax measure passes, our sales tax would rise to 9.25%. That's highway robbery and a brutal attack on the poorest members of our society, who are disproportionately impacted by the regressive tax. For a city that purports to empathize with those less fortunate than ourselves, city leaders have no problem sticking it to them when it suits their misguided purposes.

The measure, put on the ballot by SF Mayor Ed Lee and city supervisors Scott Wiener, John Avalos and Mark Farrell, would raise the sales tax by three-quarters of a percent to go in the General Fund, primarily for transportation with a little thrown in for homeless services. 

Because the way this measure is written, with the money going into the General Fund first, it only needs 50 percent plus one vote to pass, making it a shoo-in. The mayor and the supervisors think they're pulling a fast one by raising taxes without the usual two-thirds vote---but they're not.

The measure calls for 80 percent of the tax money to go for transportation projects, and only 20 percent would go for homeless programs.

Over the 25 year life of the sales tax, some $2.4 billion will be raised for transporation and $600 million for homeless services.

For the supervisors to use San Franciscan's compassion for the homeless as a vehicle for pushing a huge transportation tax is unconscionable. Only supervisors Jane Kim, Aaron Peskin, and Norman Yee had the brains to vote "no."

A second measure, which Supervisors Wiener and Avalos wanted on the ballot, would have increased the sales tax by another half of a percent for transportation, but it was withdrawn.

Transportation Rat Hole

If the new tax passes, the SF Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) would be charged with squandering the money.

The SFMTA already gets millions of dollars a year from a quarter-cent sales tax approved by city residents in 2003, when they passed Proposition K. Overall, the SFMTA budget is about $1.1 billion a year. Now, politicians want to give the SFMTA more money!

No. No. No.

Vote "no" on November 8 to send a message that we want the SFMTA to consult our neighborhoods first before coming in and telling us what they are going to do, and to spend the massive amount of dollars it has coming in to provide the best service possible for city residents, not to bulldoze our commercial districts and destroy our neighborhoods' quality of life.

Since city voters gave the SFMTA charter status in the late '90s, it has gone rogue, with little if any oversight by the mayor's office or supervisors. It does what a small cadre of self-righteous planners deem best for the city, and the public be damned. It even goes so far as to ban public testimony at public meetings.

Recently the agency has:

* told residents of the Outer Sunset that their opinions don't matter concerning an overhaul of the L-Taraval streetcar line, despite significant impacts, like the loss of bus stops and parking spaces;

* ignored pleas from Richmond District merchants calling for an economic impact report before the SFMTA dedicates traffic lanes for buses, which will create negative impacts for the neighborhood;

* dedicated traffic lanes on Mission Street for buses, plunging neighborhood businesses into fight for their lives;

* created a boondoggle building the Central Subway from South of Market to Chinatown. Planners didn't even have the foresight to run the underground subway to Fisherman's Wharf, the number one tourist destination in the city.

* put numerous businesses out of business along Third Street for its mishandling of the T-streetcar project.

* is in the process of removing a traffic lane on Van Ness Avenue in each direction for buses. The SFMTA is so concerned about this project that it purchased cameras to monitor intersections for traffic chaos.

I understand we are a transit first city, and that we should do all we can to improve services for our citizens. But giving billions of dollars to a poorly-managed rat hole of a public agency is a bad idea. Especially when that agency does not have the best interests of San Franciscans at heart.

Rob's comment:
I agree with most of this, though I have a few quibbles. It's the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) that gets the Proposition K tax money, not the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). Not that it makes much difference in practice, since the two agencies work closely on how the money is spent.

On oversight: The mayor appoints the members of the SFMTA's governing board, which hires the agency's Executive Director (Ed Reiskin). The Board of Supervisors serve as the SFCTA's governing board, which gives them direct oversight over that agency. Alas, there's never any serious dissent on either board about city transportation issues.

The SFMTA is a growing city bureaucracy of 6,263 employees as of 2015, up from 5,607 in 2009.

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At 5:30 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

According to your source, in 2009 SFMTA had 5607 employees. Many people jumped ship and in 2012 there were 5140 employees at SFMTA.
Then the number of employees grew to 6263 in 2015. Comparing 2012 to 2015 the increase is 1123 employees or about 22%.

I don't know of any city agency that grew by 1123 employees in 3 years and still screws up everything they touch. No point in giving SFMTA any more money.


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