Endorsements: Local ballot measures

YES on Props A and E, NO on Prop H and more ...
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Proposition A (transit reform)

YES

This omnibus measure would finally put San Francisco in a position to create the world-class transportation system that the city needs to handle a growing population and to address environmental problems ranging from climate change to air pollution. And in the short term it would help end the Muni meltdown by giving the system a much-needed infusion of cash, about $26 million per year, and more authority to manage its myriad problems.

The measure isn't perfect. It would give a tremendous amount of power to the unelected Metropolitan Transportation Authority, a semiautonomous agency created in 1999 to reform Muni. But we also understand the arguments of Sup. Aaron Peskin — who wrote the measure in collaboration with labor and other groups — that the MTA is free to make tough decisions that someone facing reelection might avoid. And the measure still would give the Board of Supervisors authority to block the MTA's budget, fare increases, and route changes with seven votes.

We're also a little worried about provisions that could place the Taxicab Commission under the MTA's purview and allow the agency to tinker with the medallion system and undermine Proposition K, the 1978 law that gives operating permits to working drivers, not corporations. Peskin promised us, on tape, that he will ensure, with legislation if necessary, that no such thing happens, and we'll hold him to it.

Ultimately, the benefits of this measure outweigh our concerns. The fact that the labor movement has signed off on expanded management powers for the MTA shows how important this compromise is. The MTA would have the power to fully implement the impending recommendations in the city's Transit Improvement Project study and would be held accountable for improvements to Muni's on-time performance. New bonding authority under the measure would also give the MTA the ability to quickly pursue capital projects that would allow more people to comfortably use public transit.

The measure would also create an integrated transportation system combining everything from parking to cabs to bike lanes under one agency, which would then be mandated to find ways to roll back greenhouse gas emissions from transportation sources to 80 percent of 1990 levels by 2012. And to do that, the agency would get to keep all of the revenue generated by its new programs. As a side benefit — and another important reason to vote for Prop. A — approval of this measure would nullify the disastrous Proposition H on the same ballot.

San Francisco faces lots of tough choices if we're going to minimize climate change and maximize the free flow of people through our landlocked city. Measure A is an important start. Vote yes.

Proposition B (commission holdovers)

YES

Proposition B is a simple good-government measure that ends a practice then-mayor Willie Brown developed into a science — allowing commissioners to continue serving after their terms expire, turning them into at-will appointments and assuring their loyalty.

Members of some of the most powerful commissions in town serve set four-year terms. The idea is to give the members, many appointed by the mayor, some degree of independence: they can't be fired summarily for voting against the interests (or demands) of the chief executive.

But once their terms expire, the mayor can simply choose not to reappoint or replace them, leaving them in limbo for months, even years — and while they still sit on the commissions and vote, these holdover commissioners can be fired at any time. So their jobs depend, day by day, on the whims of the mayor.

Prop. B, sponsored by the progressives on the Board of Supervisors, simply would limit to 60 days the amount of time a commissioner can serve as a holdover.