The battle over Muni reform

David Campos, photo by Evie Pitts

Sup. Sean Elsbernd is getting a lot of attention for his plan to change the way Muni drivers are paid, and although he's going to have a hard time getting 70,000 signatures for a Charter Amendment, the fact that Muni's unions have given back to the city less than the other major employee unions gives he move a boost. There are arguments in favor of the current salary structure, but as long as it's set in the Charter this way, it's hard for the city to get any leverage on work-rul changes, which are really what Elsbernd is after.

But if you want to look at reforming Muni, you have to go beyond this one issue -- and that may be the battle that takes place this fall. Sup. David Campos, along with Sups. Ross Mirkarimi and Eric Mar, has put together a comprehesive Muni reform Charter amendment that includes some of the changes Elsbernd is proposing -- but addresses Muni governance and funding, too.

The Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, is now run by a seven-member board, with all the members appointed by the mayor. That's hardly created the sort of political independence that the supporters of the system wanted. So under the Campos proposal, three members would be appointed by the mayor, three by the Rules Committee of the Board of Supervisors, and the final member, the potential swing vote, would be appointed jointly by the mayor and board president (boy, that meeting will be fun). All seven would be subject to board confirmation.

The MTA would also be guaranteed a stream of income equivalent to 2.5 cents for every hundred dollars of property tax valuation.

The reform plan creates an Office of Inspector General in the MTA, and gives that person the authority to conduct audits and monitor waste and fraud -- something sorely needed in the agency. And it would allow the supervisors to reject the MTA budget by a simply majority vote.

It's likely that Campos, Mirkarimi and Mar will get the six votes they need to put this on the ballot, so they won't have to go out and get signatures. Which means that even if Elsbernd's ambitious grassroots effort is successful, the voters won't be deciding whether to accept or reject a Muni reform measure; they'll be choosing between one that only addresses pay for Muni workers and one that changes the pay system -- but also seeks to overhaul how the system is run.

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