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New SF Mayor: Muni Not a Priority

Ed Lee says his administration will not focus on fixing the beleaguered transit agency

When new San Francisco mayor Ed Lee outlined his priorities Tuesday, Muni was not among them.

At a Bay Citizen editorial meeting, Lee essentially said that Muni — plagued by lateness and budget woes — is doing fine.

“I think Muni has been on its way to improvement for a period of time,” said Lee. “It’s still got hiccups, but when you look at the on-time performance it’s still, over a period time — and maybe not the last quarter uptick, if you will — it’s still on it’s way to improvement.”

Muni’s on-time performance fell to 72 percent last quarter after reaching an all-time high of 75 percent in the first three months of 2010.

The things that Lee is putting ahead of Muni are the city’s budget deficit, dealing with the cost of pensions, finding a new police chief, local hiring and the America’s Cup. You can read about all that here.

Lee said that he had supported Proposition G, a ballot measure passed by San Francisco voters in November that takes away bus drivers’ automatic pay raises. Lee said Prop. G will give Muni more leverage with bus drivers in upcoming contract negotiations.

“I think Muni has the tools,” said Lee. “I am supporting them.”

Greg Dewar, who follows Muni closely on his blog, the N-Judah Chronicles, called Lee’s comments “very disappointing” in an e-mail.

“It was hoped by many that after 7 years of press conference politics and backroom deals that derailed Muni by the previous Mayor, Mayor Lee would represent someone who'd put aside politics and help make a critical service work for the owner/riders,” Dewar wrote. 

Dewar has invited Lee to ride Muni with him and see the problems firsthand, but Lee has yet to take him up.

Dewar was also critical of Lee’s suggestion that Prop. G alone will solve Muni’s problems. 

“The fact that Mayor Lee refused to acknowledge, or doesn't seem to be aware of the looting of Muni by other departments as well as the state of California (illegally) which has created Muni's current fiscal crisis, is very troubling,” wrote Dewar.

Given San Francisco residents' general animus toward Muni, fixing the transit agency might seem like a politically popular endeavor. But politicians in the city rarely make it the focus of their campaigns or administrations.

“Put simply, hard work and long term solutions don't make for good quotes in a piece of junk mail crammed in the voters' mailboxes,” Dewar said.

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