Parliamentary Maneuver Could Lead to Higher Muni Fares -- And Soon

Oily bus.jpg
Jim Herd
Friday's fingernails-on-the-chalkboard pleasant Muni Board Meeting ended with the specter of monthly fares being doubled for children, the disabled, and the elderly being staved off. Everyone exhaled a sigh of relief.

Well, inhale a breath of trepidation -- because tomorrow the MTA Board could reverse course and vote for rate hikes going into effect as early as April.

As others noticed, Friday's board meeting was never "adjourned." It was only "recessed." The difference could end up costing vulnerable riders, and right soon.

Because of that parliamentary distinction, the MTA Board can discuss -- and vote on -- matters brought up on Friday that are not on Tuesday's agenda. While the board could, perhaps, rescind its Friday vote for 10 percent service cuts tomorrow, it could also theoretically revisit and re-vote upon the fare hikes. Thirty days notice from May 2 could place those fare hikes at the start of April -- no fooling.

Here's where things get a bit political. Mayor Gavin Newsom has repeatedly said that today is the Transit Workers Union's high noon moment -- either they re-think  the spurning of some $15 million in concessions, or he'll jump on Supervisor Sean Elsbernd's bandwagon and support a Charter Amendment assailing drivers' pay.

Transit Workers Union boss Irwin Lum didn't return our calls this weekend. But he has made a habit of late of exclaiming -- in front of cameras and tape recorders -- that his union has nothing to vote on and he resents being made to negotiate "with a gun to our heads."

So, if the TWU doesn't vote for givebacks today -- they sure are handing the MTA Board a gift-wrapped opportunity to pull an about-face, vote for fare hikes on the most vulnerable passengers, and watch the popular anger directed not at the board but the union drivers.

Sound cynical? Sure it does. But that doesn't make it wrong. Keep in mind that Newsom appointed every last MTA Board member -- and has been extremely unsubtle in the past about telling them how to vote. Given the mayor's disdain for the Transit Workers Union -- which spat on the deal he brokered with union management -- this doesn't seem all that far-fetched.

Frankly, it'd be a masterstroke of channeling popular rage toward a particularly tone-deaf union. The TWU's public relations could only be worse if they managed to start infecting riders with E. coli. But it warrants mentioning that, should fare hikes come, they will have been enacted with the MTA Board hardly lifting a finger to increase parking revenues or reduce the $63 million pillaged from Muni by other departments via work orders.

In any event, all will become clearer in the next few days. Perhaps by then, the bus will have shown up, too.

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