At a department as sprawling as the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, reaching consensus on even minuscule issues is often impossible. That makes Ed Reiskin’s recent coronation as agency chief a truly rare spectacle.
Nearly everyone agreed he is the right man for the job.
From the mayor to local planning activists, city notables have described Reiskin as a competent, able administrator who cuts through red tape to deliver projects to the people.
Kit Hodge, director of the Great Streets Project pedestrian and bike campaign, said Reiskin was visionary for backing Pavement to Parks, which transforms roadways into public plazas. During Reiskin’s stint as director of The City’s Department of Public Works, that agency created four new plazas and also helped establish 14 so-called parklets — miniature public spaces on city sidewalks modeled after the program.
Deputy Director Mohammed Nuru said his former boss modernized Public Works by computerizing data on San Francisco’s streets, roads and sidewalks. The new setup allowed the department to more efficiently address the needs of San Francisco’s infrastructure, Nuru said.
“He really brought [Public Works] into the modern age,” Nuru said.
SFMTA board Director Malcolm Heinicke was impressed with Reiskin’s leadership as first director of 311. The City’s information service center now answers about 200,000 calls a month, but Heinicke said it wouldn’t be where it is today without Reiskin’s early support.
Supervisor Scott Wiener said Reiskin’s advocacy for a new street bond was essential in getting it on the ballot. If approved by city voters in November, the $248 million bond will repair streets and sidewalks — work Wiener calls essential.
Reiskin’s ability to work well with politicians, other agencies and community groups is what makes him so effective, said Jim Chappell, former president of the think tank San Francisco Planning and Urban Research.
“He’s really on top of things,” Chappell said. “He understands the needs of the community and he knows how to get projects done.”
Even Reiskin’s opponents aren’t exactly doubters. Although the SFMTA’s seven-person board hired Reiskin with unanimous approval, Director Bruce Oka initially voted against the former Public Works chief.
Oka said he thought that interim executive director Debra Johnson deserved a chance to lead the SFMTA. But even though Reiskin wasn’t his first choice, Oka expressed confidence in the SFMTA’s new hire.
“It’s true that I didn’t vote for him,” Oka said. “But from everything I’ve heard about him, I have absolutely no reservations about him leading the agency.”
Ed Reiskin’s accomplishments
- First director of The City’s 311 service. Agency now answers nearly 200,000 calls a month.
- At the Department of Public Works, initiated the Business Intelligence System, which computerized all data on San Francisco’s streets, roads and sidewalks, allowing agency to focus efforts on areas most at need. Also set up a street-paving priority index, the first of its kind at Public Works.
- Along with the Planning Department and the SFMTA, helped usher in The City’s Pavement to Parks program, which has created four plazas, and Reiskin has also helped oversee the creation of 14 smaller parklets.
- Advocated for a $248 million bond measure for street and road repair. Backed by the Board of Supervisors, the measure will go before voters in November.
Sources: Department of Public Works, Better Streets Project, 311