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No on Prop. C — political power grab

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Proposition C, on San Francisco’s June 6 ballot, would change the composition of the Transbay Joint Powers Authority — which is overseeing the multibillion-dollar effort to transform the Transbay Terminal at First and Mission streets into a state-of-the-art transit hub — to give more power to the Board of Supervisors.

Prop. C was placed on the ballot just hours before the filing deadline, without any public hearings, by Supervisors Chris Daly, Tom Ammiano, Fiona Ma and Ross Mirkarimi, who claim that the change would bring more public accountability to the massive project. However, the measure looks like a power grab by supervisors, who would gain more political control if the measure passed.

Currently, San Francisco holds three out of five seats on the authority, with representatives from the Peninsula and East Bay holding the other two. The City’s three seats are made up of a member of the Board of Supervisors, a designee of the mayor and the director of San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency.

Prop. C would remove the MTA chief — currently Nathaniel Ford, a longtime transit professional — and replace him with another member of the Board of Supervisors.

The measure also requires that the mayor himself serve on the board, rather than his designee, and that one of the supervisors on the board be the one representing District 6, where the Transbay Terminal is located — which just happens to be Daly, the main force behind Prop. C and a bitter political foe of the mayor.

The rationale for the unusual move of requiring the mayor to personally attend meetings of one of The City’s dozens of boards or commissions — that the Transbay plan is important enough to demand his personal presence — might be acceptable if it wasn’t part of a larger pattern of Supervisor Daly looking for opportunities to publicly bring the mayor down to size. Witness another recent Daly proposal to force the mayor to stand for a monthly Q&A session with the Board of Supervisors.

The problem with writing such examples of petty antagonism into law is that the law remains long after the individuals are out of office.

Personal politics aside, more troubling is the effects Prop. C, if passed, could have on the Transbay project, a complex undertaking involving massive technical challenges and uncertain funding prospects.

Proponents of Prop. C offer few credible reasons for removing the MTA chief and replacing him with a politician. Supervisor Daly told The Examiner’s editorial board that the current MTA chief, Ford, has his hands full with other transportation projects.

Such threadbare justification, juxtaposed against the need for technical expertise on such a monumental project, suggests that Prop. C is little more than a political power grab. It should be seen for what it is and soundly defeated.

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