Garcia: Working on easy street 

You can see why Muni operators are fighting so hard to resist reforms — what other agency allows employees to get overtime when they don’t work a 40-hour week?

It appears the gravy train for Muni operators runs a lot more smoothly than any of the agency’s Metro vehicles. An audit of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency found that absenteeism among operators is not only unusually high, there’s actually an incentive for drivers to skip work because they can still log overtime even if they don’t clock 40 hours a week.

And that will go a long way toward explaining why San Francisco drivers have a rate of absenteeism four times higher than drivers in Seattle, more than two times higher than their counterparts in Los Angeles and above that of transit workers in Philadelphia.

You might recall that drivers refused to give back about $15 million in wage concessions earlier this year, which is one of the reasons signatures are being gathered for a ballot measure to change the agency’s ridiculous work rules. And if it makes the ballot, the measure will pass a lot faster than any Muni bus, given how antiquated the operators’ schedules are. They should enjoy them while they can.


Altering Prop. 13 is lost crusade

Apparently giddy about the prospects of his marijuana legalization move taking root, San Francisco state legislator Tom Ammiano has decided to take on another potential cash crop for California — this one in the form of Proposition 13, the landmark tax-cutting measure.

And to that, one can only say: Good luck, and enjoy your time before the measure ends up in the circular file.

Many attempts have been made to redo or undo Prop. 13, a property tax limit passed by voters in 1978 that requires property to be assessed upon a change of ownership. Complaints about the inequity of it all have gone on for decades, because property that was purchased 20 years ago costs owners a lot less than under the prices of today.

But commercial property owners fall under a different arrangement in that if a partnership is involved, and no single buyer purchases more than 50 percent of a building, it doesn’t translate into a change of ownership under state tax rules. And that’s one of the “loopholes” that Ammiano wants to change with Assembly Bill 2492.

I could probably give you 2,492 reasons why the Democratic assemblyman’s bill is doomed, but just a handful will suffice. To a vast majority of voters, Prop. 13 is sacrosanct, and changing it is like playing with electrical charges with greasy hands.

More to the point, the measure requires a two-thirds majority legislative vote, the same margin required to pass a budget, which is why California has failed to do so on time for about 20 years. That means Republicans in the Legislature would have to support it, and if you like those odds, I recommend a quick trip to Las Vegas.

Revamping the rules for commercial property ownership may sound like a small change, but even a tiny alteration to Prop. 13 is considered by most voters in the state to be akin to taking a chunk out of the tablets containing the 10 Commandments.

A study by the California Tax Reform Association determined that commercial properties’ share of taxes has declined during the past three decades, but it didn’t include any data on residential and commercial construction — an oversight that had critics labeling it skewed. The California Taxpayers Association said the study was so full of holes “it should have been printed on Swiss cheese.”

The bill may look tasty, but the Legislature, the voters and the governor won’t bite.


Art community finally receives a fair shake

It’s been a long, lean stretch for San Francisco’s art dealers, who have been without an annual festival along the lines of those that have made New York and Miami required stops for serious collectors and gallery owners in the United States.

But that dry spell comes to an end next weekend when The City hosts its first international event in nearly a decade, the San Francisco Fine Art Fair. The fair, which will be open from May 21 to 23 at Fort Mason, will feature more than 6,000 modern and contemporary pieces from more than 500 artists.

The highlights include an Andrew Wyeth collection, valued at between $15 million and $20 million.

Also, the festival will feature a number of lecture and conference sessions with gallery owners, art magazine publishers and collectors, and will have a preview event Thursday night benefiting the San Francisco Art Institute, one of the oldest and most highly respected art colleges in the country. The San Francisco Art Dealers Association had been looking to reinstate the event for some time, but it took the efforts of Rick Friedman and Max Fishko, producers of the ArtHamptons fair in New York, to bring it back to The City.

“It’s an interesting time to try and make a comeback,” said Catharine Clark, a longtime San Francisco gallery owner who has been a prime mover in the fair’s return. “It’s a huge benefit to local collectors, and we’re really excited about it.”

For more information about the fair, visit www.sffineartfair.com.


Could the Giants have curse of the sculpture?

When Barry Bonds played for the San Francisco Giants, it was fairly obvious there were no angels in the outfield. But could it be that one haunting spirit was lurking right outside the ballpark, helping the Giants choke away the World Series when they played the Los Angeles Angels?

That’s the theory being drawn by a number of people (OK, three) that have focused on a sculpture right outside AT&T Park that not only resembles the Angels’ official logo, but actually seems drawn from its design.

This was brought to our attention by investigative researcher Nicholas Garcia, a legal clerk and die-hard baseball fan who pointed out the scary connection to his dad.

And I offer it because I’m banking on the Giants to be in the World Series this year. If it happens, the “Sea Change” sculpture needs to find a new home.

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Ken Garcia

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