The head of San Francisco’s oft-criticized public transportation agency — The City’s highest-paid public employee at an annual salary of $298,000 — is up for his first raise.
Tuesday, the board of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will vote on whether to approve a salary increase and bonus for Executive Director Nathaniel Ford, who joined Muni in January 2006 after a five-year run as the head of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.
Ford’s contract provides for an annual performance review at the end of each fiscal year, cost-of-living increase and a bonus worth up to 10 percent of his salary. That could add up to at least $42,000 this year.
In August 2006, Ford’s performance evaluation — with any potential financial benefit — was postponed at his request, according to a Muni staff report. At the time, he told The Examiner that he felt he had not been on the job long enough for the evaluation.
"He waived his bonus last year," Muni spokeswoman Maggie Lynch said.
This year, the SFMTA board of directors met in closed session on Sept. 18 and Oct. 2 to conduct a performance evaluation of Ford.
How much of a raise and bonus Ford will receive has not been announced. According to his contract, Ford is entitled to a cost-of-living increase no less than the Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area, which for February 2006 through June 2007 is 4.4 percent. That calculates to at least a $13,112 pay hike for Ford. A 10 percent bonus would add $29,800 to the table.
Andrew Sullivan of Rescue Muni, a public-transportation advocacy group, said Muni needs to pay a competitive salary but also tie pay to performance standards.
"There’s been some good stuff and there’s been some bad stuff," Sullivan said when asked to review Ford’s first two years on the job. "Muni’s reliability has been pretty flat ... it’s at 70 percent, the same as 2002."
Mayor Gavin Newsom said Ford deserves a raise.
"I think he’s doing a good job," Newsom said Friday. "There’s progress that’s been made, the setbacks we all experienced six months ago with the Third Street light [rail] aside."
The public has not been happy with Muni’s performance, according to a report issued by The City’s services auditor in April. Residents surveyed gave the public transportation system a C-minus for timeliness.
Mayor calls 85 percent on-time goal unrealistic
Muni’s on-time goal, established by voters in 1999, is 85 percent. Mayor Gavin Newsom said that 80 percent of the routes were already at that goal, but the on-time performance of other routes was pulling the overall average down.
The mayor, who championed the 1999 Muni reform measure, said that, considering Muni's funding shortages, the 85 percent goal was unrealistic. He said 85 percent was never a literal goal, but "always was a stretch goal."
"We believe we can get to 80 percent on a consistent basis realistically," Newsom said, adding that Muni would need an additional $90 million a year to get to that goal.