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SFMTA head’s job at risk after Breed calls for changes in leadership

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Mayor London Breed on Monday issued a letter calling for changes in the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s leadership. SFMTA director Ed Reiskin is appointed by the SFMTA board, rather than the mayor. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor London Breed isn’t happy with Muni’s leadership.

She communicated exactly that to Ed Reiskin, the head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, and its Board of Directors, in a letter sent Monday, which was obtained by the San Francisco Examiner.

A citywide Muni slowdown leaving riders waiting. A worker who died retrofitting the Twin Peaks Tunnel while working with a contractor whose history includes serious safety violations. Scooter permitting delays.

All those issues and more, Breed wrote in her letter Monday, are leading her to question SFMTA’s leadership.

SEE RELATED: Muni suffering major citywide service gaps due to operator shortage

Though it makes no threats of termination, insiders said Breed’s letter is clearly political groundwork toward removing Reiskin from the job should SFMTA not immediately shape up.

When read the contents of the letter, former mayor Art Agnos told the Examiner, “If I sent a letter like this, it would clearly be a message that the recipient is on a short leash to produce results.”

“Or else,” he added,” the next letter would be a termination letter.”

The City’s charter does not allow a mayor to fire or hire the head of the SFMTA, which is an “enterprise” agency distinct from The Mayor’s Office. However, the mayor does appoint — and remove — the Board of Directors, whose responsibility it is to fire and hire the SFMTA director.

“In the weeks since I took the mayoral oath of office, a number of challenges have come to light related to the SFMTA and Muni service,” Breed’s letter reads. “Perhaps most significant are service reductions that should have been anticipated and mitigated. But I am also seriously concerned about the lack of background checks performed on major construction contractors and an opaque process to select scooter pilot permit recipients.”

Breed wrote in her letter that SFMTA’s budget grew by $60 million last year, “so I expect that conditions will improve in the very near future.”

To read the full letter, click here.

To hold SFMTA accountable, she wrote, “I will be tracking the Controller’s Transportation City Scorecards,” which tracks twelve metrics from on-time performance to traffic congestion.

“I expect to see improvement across the board,” she wrote. “On behalf of Muni’s millions of riders, we need to deliver better, more reliable, and consistent service.”

SEE RELATED: Checkered past of contractor in SF Muni tunnel death raises ‘red flag’

The citywide Muni slowdown was first reported by the Examiner and further deepened by Mission Local. The troubled history of the Twin Peaks Tunnel contractor who did not tell SFMTA about its prior workplace safety violations when asked by the agency — and who saw a worker die on the job in the tunnel — was first reported by the Examiner and NBC Bay Area. Numerous press outlets from The Information to the San Francisco Chronicle peeled back the “opaque” scooter permit process.

While Breed cannot outright fire Reiskin per the city charter, which is under the purview of the MTA board of directors, insiders speaking on background said this was a clear message to the MTA board that she had lost confidence in Reiskin. Agnos agreed.

“A letter like this is clearly a major shot across the bow,” he said.

SFMTA could not immediately be reached for comment.

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