By SHALWAH EVANS
Applause erupted at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisor’s meeting after District 9 Supervisor David Campos told the crowd that Muni shouldn’t be subsidizing the police department’s traffic division.
The observation referred to his unhappiness with the proposed Muni Budget Deficit plan and made it clear that Muni’s proposed 50 cent fare hike would not be easily approved if Campos and District 11 Supervisor John Avalos had anything to say about it.
But instead of rejecting the proposal outright, the Superintendents delayed a decision until it’s reviewed at a special meeting next Wednesday the 27th at noon. That meeting is likely to get more complicated with voters rejecting six of the seven initiatives in Tuesday’s special election. All of the rejected initiatives were designed to offer some budget relief, but voters only went for freezing the salaries of the state’s highest public officials.
Despite the likelihood of that outcome, supervisors acted no more pressed to approve the Municipal Transit Authority’s plan to raise fares.
“Today was a victory for Muni riders,” Campos said at the conclusion of the board meeting. “The hope is that between now and the time that this comes back to the board, that we will work with Muni to revise the proposal.”
It was a tough outcome for the transit agency’s executive director Nathaniel Ford. While the motion on the table was to reject the Muni proposal altogether, some supervisors and Board President David Chiu managed to at least get the week’s extension.
Campos said Mission District residents in particular are having a hard enough time paying the existing fare, and cannot deal with a hike that would raise the fare by 50 cents to $2.00. But Ford disagreed that putting the proposal off was a good thing.
“We had with President Chiu an agreement on a budget that we move forward with, and now to go backwards is somewhat disappointing,” Ford said. “The financial situation is moving as we speak. With the state and what they’re doing, we really need to get this budget completed. It was our hope to have this behind us and start looking forward.”
In its Fiscal Year 2009-2010 Budget Projections the MTA examined what other transit operators around the country are doing to close their deficits. It mentioned wage rollbacks, layoffs, service modifications and revenue increases as possible solutions to address the deficit.
But Campos said the current proposal places too much burden on the riders. He said the focus should be on minimizing fare increases, and excluding a premium charge for riders who use the Fast Pass to transfer from BART to Muni. Mission District residents often make such transfers.
This week’s fare debate kicked off with more than 100 riders marching from City Hall to MTA headquarters. District 11 Supervisor John Avalos, who has proposed $15 million worth of changes to the plan, lead the way.
“We have to do better to find revenue to roll back the fare increases,” he said at the Board of Supervisors meeting. “I don’t believe we’re there.”