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Posts Tagged ‘SAN FRANCISCO MUNICIPAL RAILWAY (MUNI) SYSTEM’

AN EVERYDAY THREAT TO GOVERNMENT

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on September 14, 2021 at 12:05 am

It’s wonderful to believe that when you have a problem, you can write your local / state / federal representative and s/he will “give it my fullest attention.”

Unfortunately, it’s also usually a mistake.

Two cases on the futility of expectations:

Case #1: On August 12, a man I’ll call Mark, wrote a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg. The subject: The disgraceful performance of San Francisco’s Municipal Railway (MUNI) bus lines during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mark had previously complained to MUNI and his member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors—without result.  So now he decided to literally make it a Federal case:

“MUNI bus drivers are the highest-paid in the nation: The average MUNI driver makes $79,617, 51% above the national average bus driver salary of $52,730. This pay is 27% higher than the combined average salaries of drivers in Dallas, Boston and Atlanta.

“Yet  for  more  than  a  year,  many  of  these  drivers  have  been  ‘earning’ their pay by staying at home—or  going on  what  amounts to  an  extended vacation at the expense of San Francisco voters and MUNI riders.”

Muni | SFMTA

Many bus routes, Mark wrote, had been eliminated. This forces riders to cram themselves aboard the first bus available—making it impossible to “maintain social distancing” as recorded messages aboard MUNI buses advise.

Other routes have been substantially altered, with passengers learning this only after they are deposited far from their expected drop-off point.

These changes are especially difficult for elderly and/or disabled riders.

Mark suggested that Buttigieg threaten MUNI with:

  1. The loss of the Federal monies it now receives through the Department of Transportation; and
  2. An Americans With Disabilities lawsuit on behalf of San Franciscans now unable to receive the transit services they need.

To date—one month later—Mark has not received even the courtesy of a reply, let alone seen a positive change in MUNI’s operations.  

Pete Buttigieg official photo.jpg

Pete Buttigieg

Case #2:  Janet, a chef in Los Angeles, was fed up with getting Spam calls on her cell phone. Each time she got one, she blocked the number. Being on the national Do Not Call Registry, she believed she had an airtight case to take to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates the airways.

So she called the FCC and spoke with one of its representatives.

She said that she had saved to her phone the numbers of Spam callers—and she was prepared to turn these over to the FCC.

The FCC’s rep applauded Janet’s willingness to turn over this information.

“Then what happens?” asked Janet.

“We’ll put it into our files.”

In short: the FCC had no intention of acting on the Spam-caller numbers that Janet was prepared to turn over.

Did you submit a net neutrality comment to the FCC? Are you sure?

Janet didn’t hide her disappointment: “If someone went to the FBI and said, ‘I’m being shaken down by the Mafia,’ and the FBI said, ‘Well, we’ll put this into our files’ but wasn’t willing to do anything more, how many people do you think would be willing to report crimes to the FBI?”

The FCC rep admitted that this would greatly reduce the willingness of the public to report crimes to the FBI. But she made no effort to help Janet stop the harassing Spam calls.

Incidents like the ones above are a potent reason why so many people have lost their trust in government—at all levels.

Untold numbers of average citizens feel their elected officials—and the agencies they administer—don’t care about their problems. Even worse, they believe—accurately—that if they were wealthy contributors to the Democratic or Republican party, their complaints would be addressed promptly.

On April 24, 2016, CBS’ longtime documentary series, “60 Minutes,” aired a segment titled “Dialing for Dollars.”  

It opened with the following: “The American public has a low opinion of Congress. Only 14 percent think it’s doing a good job. But Congress has excelled in one way. Raising money. Members of Congress raised more than a billion dollars for their 2014 election. And they never stop. 

“Nearly every day, they spend hours on the phone asking supporters and even total strangers for campaign donations—hours spent away from the jobs they were elected to do. The pressure on candidates to raise money has ratcheted up since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in 2010. That allowed unlimited spending by corporations, unions and individuals in elections.”

Coat of arms or logo

In short: Members of Congress—the branch that writes the laws governing the lives of 328.2 million Americans—have essentially become telemarketers.

People who write to their members of Congress expect at least the courtesy of a reply addressing their concerns within a reasonable period of time. Many constituents will not receive even that.

Or the “reply” they receive arrives weeks or months later—and opens with: “Thank you for writing me to support my bill….”

Usually they haven’t even heard of the bill cited—and couldn’t care less about it. As they scan the letter—no doubt drafted by a low-level staffer—they search in vain for an offer of help, or at least empathy. 

Millions of Americans will have no other contact with government officials than this. And it will convince them that if government isn’t their enemy, it’s certainly not their friend.

THE CHANGED FACE OF SAN FRANCISCO: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 3, 2020 at 12:25 am

San Francisco has long been one of the most-loved cities in the United States.

Millions of tourists—from both other parts of the United States as well as around the world—visit this city every year to ride its famous cable cars and dine in its magnificent restaurants.

To visit the ruins of its infamous prison, Alcatraz, eat Ghiradelli ice cream in Ghiradelli Square and buy souveniers at nearby Fisherman’s Wharf. 

San Francisco Cable car

Thomas Wolf, http://www.foto-tw.de / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

But San Francisco today is not the city it has long been renowned for.

Its major tourist spots are deserted. Its sidewalks are largely free of pedestrians. Many of its best-known stores have been shuttered since mid-March—and many of them may never reopen owing to the financial losses they have incurred.

Its world-famous restaurants no longer offer in-house dining—only take-out or home delivery.

Many of its bus routes have been eliminated. With so many people “sheltering-in-place” in their apartments or houses, the passengers that once carried those routes have largely disappeared. 

On March 16, the San Francisco Department of Public Health imposed a shelter-in-place order on city residents. This required them to stay home except for essential needs such as shopping for groceries, getting medications, caring for others and exercising.

The goal of the order: To halt—or at least diminish—the spread of COVID-19.

SARS-CoV-2 without background.png

Coronavirus

The order banned activities considered non-essential: Going to bars, barbers and dinner parties. 

Many restaurants offer their fare via Grubhub, Doordash, Caviar or Uber Eats. Some restaurants—notably pizza parlors—use their own employees to deliver food.

This, in turn, demands that potential customers have not only a computer but Internet access. It also demands that they be willing to pay a higher price for food than would be the case if they could dine in.

Another drawback: Choosing what items to order from many restaurants is like choosing what to order in the military: You either accept what they offer—or you do without. Forget about substitutions or additions. 

Outdoor exercise is allowed, but gyms are closed.

Some businesses were deemed essential. Among these: Grocery stores, hardware stores, hospitals, drugstores, laundromats, funeral parlors, gas stations, airlines, taxis, rental car companies, childcare facilities, rideshare services. 

The effect of the shutdown order on businesses has been devastating.  

Walk along Market Street—the city’s best-known site for marches and storefronts—and you’ll find store after store not only closed but boarded up. The same for Powell Street, a major tourist magnet.

People are on edge right now': San Francisco businesses boarding ...

The city’s internationally famous cable car lines have all been shut down. With “social distancing” the new Golden Rule, cramming people onto small cable cars is no longer an option. 

Taxis are still available—but cab drivers have found business difficult to come by, with so many people staying indoors.

The order allowed most marijuana dispensaries to remain open. Bookstores, on the other hand, were ordered closed—and remain so more than two months later. 

So businesses selling toxic “medical marijuana” are considered essential. But if you want to buy a copy of Moby Dick at your local bookstore, you’ll have to do it online. 

Many businesses started boarding up in April. The reason: Fears that Coronavirus-inspired shortages of items like toilet paper, meat and hand sanitizer might lead to wholesale looting. 

Then, on May 25, as if facing a deadly pandemic wasn’t enough of a threat, a new and unexpected reason for fear emerged: The killing of George Floyd, a former black security guard, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

While Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on a city street during an arrest, Derek Chauvin, a white Minneapolis police officer, kept his knee on the right side of Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.

Video shows Minneapolis cop with knee on neck of George Floyd, who ...

The death of George Floyd

Across the nation, cities were convulsed by protests—including those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Among these: Oakland, San Jose, Emeryville, Walnut Creek and San Francisco itself.

On May 30, an initially peaceful protest march exploded into looting shortly before 9 p.m. as looters broke off and began smashing shop windows and ransacking stores in Union Square and on Market Street.

Among stores looted: A Sak’s Off Fifth Avenue, Old Navy clothing store, a Cartier Boutique, a Coach store. Looters especially targeted CVS and Walgreens drugstores. Liquor stores and a BevMo were also hit.

“Thirty businesses were looted or destroyed,” said David Perry, from Union Square Business Improvement District. A total of 33 arrests were made for “criminal activity.”

That night, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that she would impose a citywide curfew beginning May 31, running from 8:00 p.m to 5 a.m.

On the night of May 31, 87 people were arrested for violating the city’s curfew. 

Left unstated by city authorities—within San Francisco and across the nation—was this: With so many people massing in streets, many of them unmasked, would this spread COVID-19 even further?

Northern California—and San Francisco in particular—have closely cooperated with “stay-at-home” orders. As a result, COVID-19 cases have remained relatively stable in those areas.

But the street demonstrations may well reverse the results of those months of self-discipline. The truth will be known only weeks from now.

THE CHANGED FACE OF SAN FRANCISCO PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on June 2, 2020 at 12:05 am

Want to play a new game? Come to San Francisco and play “Count the Stupids.”

Just walk down any major street during a pandemic that’s killed more than 100,000 Americans and count:

  • The people who refuse to wear face masks;
  • The people wearing face masks below their noses;
  • The people wearing face masks around their necks like bandannas. 

On some days—depending on how far you walk—you might spot 10 to 60 or more such people. 

Those who wear masks below their nose negate the purpose of wearing a mask. If they have COVID-19 and sneeze on someone else who’s not wearing a mask, that person is going to be stricken. And if someone who’s also not wearing a mask sneezes or coughs on them, they will be infected.

Coronavirus prevention: Can using a mask help in eliminating COVID ...

Face masks

Many of those wearing masks as bandannas are smoking. Clearly they value getting their intake of cancer as more important than protecting themselves against a deadly virus. Many mask-less men sport heavy beards—which would make a mask impossible to seal properly.

And as for complying with social distancing requirements that put at least six feet between people: Countless people casually pass others only inches away without any apparent concern—for their own safety or that of others.

On May 28, San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced that a new policy would take effect the next day: 

San Francisco will enforce the wearing of masks or face coverings when people leave their home and are within 30 feet of anyone that doesn’t live in their household.

That includes when you’re waiting in line to go into a store and when you’re inside shopping. A mask or face covering will not be needed when: 

  • You’re in a car by yourself;
  • You’re with people you live with;
  • You’re picnicking with members of your own household and are more than six feet from other groups;
  • You’re walking, hiking, running or biking alone or with people you live with.

Even then, you should still have a mask or face covering on hand.

Of course, that will require police to enforce the new ordinance. This in a city where police have refused to crack down on “homeless” encampments—and their piles of feces, hypodermic needles and trash.

For all the kudos offered city residents by Mayor Breed for complying with social distancing, the blunt truth remains that many of them do not. And the fact that Breed felt forced to legally require citizens to wear face masks is a telling point in its own right.

But to return to life in San Francisco in the Age of COVID-19: 

Civic Center—which lies directly across from City Hall—might better be renamed COVID-19 Center. Once it housed farmers markets and offered easy access to the Civic Center BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station. 

Today it is fenced off and serves as shelter for countless “homeless” tents—and all the drugs, trash, alcohol, feces and hypodermic needles that come with this population.

Controversial San Francisco homelessness tax passes

Tent “city” in San Francisco

Of course, Civic Center isn’t the only place in San Francisco where you’ll find huge tents occupied by DDMB’s—Druggies, Drunks, Mentally Ill and Bums. 

Walk down almost any major sidewalk and odds are you’ll find your path blocked by one or more huge tents able to house two to four people. 

If you’re in a wheelchair or elderly or on crutches, you’ll likely be forced to step into the street or cross the street to continue your journey. 

If you call the police on your cell phone, expecting them to remove the tents, you’re in for a big surprise. In bum-loving San Francisco, that sort of action is no longer handled by police. 

Instead, they’ll refer you to a “help-the-homeless” agency that specializes in defending the rights of DDMBs over those of law-abiding, tax-paying San Francisco residents.

The “homeless problem” has become so outrageous in San Francisco that Hastings College of the Law—one of the foremost law schools in the nation—recently filed a lawsuit against the city “to end dangerous and illegal conditions in the Tenderloin neighborhood.” 

Among its goals: To compel the City

  • To clear sidewalks to allow unfettered safe passage for neighborhood residents and workers; and
  • To provide healthy and safe solutions for “homeless” people who now use sidewalk encampments as their residence.

And when it comes to public transit: Forget about using the underground stations of the Municipal Railway (MUNI) bus system. Those have been closed since March—allegedly to protect riders and drivers from COVID-19. 

Inbound T Third train at Church station, September 2017.JPG

MUNI underground station

Pi.1415926535 / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

MUNI, which serves only San Francisco, has 4,800 employees and an annual budget of $1.28 billion.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system serves 33 cities and has an annual budget of $2.3 billion. 

Yet BART, which uses many of the same stations is still providing railway service throughout northern California.

MUNI refuses to say why BART has managed to provide service for its passengers—while MUNI has made transit far more complex and time-consuming for its own.

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