We liveblogged today’s Board of Supes meeting, in large part because the “motion rejecting the Municipal Transportation Agency’s (MTA) proposed FY 2009-2010 budget” was on the agenda. However, a deal was struck, changes to the budget were made, and the budget will not be rejected. Want all the details? Keep reading.
2:00 p.m. So the notion is that the Muni budget will be rejected so long as seven supervisors agree to vote on the measure rejecting the Muni budget, proposed by Board President David Chiu. A Chiu aide said, pre-meeting, that seven votes are still on board. Muni CEO Nat Ford, Jr. told The Appeal that if anything were to change, “it’s going to happen in there [the meeting],” but that deals were still going on behind closed doors — but not in smoky back rooms, because you can’t smoke in public buildings.
2:15: p.m. Onto the consent agenda. Settling into the press box — Jesus Christ, we have never seen it this crowded. Everyone is here — Streetsblog, the Guardian, Fog City, television, District 6 noncandidate Paul Hogarth — guess who does and doesn’t rise for the pledge of allegiance? Oh, and the Examiner and Chronicle and journalism dreamboat Dan Noyesare on the scene, too. Guess we could have just watched this one on TV — of course, you can, too, on SFGTV, online or on your boob tube.
2:18 p.m. Last week, the giant solar energy deal with the city and Recurrent Energy was approved, but since it’s an ordinance it needs to be passed twice. Usually the second passage is a fait accompli — but usually Boards don’t have someone like Chris Daly, who is now harping on the deal further. Bad financial sense, bad long-term investment, and an evil city-corporate partnership. You know.
Daly just name-dropped Steven T Jones, city editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. How welcoming.
According to Daly, a French energy firm says it can build a similar project to the one proposed by Recurrent for far less — Recurrent will build a 5 megawatt facility for about $60 million, with the city’s option to purchase at Year 7 of a long-term deal for $32 million, while another company — whose name we have not yet heard — offers to build a 3.5 megawatt farm for $9 million.
Fog City Journal was on point with this bit of progressive inside baseball, guessing the whole deal might go back to committee. If that does, it might thwart the whole deal — a deal needs to be in place before the end of May, otherwise Recurrent won’t be able to get the deal funded.
2:24 p.m.The progressives have received some heat for not welcoming the Recurrent deal with open arms, but they do have a point when they say the price of solar is highly likely to drop as the technology improved
“We should not be seduced by eco-chic proposals,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, the Board’s lone green. “[The cost] of renewable energy, will come down precipitously” in the future, meaning it’s dumb to lock into a premium rate now — $235 per megawatt hour.
2:33 p.m. Earlier, Daly used a television analogy to say how the Recurrent deal might stink – buying less TV for more money or something. We hoped the analogy would die, only to be resurrected later by Melissa Griffin, but no – Supervisor Sean Elsbernd asked if we want a whole TV or half a TV. Uh – I just want a cheap energy bill, really. Then I’ll worry about a TV.
Pop quiz: who is the only person on the Board who is a native San Franciscan? There is one and only one.
2:38 p.m. Eric Mar, you are such a tease. The District 1 Supervisor just made it sound like he was going to vote against the project this second time — talking about all his constituents who didn’t like it — before he said, “I did my homework and… this is a good deal for the city… for the interest of our city’s climate change plans. I’ll be supporting the project as is, and not supporting any delays.”
2:42 p.m. We’re looking for this supposed second bid from a second company on the project, but can’t find one on the PUC Web site. We e-mailed the spokesman, but if you can find it, please do. www.sfwater.org.
2:47 p.m. Ouch. Mar just got a dressing down from Mirkarimi, who wanted to know why, when Mar was debating the merits of the project, he didn’t ask other people for advice, people like… Ross Mirkarimi, who admittedly has a very, very long green resume in town.
2:52 p.m. Supervisor John Avalos feels your pain. “I had friends who asked me, ‘Why don’t you support this? Why are you for the jobs?'” Avalos’s friends might not be his friends anymore, after Avalos reiterated his desire to vote against this: bad deal financially etc. Maybe Carmen Chu will be John Avalos’s ex-friends’ friend.
2:55 p.m. VOTING! Is it going back to committee or not?
2:56 p.m. It is not. Now the second vote on the project. 7-4, with Avalos, Campos, Daly and Mirkarimi voting against. So that’s that: huge solar farm, here we come!
3:09 p.m. Thanks to Alex Clemens of Barbary Coast Consulting, who was quick to let us know that the vote to send the measure back to committee lost, 6-5, while the second reading on the solar project won, 7-4. Such are the perils of live-blogging.
3:12 p.m. Nat Ford was seen conferring with a supervisorial aide in the hallway. That scoop courtesy of Steven T Jones.
3:15 p.m. Ok, back to the meeting. In a purely advisory, nonbinding document, the Board recommends temporarily closing down some firehouses or letting firefighters work longer hours to help balance the budget. Last week, the Firefighters’ Union called out Avalos and other supervisors, saying that doing so would burn all our houses down and otherwise replace peaceful public safety with fiery, Dante-esque mayhem.
Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White just came up to the podium to tell us that the Fire Department has been on or under budget for the past six budget cycles, and “greater lives lost and properties lost” is the cost of any rolling brownouts.
3:20 p.m. Here is a very interesting point, brought up by Sup. Sean Elsbernd. Local 798, the Firefighters’ Union, is the only union that has not given back a salary increase. Everyone else has. Elsbernd said this, but he’s still voting against the document.
3:22 p.m. Voting time.
3:23 p.m. The document is accepted, despite protestations from Chu, Elsbernd and Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier.
3:24 p.m. Now, it’s for the Muni item, what we’ve all be waiting for — what? It’s just been continued! To later in the meeting! The press can’t believe it.
So we’ll float around City Hall for a bit, see if we can find Nat Ford, and get back to you.
4:12 p.m. We’ve been into the Mayor’s Press Office, we’ve been into two different Supervisors’ offices, we looked over Steven T. Jones’s shoulder and we checked our e-mail about 15 times. If a deal’s been struck yet on the Muni budget, we don’t know — and it doesn’t look like anyone else does, either.
Earlier, esteemed journalist, muckracker and shit-stirrer John Ross gave a rousing speech to the Board chamber on an award he was to receive, before he turned it down with his address, in which he used the word “motherfucker” at least twice. Sweet.
4:27 p.m. David Chiu has been in the Mayor’s Office with Nat Ford for the past 10 minutes. Talking about the Giants’ woeful hitting, no doubt. We’re headed back over there as soon as we hit send so we can get the scoop as the major players file out of Room 200.
We also just saw Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, the supposed seventh — and crucial — swing vote on Chiu’s measure to shoot down the budget. At the moment, Maxwell is noncommittal — and wants Chiu to continue the measure for another week so negotiations can continue. “I want David to continue it,” she said, when asked how she planned to vote on the matter. And if the measure is voted on today, and not continued? “Then we’ll see,” she said, smiling.
4:41 p.m. 15 more minutes and what do we have for our efforts? Other than defending our proud little responsible Internet tabloid’s merits from evil jealous print media — not much.
4:49 p.m. Nat Ford exited the Mayor’s Office not too long ago, looking like he ordered chicken salad and received a big old crap sandwich instead. That is, not happy. Updates? None: “Any news to be made will be made in the [Board] chamber,” said agency spokesman Judson True.
4:58 p.m. Chiu is back in the President’s chair. The Board can choose to continue the MTA budget matter or they can vote promptly. Stay tuned.
5:05 p.m. Show’s over, folks: Board is in closed-session negotiations. That leaves us in the hallway, with everyone else. No updates — nothing — from spokespeople, aides, and potted plants in the Rotunda. We’ll hang out for a bit, but there’s nothing more to see here for the moment.
5:25 p.m. We’re back from closed session!! And —
5:26 p.m. — we’re taking a recess. Seriously, they’re going to get to this. We think.
5:47 p.m. A deal has been struck. The budget will not be rejected.
“I was until today prepared to move forward with a rejection vote,” said Board President David Chiu. Chiu said he met with Carmen Chu — deputized on behalf of the Mayor to work on the budget — and also met with the Mayor’s Chief of Staff. A new budget deal has been reached, “and I am prepared to support all those changes,” Chiu said.
Nat Ford is laying out the changes now.
5:56 p.m.: Nat Ford rattled them off too fast for us to catch them all, but here are some highlights: $10.3 million in reductions, including $3 million less in work orders, and an MOU — essentially an understanding between two city departments to provide specific services — between the SFPD and the MTA to provide specific services, every year, for a specific dollar amount.
6:04 p.m. David Campos is not happy with this — in particular, the $63 million in work orders that are still out there.
“We can do much better than this,” he said. “Leaving $63 million of MTA money out there, [to pay for services] that might not have anything to do with the MTA is unacceptable.”
6:11 p.m. Good news for anyone with a Youth, Senior or Disabled pass: your fare increase is still happening, but not until May 1, 2010, a full five months later than originally planned. Everyone else, sorry: $55 on July 1, and $60 on January 1. Shut up and pay up.
6:12 p.m. “This is ridiculous,” someone in the press box was heard to mutter. “They didn’t do shit.” We are inclined to agree.
6:41 p.m. FINAL UPDATE
So here’s the final tally of Muni budget savings, as brokered by the Board of Supervisors in last-minute backroom brinksmanship:
$2.5 million will be saved by not hiring more parking control officers
$3 million will be saved by delaying hiring of MTA staff under later in the fiscal year
$1 million in “miscellaneous, across the board” reductions
$2.8 million in work order reductions
$1 million in planned parking meter changes, to be announced later.
That adds up to $10.3 million, which will then be put back into the MTA budget, ostensibly to increase services. Lines slated for closure under the TEP will still close. Fare changes, aside from the delayed fare increase for senior, youth and disabled passes, will still happen.
More money saving could happen when the MTA undertakes a line-by-line review of all of its work orders, something “that’s never been done,” according to Ford.
Ford didn’t say exactly when in the negotiation process the breakthrough was achieved, but did say that “everyone [involved] realized that voting down the budget was not in the best interests of riders.”
Ford also said that Muni never knew that 311 calls would cost $1.96 per call when the agency signed up to participate in the program, but once that 311 informed the MTA that about 70 percent of calls were Muni-related, the agency agreed to pony up. The MTA will continue to try to spend less on 311 by directing customers to 511; so far a 9 percent reduction in calls from last month to this has been achieved.