The makeup of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District Board is inside baseball even for political wonks (we wonder how many San Franciscans know such a board exists, even after that Board voted to nix the GG Bridge toll-takers last month). However, if you are a member of organized labor, exactly who sits on that board of directors is a very big deal indeed.
The bridge requires nearly constant repairs and maintenance work, performed by members of local labor unions, for whom bridge work — of which there much, like the seismic retrofit, a movable median barrier, and the infamous suicide barrier — is lucrative, and who for decades had one of their own on the GGBHTDB. Or they did, until two years ago, when progressive members of the Board of Supervisors blocked the appointment of a member of the Plumbers Union in favor of a transit advocate, causing a public flap.
Those dark days for working people appear to be over, as Michael Theriault — who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council, an umbrella organization representing numerous unions — is in, receiving unanimous approval from the Rules Committee on Thursday afternoon. Yet so did David Snyder, the transit advocate whose nomination in 2009 bumped from consideration union man Larry P. Mazzola, Jr. Mazzola, recall, is the son of the volatile head of the Plumbers’ Union whose loathing for Chris Daly, head of the Rules Committee in 2009 who helped block his son’s appointment, is well-documented.
So who’s out? It’s retired attorney Lynne Newhouse Segal, who perhaps coincidentally was the one director who voiced support for a pedestrian toll on the Golden Gate Bridge on Thursday.
“We knew that this unfortunate moment would come at some point, when one of the four existing directors would not get reappointed,” said Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who sits on Rules with supervisors Jane Kim and Mark Farrell.
“But the best team San Francisco can put forward… is [current GGBHTDB president] Janet [Reilly], Dave [Snyder], [North Beach resident and current board member] Dick [Grosboll], and Mike [Theriault].”
What cost Segal, a former staffer for the late Congressman Tom Lantos, who has sat on the pro-bono advisory board since 2005 (which must grapple with an $89 million budget deficit) and who had a letter of support from Warren Hellman (and who is the board’s only Jewish member, a fact also pointed out in her letters of recommendation)?
Labor chose well in picking someone like the extremely likable Theriault, who is well-spoken, multi-lingual and a published short-story author, and Reilly — who ran against and lost to Farrell for D2 supervisor in November, and who is married to Clint Reilly — was a shoo-in.
The main difference between Segal and the other candidates was her support for a tourist-only toll for walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.
“We have 10 million pedestrians who cross the bridge [annually],” Segal said. “Capturing tourist revenue that is there would be a great boon to the bridge district and to the area… I would support a membership or a visitors’ fee, something that would hook into the tourist experience.”
Farrell, who told the committee room that he had attended grammar school with the son of Segal, a fellow Marina District resident, was the lone supervisor to support her renomination.
The nominations go official Tuesday, when they must receive approval from the full Board of Supervisors.
Photo: Michael Theriault