munipiece2.jpgAfter a rough Friday, Muni came across OK in the news this weekend, with its greatest crime appearing to be a gambling break. Looking worse were cab drivers, MTA head Nat Ford, Clipper readers, and one alleged fare evader.

Parking Garage Confidential
Scandal-plagued MTA chief Nat Ford is embroiled in yet another scandal (surprise!). He’s being sued by a local small business owner over influence peddling in the way MTA awards contracts to manage the city’s lucrative collection of parking garages.

In 2009, the SFMTA held a Request For Proposals (RFP) for companies interested in managing the city’s garages and, in the end, they chose Fred Bekele’s Convenient Parking (in partnership with Canadian parking giant Imperial Parking) to manage the city’s six largest. Five Star Parking and Pacific Park Management each snagged contracts to run a handful of city’s smaller garages.

The companies picked to run the smaller garages were unhappy about missing out on Bekele’s big payday and immediately started lobbying the MTA to invalidate the results. Their access to MTA was more open than for most, they say, because Pacific Park Management is represented by prominent San Francisco attorney Steven Kay. Kay had previously represented Ford during his contact negations with the MTA.

Kay convinced MTA staff, and Ford himself, that there were significant problems with the RFP process. Even though the seven-day period for formal protest had passed, the MTA board voted 3-2 to start again from scratch. One of the members who voted against invalidating the results told ABC7 that “he wasn’t sure which contract he was voting for and that he couldn’t get a straight answer from Ford so he voted ‘no’.”

The City Attorney’s office looked into Bekele’s allegations last year but didn’t find any evidence of misconduct. Bekele’s lawyer called the investigation, “a whitewash.” Ford claims that he had no direct involvement in the selection process so his close relationship with Kay is immaterial.

The MTA revamped the way it dishes out contracts for paring garages in 2008 to simultaneously maximize revenue and open up the bidding process to combat widespread allegations of influence peddling. This was one year after the City Attorney’s office found that Five Star Parking had skimmed revenues and sent MTA inflated expense reports. Five Star eventually agreed to a $4.6 million settlement.

The results of the second round of RFPs are expected in August.

Taxi Brawl
It’s official, there’s no safe way to get around San Francisco. Walking will get you run over by an inconsiderate diver on their cell phone, taking the bus will get you screamed at by an irate Muni operator, or you’ll have to wait while they hop off the bus to play the lotto. Now hailing a cab is liable to end with a boxing match.

Cab driver Troy Nicholson spent a weekend in the slammer after getting in a fist fight with a drunken passenger angry at the route Nicholson’s choice of route. The fight started on the inside of the cab but soon spilled out into the street with the participants beating each other with a metal street sign.

Despite damage coming from both sides, only Nicholson was jailed because, according to SFPD spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield, the police usually arrest the person using the most force–or winning. Dangerfield said, “When they’re dueling, they’re equals. If you hit me on the arm, and I hit you on the arm, no foul. If I kick you in the leg, and you take my eye out, not fair.”

Yes, that’s actually how SFPD handles fights. Now word yet from the SF MTA, which also oversees cabs, on if they’ll be offering Nicholson a job as a Muni operator. From this story, he seems like he has what it takes.

You Know What Would Have Saved The Cabbie From Having To Beat That Drunken Passenger With A Street Sign?
A Jiu Jitsu instructor there to intervene on his behalf. The problem is that there’s never an experienced martial artist around when you need one.

Well, almost never.

Why You Were Trapped In Your Car?
Because it got run into by a nearly-empty Muni bus.

Proposal To Name Streetcar Facility After Late Muni Director
Muni Director Cameron Beach, who passed away last month, loved historic streetcars and was passionately committed to Muni’s efforts to preserve them. That’s why, in his honor, the MTA Board of Directors is considering renaming Geneva Yard in Balboa Park, the home base of the city’s historic streetcar fleet, after Beach.

Beach, who served on the MTA board for four years, is expected to be replaced by transit activist Joel Ramos.

Problems With Clipper Cards
Rachel over at Fog City Notes reports that a lot of people seem to be having problems with their Clipper cards.

If any readers have had problems with your Clipper card, leave your horror stories in the comments. We’ll send all the comments to Nat Ford and maybe he’ll let us manage a parking garage. Or six.

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