At the height of the Tuesday morning commuter crush into downtown San Francisco, a stalled 18-wheeler blocked two lanes on Third Street, a little below Market Street. Traffic snarled for blocks in multiple directions from the tangled knot. Horns blared. Not a patrol cop in sight. The only semblance of order: a man in a business suit wearing heavy workman's gloves. He stood in the thoroughfare pulling the connective arms of Muni buses away from the electrical wires to ease them by.
The take-charge civilian, it turns out, was no civilian at all. It was Muni General Manager Emilio Cruz, who'd learned of the tie-up on the radio while driving to work from his Glenview home.
"I've been here since 8 a.m.," Cruz said, as he slapped another bus on the back, sending it on its way. That put Cruz nearly an hour into his free-form disaster management shtick, with no end in sight. "I don't have enough inspectors to do this kind of work," Cruz added.
Apparently, Police Chief Fred Lau is short of bodies, too. Since no men or women in blue uniform were anywhere near the scene.
As Cruz hustled, and time wore on, one driver of a stalled bus leaned out of his seat to share a confidential opinion of his general manager.
"He's full of shit," the driver mumbled.
"He's full of shit," the driver repeated.
Say that again?
"He's full of shit," he said even louder.
Which gives you an idea of what Cruz is up against in trying to reform S.F.'s transit system. Stalled trucks at rush hour are the least of Cruz's problems.
1-800 Rabbi Confusion
It's one thing for a competing charity to piggyback on another's good name. But to clog a competitor's phone lines with wrong numbers at a busy time of year is adding insult to injury.
That's precisely what's happening to the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, N.J., according to its executive director, Eliyahu Teitz. As Passover nears, callers are dialing the switchboard at Teitz's Jewish Educational Center with cars to donate -- in the belief they are calling the Jewish Educational Center running radio ads asking for car donations. The ads air regularly.
Trouble is, the callers are dialing the wrong Jewish Educational Center. The JEC behind the radio ads is the one here in S.F. -- the upstart, $8.5 million-a-year Lubavitcher charity founded by Rabbi Bentziyon Pil and his wife, Mattie (see "Would You Buy a Used Car From This Rabbi?" Jan. 22). Lately, regulators have grown curious about its operations since so little of the money it raises seems to go to charitable causes.
The New York and New Jersey radio ads have nothing to do with the New Jersey Jewish Educational Center, which is no relation to the JEC in S.F. But despite requests from Teitz and his lawyer, the S.F. JEC still fails to clear up the confusion in its ads.
The New Jersey JEC, whose name dates back to 1948, 35 years before the S.F. JEC was established, isn't a small operation. It runs an Orthodox Jewish day school, kindergarten through high school, with an enrollment of 900. Its annual budget is $6 million. And it never solicits car donations. Student tuition supplies the bulk of its budget.
Pil's spokesman, Sam Singer, said, "I don't think there's mass complaints. The simple solution is to give the callers our phone number."
Teitz is peeved because he thinks Pil is knowingly trading on the JEC name. "It's not like he picked [the JEC] name out of the blue," he says.