And yet, Williams repeatedly made claims about the Municipal Transportation Agency's budget that seemed both ludicrous and conspiratorial. Again and again he bellowed into his megaphone that it took “only $200 million” to operate Muni. And yet Muni's budget is $700 million (actually, $768.6 million). So where was the “missing” $500 million? Where's the money?
Speaking to Williams after the event, we asked what he meant by “Where's the money?” Did he mean the MTA is bloated and squandering its millions? “Those are your words,” he snapped back. No, he seemed to be saying, literally, that the MTA didn't know where half a billion dollars was. That the agency had out-and-out lost $500 million like an umbrella left on the bus — or nefariously allowed the money to trickle into the right people's pockets.
If Williams wants to claim MTA management spends a lot of of money and plenty of it badly, I'll be the first to jump on his train. But even a relatively cursory glance through the MTA budget — a delightful, 548-page read — reveals that the notion it costs “only $200 million” to operate Muni is laughable. And claims the agency has allowed half a billion dollars to roll down the rabbit hole are patently absurd.