In our recent cover story, “The Muni Death Spiral,” we examined the less than savory sausage-making behind the Municipal Transportation Agency's budgeting process.
Multiple Muni sources told SF Weekly that the mayor's office heavy handedly dictates the agency's budget down to the minutiae, and, more disturbingly, insists Muni fudge its deficit numbers into “politically palatable” totals. One of the ways this is done is to include ridiculous savings measures no one in his right mind thinks will come to pass as “budget solutions” and use the hypothetical money saved to disingenuously reduce the projected deficit. For example, if Muni were running a $40 million deficit and a budget item counted on $15 million coming from Mayor Gavin Newsom auctioning off his hair, Muni could list its projected deficit at only $25 million.
Muni's “solutions” weren't quite that ludicrous — but it was close. One of the most transparent ploys in the agency's budget — along with $20 million in labor concessions that came as news to Muni's legendarily stubborn labor force — was a proposed $11.7 million bonanza from selling taxi medallions. Earlier estimations placed this tally at even more — roughly $15 million.
So it's worth noting that, yesterday, Muni quietly downgraded its expectations of money brought in via taxi medallion sales this fiscal year to a piddling $2.5 million. As far as making real money for the agency, hawking medallions has turned out to be a costly pipe dream. But if the purpose was to find a make-believe method of turning in a “balanced” budget — well, voila.