SFMTA running on empty ideas 

You have to wonder why some supervisors want to wrest control over The City’s transit agency since it’s proving it can crash by itself.

Showing just how far off-track they are from their fare-laden public, officials from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency broached the idea of increasing operating hours of parking meters, even though its own staff didn’t include that among the many recommendations to close its budget deficit.
The reason is that it’s wildly unpopular, the public backlash for the idea has already been highlighted and Mayor Gavin Newsom wants no part of it. But hey, why should that stop some of his appointees from thumbing their nose at him (they’re not running for office)?

That will explain how transit agency directors Bruce Oka and Cameron Beach said they want to see the meter extension plan back on the table, even after Oakland went through months of public hand-wringing over a similar plan, which it approved and then rescinded when hundreds of people and downtown business owners loudly protested. Apparently, that lesson is lost on some board members who are struggling with the term “public” transportation.

“If [Newsom] doesn’t want parking meters’ hours extended, then he’s got to pony up some money,” a blustery Oka told the media.

I don’t think it works that way. I agree with the board’s contention that raising the fare on the F-line from $2 to $5 is a lousy idea, but work force cuts and service reductions are a fact of life these days — and Muni is not immune. The idea of targeting car owners for the privilege of driving in San Francisco is as old as the “Muni man of the month” awards, and the business community already voiced the obvious sentiment that it would be hit hard by extending meter hours.

And if the transit agency board even considers Sunday enforcement of meters, the mayor and supervisors will have a full-scale mutiny on their hands.

It pays to remember that Muni’s woes almost undid Mayor Willie Brown. And judging from my e-mail inbox through the years, there isn’t a single issue that unites residents of San Francisco more than the transit system. Yet, all the transit agency directors have shown is that they can’t make tough decisions, but only fall back on easy ones.

At least the board hasn’t suggested completely eliminating the F-line. That’s how public officials become ex-public officials.

Where Coakley croaked, Boxer is a campaign bulldog

Many political observers are saying that incumbent Democrats may feel the fallout from this week’s special U.S. Senate election in Massachusetts in which a little-known Republican knocked off a high-profile Democrat in that famously liberal state.

But what they didn’t note is what a terrible candidate Martha Coakley was — something that even bashers of California Sen. Barbara Boxer can’t say about the long-term incumbent.
Boxer may be many things — especially to conservative opponents — but like her or not, she’s a formidable candidate and has a graveyard of would-be challengers to show for it.

The pundits may be running out of words to describe how Coakley lost to Republican Scott Brown in the election to replace the late liberal lion Ted Kennedy. Yet, Coakley proved herself completely out of touch with people of every party affiliation, which is why independents flocked in droves to Brown’s corner.

As my friends at CalBuzz pointed out, Coakley told voters that the Taliban was out of Afghanistan. She also announced that former Boston Red Sox hero Curt Schilling was a New York Yankees fan. And to cap off her lack of a grip on reality, when asked why she didn’t greet fans outside Fenway Park when the Boston Bruins played a much-publicized game there this year, she said, “In the cold? Shaking hands?’’

I guess kissing babies also was out of the question.

American kids turning into technology addicts

A study out this week confirms every modern parent’s fears: We’ve raised a whole new generation of gadget addicts.

The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study that says young people spend more than 7½ hours every day — or about 53 hours a week — watching TV, playing video games, texting, listening to music and otherwise staying glued to their phones, though not in the usual manner.

“Kids are spending more time using their phones to play games and listen to music than to actually talk on them,” said Kaiser’s Vicky Rideout, who directed the study of more than 2,000 students nationwide.

In the past five years, the country’s 8- to 18-year-olds increased their use of media devices by nearly 90 minutes a day. Clearly they’re not reading newspapers, since those hand-held devices seem to be going the way of the VCR. And the numbers jump even higher if you take into account kids’ multitasking, when they’re on their computers listening to music and paying no heed to the outside world (or their parents).

To no one’s surprise, those kids who used media devices a lot less than their peers reported better grades in school. Maybe we should consider new Kindle-like classrooms.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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