Abraham Simmons – District 2

Name: Abraham Simmons

Age: 46

Occupation: Assistant U.S. Attorney

District: 2

URL for website: abrahamsimmons.org

Neighborhood You Live In: Richmond

Date Questionnaire Returned: September 7, 2010

1. How often do you rely on Muni to get you around town? Pretty much every day.  If not, what do you use instead? N/A What would make it easier for you to choose Muni over other forms of transportation?

Muni needs to be more reliable.  That means: safer, more timely and not overcrowded at obviously peak hours.

2. What are the primary concerns of Muni’s owners (aka riders) about transportation and Muni in your District?

Safety (especially at night) and reliability.  District 2 residents fear that they will be attacked by other riders.  There is not enough of a police presence on the busses and other vehicles.  Also, at peak hours the vehicles are so overcrowded that several vehicles will pass by while would-be riders wait for one with enough room to squeeze in.

3. As a Supervisor, you will serve on the Board of the San Francisco County Transportation Authority. What is the role of the SFCTA, and what would you set as priorities for the agency in the next 4 years?

The role of the SFCTA is clearly set out in the first page of their website.  I cannot say it better but can paraphrase: generally, the Authority oversees expenditure of Prop K money, is the Congestion Management Agency for San Francisco, and serves as program manager for certain projects.  As a practical matter, there is so  much money “administered” by that organization that it is hard to keep track of it all.  Attachment B to the current budget identifies the projects that will be funded with the more than $129 million budget this year.  Focusing on the Central Subway and Transbay Center (and how it accommodates High Speed Rail) is our best bet for preventing fiscal disaster in the next 4 years.  Focusing on integrating bicycles and fixing 19th Ave is the best way to improve transportation for District 2 residents through this particular entity.

4. Difficult decisions often have to be made regarding transportation in San Francisco. Sometimes a well-researched project may have loud, angry opponents, or a popular project may not be the best for City residents and for San Francisco’s transportation infrastructure.

How would you make a decision under these kinds of circumstances?

(Feel free to cite a similar situation from your past experience as an example – it doesn’t have to be transit related)

The question seems to be asking both: (1) can you tell what the right answer is? and (2) are you willing to do the right thing even if it might cost you your job as supervisor?  My responses are: (1) Moving the greatest number of people safely, reliably and comfortably has to be the overall goal, right?  In general, the strength of analysis almost always will tell the good arguments from the bad and reveal the right answer. As for (2) I am far more interested in doing the right thing than being a supervisor.  Indeed, when this is over, I hope I will be able to return to my job as Assistant U.S. Attorney.

5. What is the Fix Muni Now charter amendment? Do you support it? (Y/N) Why or why not?

I support Sean Elsbernd’s attempt to remove from the City Charter the work rule and pay provisions that apply to Muni operators.  The pay we give should be based on our economy, not the best two economies in the nation.  Also, some of the work rules are just silly.  They should not be in the charter but instead the subject of collective bargaining.

6. One (of many) causes for Muni’s perennial budget woes was the illegal seizure of state gas tax money by Governor Schwarzenegger and the Legislature. This has left a large hole in Muni’s income (as well as every transit agency in CA).

How would you make up this gap in Muni revenue? Would you support:

– a local funding source or sources (fees, taxes, or other type of revenue) to avoid future problems caused by the state?

– would you achieve savings through cuts to Muni’s budget, fare increases, etc.

– or, do you have other ideas on how to get Muni out of its annual financial woes?

(You can choose more than one option, but just explain it clearly)

It is true.  Without funny business from the State, Muni would be operating with a surplus this year.  But that is not the world in which we live.  Muni must become more efficient.  It is that simple.  We waste millions fixing old busses that should be taken off line.  We spend millions on overtime mandated by non-sense work rules.  We waste millions paying for workers to wait between shifts.  We do not need more taxes and fees– we need a different set of expectations.

7. Finally, tell us a story about a funny or unique experience you’ve had on Muni.

While on the Muni a few moths ago, I got on during rush hour and noticed everyone was sitting in the first half of the flexible bus.  Turns out two kids (about 15 years old) were riding in the back, swinging on the poles, screaming and intimidating the passengers.  As I was approaching, one of the kids took out a marker and began to tag the bus in front of all of us.  I yelled in my loudest, deepest voice, “put that down!”  The boys were shocked.  After asking whether I was a “good samaritan,” they realized I was not kidding so they jumped out of the emergency window (just as the bus was stopping) and they ran away.

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