Monday, July 03, 2006
Silicon Valley's transportation leaders on Thursday approved a 30-year spending plan that promises to deliver a 16.3-mile BART extension, everything else included in the 2000 Measure A sales tax package, and several additional programs.And this is exactly how they have always conducted business... as usual. They voted 11 to 1 in favor of their plan to spend money they don't, and probably won't ever, have.
Now they need to figure out how to find another $3 billion to pay for it.
Mountain View Councilman Greg Perry was the lone dissenter, saying after the meeting that the agency's "first step should be to get our financial house in order..."Guess what, Perry. They have absolutely no intention of ever doing that. In the year leading up to the June vote, VTA's board and San Jose's mayor tried to convince the public that their new tax initiative was a slam dunk, and that there would be money enough to pay for the BART extension, but only if voters approved a new tax. They tried to fool everyone into believing that their new tax was reasonable, that their failure to deliver with Measure A was not their fault (Who's fault was it?) and that they needed more money because there just wasn't enough to pay for all the things a well-run transit agency must do.
But VTA is consistently rated among the worst agencies for cost per passenger and cost per mile. Instead of streamlining operations, making do with existing facilities and equipment (as any driver can tell you, VTA replaces old busses, rather than overhauling them, as other agencies, such as SamTrans, do), they replace buildings (North Yard), and they shuffle adminstrative personnel around while they boast about eliminating "positions" to create the appearance of cutting costs.
They do this by maintaining ghost positions that only get filled when times are tough. They move existing employees into these ghost positions and "eliminate" those same employee's prior positions, and point to those eliminated postions as proof of their efforts to cut costs and as proof of their unbiased across-the-board cost cutting. They have to do this, because the only real positions they ever actually eliminate are their front-line workers—bus drivers and maintenance workers. Any driver who has survived a round of layoffs can tell you that whenever layoffs come, so do River Oaks administrators who's positions were eliminated on board the mother ship. They are almost always disgruntled at having to work in a grungy bus division among—GASP!—BUS DRIVERS!
Frankly, my feeling is that they should be grateful that their employer thinks so much more highly of them than of drivers, or they would be out on the street.
It's all a shell game to VTA's adminstrators. And until they are held to account for all of this, they will continue to pretend they are responsible custodians of public funds who just happen to have had a run of hard luck.