Ken Garcia's column on Emilio Cruz : LUSENET : Transit First San Francisco : One Thread

It's always good to leaven criticism with praise. In this sense, I welcome Ken Garcia's column in yesterday's Chronicle, as well as the good words for Emilio Cruz which I have been hearing increasingly often among my fellow RM members.

But I do think we need to be as careful with our praise as we are with our criticism. Hagiography will not make Muni run better. Constructive criticism may. And constructive criticism is more truly respectful to Cruz than unconsidered commendation. Garcia's column, however well-intentioned, had huge gaps:

* Cruz's much-cited 150 firings have never been documented, let alone compared to comparable periods during other general managers' tenures or to the state of affairs in other transit systems. Maybe those firings do indeed represent a weeding- out of the bad apples. But that claim has never been proven. Judging from my anecdotal experience, Muni is still chock- full of bad apples.

* Cruz's proposed reorganization is quite sensible. But the proposal was made nearly six months after Cruz told RESCUE Muni he would make it. Now Cruz is getting credit for a reorganization that has not yet taken place. Coming up with an ostensibly good idea is only half, or less, of the picture. When we feel a need to heap praise on a sensible proposal that probably should have been installed long ago without fanfare, it indicates to me how far Muni has fallen.

* Cruz has consistently caved in to union pressure. Maybe the mayor made him, but it is hardly to Cruz's credit that he bends his will to the mayor's on make-or-break issues. A strong director would have submitted his resignation before accepting the kind of union contract we now have. A strong director would have submitted his resignation before rehiring a bus driver who crashed her bus into a house.

* While we are sitting in the tunnel waiting for Cruz's medicine to take hold, what we have gotten from him is neglect of RESCUE Muni's own sensible ideas. We have sent him letters and met with him, and with a few exceptions (largely due to the second tier of managers, not to Cruz himself), very straightforward ideas for improving service have been ignored.

Don't get me wrong. I respect Cruz. But let us give him credit where it is due, and help him to do a better job in those areas where he needs to. Cruz's job is not to keep telling us how good a job he is doing or trying to do. I see his constant self-justification as a lack of self- confidence.

Let us judge him by end results. Is Muni running better? Is it even running incrementally better? Has the culture of apathy and us-them been undermined? If Cruz wants our support, let him earn it by objective, quantitative proof that his efforts are improving service. Over the summer, Ken Niemi and I met with Cruz and said he would garner true support if Muni adopted and publicized quantitative service standards.

He ignored our proposal. He didn't even argue with it -- a sure sign he did not take it seriously, even though most other transit systems in the country now publish quantitative service standards and survey results. Do we need more evidence that Cruz regards our praise as a political tool, a fig leaf to save the mayor from the full consequences of his neglect of public transit in San Francisco?

-- George Musser (, December 06, 1997

Moderation questions? read the FAQ