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Tim Talk: Terrible ideas in Livermore and San Francisco

Livermore’s City Council moved ahead with a truly ill-advised measure last week to ban temporary signs from public spaces.
Tim Hunt
Tim Hunt.

Livermore’s City Council moved ahead with a truly ill-advised measure last week to ban temporary signs from public spaces.

The measure, pushed by former Mayor Bob Woerner, took effect last week despite pleas and protests from real estate agents and others. The ban is equivalent to using a sledgehammer to drive a finishing nail.

The target is campaign signs that previously only can go up 30 days before an election so you’re talking about a couple of months in a general election year and a month in off-year elections. Yes, they’re not pretty, but campaign signs are critical to building name recognition, particularly for challengers. Incumbents have the advantage of being in the news—if anyone reads it these days and typically will have a campaign organization to build on.

The ”neutral” ban targeted not only political signs, but all temporary signs. That’s the huge rub.

Realtors routinely use sandwich signs to guide people to open houses as well as to attract the casual person who just might stop by. Connections can come from seemingly chance meetings.

It also takes out signs promoting garage sales as well as signs guiding people to events such as wedding receptions or other gatherings.

In short, it’s a bad idea that now is taking effect.

Another bad idea has been floated by state Sen. Scott Wiener, the San Franciscan who is full of them. He pushed, along with major transit agencies, for relief from the state budget and won concessions from the governor to the tune of $1.1 billion about $400 million of which is targeted for Bay Area agencies.

Now Wiener wants to go even farther and is pushing legislation to raise bridge fares by $1.50 for five years on the seven state-owned crossings in the Bay Area. It would be indexed to inflation so tolls will climb every year. Wiener estimated it will raise $180 million per year.

Remember, tolls just went up last Saturday to $7, one of three increases approved by voters in a 2018 measure.

Wiener used the shameful “gut and amend” tactics to insert his proposal in a measure that already has passed the Senate. He’s collected co-authors, primarily from people like himself that do not represent people who routinely used the bridges. The only East Bay co-authors are Assemblywomen Buffy Wicks of Oakland and Mia Bonta of Alameda.

Fortunately, other East Bay representatives are waving red flags and crying foul on behalf of their constituents. In news coverage of the bill, one guy who crosses the Carquinez Bridge and the Bay Bridge daily would be hit by an additional $3 per day.

Bay Area transit agencies, particularly fare-dependent BART, are suffering because downtown San Francisco office buildings are 30% vacant. BART ridership already had been dropping before the pandemic and has plunged since to less than 40% of pre-pandemic ridership. Add in dirty cars and safety issues and the car seems like a better choice for many people who cannot work from home daily.

Here's hoping the East Bay reps can muster support from elsewhere to scrap Wiener’s terrible idea. Transit agencies need to adjust, not maintain levels of service that make no sense.

Editor's note: "Tim Talk" is a blog written by Tim Hunt, a native of Alameda County. Hunt spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in addition to writing editorials for more than 15 years.

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