Pros no show at cable car bell ringing contest
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The 48th annual Muni Cable Car Bell Ringing competition in Union Square was cut short when Muni conductors chose not to participate.

The event, held on the afternoon of Sept. 28, usually consists of amateur and professional competitions but only included the amateurs this year.

"We fully intended to host an event that brought San Francisco to celebrate our world class city and honor our conductors," said Paul Rose, media relations manager for the Municipal Transportation Agency. "As to why the operators were not there, check with the operators' union."

There was no announcement made at the event to indicate that the Muni driver competition was not taking place. Patrons stood idle, waiting with confusion for the main event.

"It's a slap in the face," said Rafael Cabrera, president of the Transport Workers Union. "There was no boycott on our behalf. Proposition G [is] on the ballot and they are trying to promote that we don't care."

Proposition G, a measure that would negotiate pay changes for Muni workers, is on the November ballot and has been publicly opposed by the Transport Workers Union.

"I have been presenting the bells probably about 14 or 15 years. I have a little factory and I make the bells for Muni and for everybody," said Gilberto Godoy. "We need to keep it up, like a tradition, because that's very important for the public, for the city."

Godoy's daughter attended the competition for the first time this year to see her father present the bells like he does every year. The bells, normally presented to the winner of the professional driver's contest, sat untouched.

"I've never seen such a thing," said Joan Cooper, San Francisco resident and longtime event patron. "I try to make it every year. I'm just wondering where the drivers are."

The first and only competition of bell ringing featured media talent performing a skit and incorporating the cable car bell at the end. Very different from main event that features trained professionals, many of who have been in the business for most of their lives.

"We usually have preliminaries two weeks prior to the event where the top six operators and conductors are picked, and those are the people who compete in Union Square, but it didn't happen and no one participated," said Cabrera.

First place in the amateur event went to Scotty Bastable, sales manager for KOIT-FM. Roberta Gonzales, a KPIX-TV weather anchor, won second place and in third place was Marcus D, a DJ for KLLC-FM, or Alice 97.3.

"Some people have problems and I don't see why we should be affected, the public, by those situations," said Godoy. "They should be thought of as independent but they're not."

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PHOTO
Alex Washburn | staff photographer
San Francisco police Officer Carl Payne, a 10-time cable car bell-ringing champion poses for photos at the 48th annual Cable Car Bell Ringing Contest at Union Square in San Francisco Calif. although he did not participate on Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010.

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