Orinda City Councilman Steve Glazer made BART operations a centerpiece of his campaign for the 16th Assembly District seat earlier this year. He criticized employee strikes and management giveaways in labor negotiations -- ideal topics for generating attention in a hotly contested race. But if you thought his defeat in the June primary would put the issue behind him, think again.
Glazer was outside BART headquarters last week, sharing his latest concern with anyone who would listen. Four BART directors are up for election in November, he said -- all from the same board that bungled the last employee contract. He also said you'd never know candidates were welcome to file by reading the agency's website or its news releases.
"It seems that BART embraces a third-world view of closed elections," he said. "It's better not to let people know about them. That's the strategy for making it an insiders' club for those elected to this important agency."
Glazer said 2014 is no aberration. In 2010, an election year, BART issued 230 news releases without once mentioning board positions up for vote. In 2012, the agency put out 200 news releases without acknowledging it was an election year. He said the agency spends tens of thousands of dollars on image ads and has 5,300 posters mounted in trains -- I wonder when he counted them -- but nary a word about the four board positions on this November's ballot.
"People need to know about these openings," he said. "BART needs to explain why they've done nothing."
Spokesperson Kerry Hamill said BART follows protocol set down by county election offices, which are responsible for posting public notices.
BART Board President Joel Keller was more open to change. He's willing to listen to Glazer's suggestion.
"Maybe we should do some of that," he said. "If there's a sense that we're trying to avoid public involvement, I'll talk to our communications department about making sure the community knows there's a BART election and this is their chance to engage in it."
Perhaps of equal importance -- Glazer also mentioned this -- is whether voters even know the identity of their representative on the board, or that the nine directors answer to voters in nine different districts, which are carved up like jigsaw puzzle pieces.
If you live in Martinez, Concord, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Danville or San Ramon, your representative is Gail Murray in District 1. If you're in Pittsburg, Antioch, Brentwood or Oakley, it's Keller in District 2. For Orinda, Moraga, Piedmont and San Leandro, it's Rebecca Salzman in District 3. The entire breakdown can be found online at http://www.bart.gov/about/bod.
Only four board members are on this year's ballot, and the only one in Contra Costa County is Keller, seeking his fifth four-year term. BART candidates, by the way, are expected to share their priorities like any other office seeker.
Keller's focus? Completing eBART to Antioch, funding a Pittsburg station and laying long-term groundwork for service to Brentwood. His broader goals are to upgrade the system, renovate stations, increase rail capacity and make ready for next-generation cars.
"There are a lot of challenges ahead," he said, "and whoever's on the board -- me or someone else -- needs to understand the work needed to bring this system to where it belongs."
Keep that in mind when you vote. You knew there was an election, right?
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.