Now the grandstanding begins.
After caving during seven months of labor negotiations, BART Director Joel Keller of Brentwood, facing re-election next year, has called for an advisory ballot measure banning transit workers from striking.
He follows similar suggestions by Orinda Councilman Steve Glazer, running for state Assembly, and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord. They're right that transit workers should be prohibited from walking off the job. Our regional economy is too dependent on buses and rail to let disgruntled workers shut them down.
But what price are these politicians willing to pay for a strike ban? Glazer ducks the question. Keller and DeSaulnier advocate tying the ban to a requirement of binding arbitration to settle disputes. It's a cure worse than the disease.
A ban on strikes by transit workers would place them under the same restrictions as police and firefighters. But in California, as part of the package, most cities and counties do not offer binding arbitration to those public safety workers.
With good reason. Binding arbitration takes decision-making authority away from the public's elected representatives and turns it over to unaccountable attorneys who make their livings trying to settle labor disputes. They don't want to alienate union leaders who could blackball them from hearing future cases.
Keller's no-strike effort might let angry riders vent at the polls, but it's a political farce. BART directors and Bay Area voters cannot ban transit walkouts.
That authority lies with the Legislature or a highly unlikely statewide initiative. That's why Keller's proposed ballot measure for the three BART counties -- Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco -- would be only advisory.
Even if the measure were to pass, it's unlikely to prod the labor-controlled Legislature to act. If it did, it would almost certainly tie it to arbitration with rules tipping the scales in favor of unions at the expense of taxpayers and riders.
And if the Legislature were to write responsible arbitration rules that gave great weight to the financial effect on riders and taxpayers, and the fiscal stability of the transit system, the biggest problem would still remain: The arbitration process usurps the authority of elected board members.
This is no small point. We're talking about a democratic principle. Voters, through their representatives, deserve a voice in the running of the district that they fund with their taxes and fares.
The representatives, in turn, have an obligation to represent those constituents. Which is why Keller's plan is so ironic: If he somehow succeeds with a strike ban tied to binding arbitration, he will undermine his own authority as an elected BART director, and the authority of all other current and future BART directors.
But this cockamamie idea gives him a great issue on which to run for re-election in 2014 and divert attention from his and his fellow directors' capitulation in the negotiations' final hours, in which they upped their financial offer 48 percent.
If they are serious about protecting their constituents and the district's long-range financial stability, they should first grow some backbones, and stop trying to blame the system for their own failures.
They should also take steps to improve the process without undermining the voters' voices. That begins with sunshine.
As previously noted here, the Orange County city of Costa Mesa has started daylighting its collective bargaining process: Every offer and counter-offer must be publicly released on the city's website along with analysis by an independent financial expert.
Residents can comment at council meetings during the bargaining period. And once a deal is struck, it must be put out for public comment for at least two council meetings before elected officials act.
Had that much public information been available during the BART bargaining process, it's unlikely that directors would have sold out riders and taxpayers as badly as they did. And they would not have tried to misrepresent the numbers after the deal was done.
The solution is to provide the public greater input rather than trying to completely cut them out of the process.
Daniel Borenstein is a staff columnist and editorial writer. Reach him at 925-943-8248 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BorensteinDan.