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Rough times for AC Transit: Will it stir interest in transit board election this November?

By dcuff
Saturday, July 10th, 2010 at 12:46 pm in Uncategorized.

AC Transit’s rough times could perk up public interest in the transit district’s board election this November. Transit board elections are usually low-key in the Bay Area, but the AC Transit board’s votes to cut bus service twice this year and impose contract conditions uililaterally on unionized bus drivers and mechanics can be expected to raise the stakes.

Board members say they are doing the best they can in a recession that has hit transit agencies hard throughout California and forced cost-cutting measures. That explanation may not stop political hopefuls from eyeing this as an opportune time to run for office and argue they could do better in addressing the bus system’s declining revenues and rising costs for workers’ health insurance and pensions.  

Four of the seven elected seats on the AC Transit Board are up this year, with the filing period opening Monday and closing Aug. 6 (unless an extra five days is added in wards where the incumbent declines to file to run for reelection). Directors whose seats are up include Elsa Ortiz in Ward 3 in Alameda and parts of Oakland and San Leandro; Rocky Fernandez in Ward 4 in parts of Hayward, San Leandro, Castro Valley and  San Lorenzo; Jeff Davis in Ward 5 in Fremont, Newark and parts of Hayward, and Joel Young for at large seat elected by voters throughout the transit district in western Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the bus drivers union and AC Transit management are scheduled to appear in Alameda County Superior Court Department 31 Friday morning to present arguments over the union’s request to turn the labor contract dispute over to an outside arbitrator. The union contends going to a neutral third party will resolve the dispute. Transit district management contends the elected board should not surrender its financial management duties for the district to an outside party. Click here for the management’s side of things. (I don’t see a union explanation listed on the web site of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 192. Let me know if anyone has a Web link to offer the union’s view point.)

In the other big transit system that serves the East Bay,  terms for four of the nine BART board members are up this year. They include James Fang of San Francisco, Joel Keller of Brentwood, Carole Ward Allen of Oakland, and Thomas Blalock of Fremont. BART went through a bruising labor contract battle last year that resulted in cost-cutting changes in work rules.

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