Editorial: Restore safety, reliability, fiscal discipline to BART


With three East Bay BART board positions on the Nov. 6 ballot, voters have an opportunity to bring some much-needed change to transit district leadership.

We recommend incumbent Joel Keller in District 2, Paul Cummings in District 4 and Anu Natarajan in District 6. They provide the best hope for restoring safety, reliability and fiscal responsibility to a deeply troubled agency.

We looked for candidates who are realistic about the district’s finances and mission, who understand that riders are tired of dirty, unsafe trains and a constant shortage of station parking, and who recognize that there isn’t an unlimited checkbook for excessively generous employee benefits.

Joel Keller (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

District 2: Keller, like his colleagues, has often lacked fiscal discipline, but he showed some independence in his vote against the last labor contract extension. We expect he will look at the employee compensation and benefits with a more discerning eye than his opponent, Mark Foley, a systems analyst at the East Bay Municipal Utility District and now in his 14th year as president of the union representing workers there.

Keller, who thoroughly understands the workings of BART after 24 years on the board, recognizes, unlike his opponent, that the transit agency should focus on making the trains run on time rather than becoming a planning agency for residential development.

Paul Cummings (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

District 4: Cummings, a retired Navy officer with an MBA, is trying to unseat incumbent Robert Raburn. Cummings supports fiscal discipline, wants to lock in guarantees that BART fulfill its spending commitments for its $3.5 billion bond measure, and is clear that BART shouldn’t be a “regional planning czar.”

In sharp contrast, Raburn represents what’s wrong with the BART board majority today. He has been unwilling to challenge the lucrative union contracts, opposes binding restrictions on money BART promised for capital expenditures and believes the transit agency should be able to override cities on development around train stations.

Click here for a complete list of our election recommendations.

On that last point, he demonstrated his tendency to make decisions based on ignorant stereotyping. He cited Walnut Creek as an example of a city that he claimed had not built enough transit-oriented development. In fact, Walnut Creek officials say, during the past 10 years, 950 units have been constructed within a half-mile of the BART station, another 925 are under construction, and 150 more are in the pipeline.

Anu Natarajan (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

District 6: With Thomas Blalock stepping down after 24 years, Natarajan is the stronger candidate to replace him. An urban planner who served for 10 years on the Fremont City Council, Natarajan brings a solid mix of elected office leadership experience and pragmatism.

She unfortunately supports BART’s role as an urban planning agency for land it owns near its stations. But she recognizes that there should be limitations. On financial issues, she has a realistic recognition of the need to contain spending.

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Source:: The Mercury News – Politics

      

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