Why I am running for office.

I'm running for AC Transit Board because I don't think the incumbent is doing a very good job. And I don't think he has bothered to listen to the people who live in this ward.

When AC Transit tried to build bus lanes on Telegraph Avenue, the community was barely even consulted. Instead, AC Transit developed their own plan and tried to force it on the people who lived in the community. We fought back for years, and finally succeeded in getting the Berkeley City Council to vote the bus lanes down. North Oakland and San Leandro also were able to prevent the bus lanes from being built.

We fought the bus lanes because we saw through AC Transit's greenwashing. In reality, the bus lanes weren't going to provide any significant improvements for the environment. And, at least in Berkeley, they weren't going to speed up bus service very much either. What they were going to do was force a lot of car and truck traffic onto neighborhood streets where it doesn't belong. And interfere with planning for decent bike paths.

Although the people who live here saw through the greenwashing, the mainstream media did not. After we defeated the bus lanes, the New York Times bashed us as having derailed an important green project and then refused to tell our side of the story.

This was very frustrating for me.

Next, AC Transit lied on their application to relocate bus stops.

All of these things, together with the obvious mismanagement of the bus service, convinced me that I should run for office. And this was in keeping with my desire to work toward more responsive government.

Other than the degree of severity, I don't see much difference between a mismanaged, nonresponsive bus agency that provides poor service, and a mismanaged, nonresponsive police department that kills innocent people. I marched for Black Lives Matter after my friend Megan Hutchinson's close friend was shot to death by police right in front or her for no good reason.

So I decided to run. Partly to make a statement. Partly to try to fix things. Partly because I am in a position to do so, unlike many people who are too overloaded to do so.

I invite everyone to share in the experience of running for office, and I will try to describe it the best I can in this blog

John George Democratic Club (Endorsed me)

I want to thank the John George Democratic Club for endorsing me, after their candidate forum on September 7th!

This was my first forum, and my first endorsement. The high point for me was when my opponent, Greg Harper, said the Bus Rapid Transit project will turn International Boulevard into "one big shopping mall".

I got to respond that I don't think gentrification is such a good thing. Also, he said that his plan for improving the finances of AC Transit is to cut the benefits of the bus drivers.

I rode the new 6 bus down Telegraph Avenue from Parker Street, then transfered to the 72 at the 12th Street BART station to get to the Jack London Square restaurant where the forum was held.

The 6 was scheduled to run every 10 minutes and the one I got on was 7 minutes late. So 70 percent behind schedule. The bus was so full, I stood for about a third of the trip. And when I got off the 6 and looked around for a 72, I saw a nearly empty 6 pulling up right behind the packed bus I just got off of.

Clearly, breaking the old 1 into the new 1 and the 6 hasn't solved the bus bunching problem on that line. And a lot of the riders on my 6 bus seemed to be transfering to the 1, so the "bus bunching fix" forced them to make a new transfer.

With headway based scheduling and the 1ABC plan, I could have ridden a non-bunched 1BC and everyone would have had a seat. And the bus would have been free.

Metropolitan-Greater Oakland Democratic Club
(Endorsed Greg Harper)

I went to the Metropolitan-Greater Oakland Democratic Club forum on September 15th.

It was an interesting experience. I pointed out that AC Transit buses carry an average of 7 riders, and Greg Harper objected to that statement. He said the average ridership was 15 and implied that I didn't know what I was talking about.

After the forum, I checked my facts. I found this document online:

http://www.actransit.org/wp-content/uploads/005412_Report2010.pdf

Avg. riders
Figure 4 on Page 7 clearly shows 7.0 riders.

So I was right and Greg Harper was wrong. His argument for re-election seems to be that AC Transit is a very complicated thing to manage and that he has a good grasp on it. Clearly, in this case, he doesn't.

After I left the forum about 9 pm, I walked down to Telegraph and 27th Street in Oakland to catch the 6 home.

I was waiting at the bus shelter for a few minutes when a man walked up and told me the bus didn't stop there.

I said "but here is the bus shelter with the bench right here".

He insisted that the bus didn't stop there, that it stopped down Telegraph across 27th Street.

Since I saw the bus approaching a block away, I could see that I didn't have time to investigate.

If I stayed where I was and he was right, the bus would drive by me.

If I walked across 27th Street to where he said the bus stopped and he was wrong, the bus would drive by me.

I had to decide fast, who could I trust more, someone I'd never met or AC Transit.

I decided to trust this guy and he was right, AC Transit moved the stop without moving the bench or putting up a sign.

This is another of these little annoying things that show AC Transit's lack of attention to detail. The world would not have ended if I missed my bus but I would have had to stand around for another 20 minutes waiting for the next bus.

Avg. riders
Here is the shelter.

Avg. riders
Here is the actual bus stop, as seen from the shelter.

Avg. riders
Here is the 6 schedule inside the bus shelter.

Avg. riders
Here is the bus map inside the bus shelter.

Foolish me for assuming the bus would stop there!

THE EAST BAY TIMES

On September 20th, I met with my opponent Greg Harper and East Bay Times reporter Daniel Borenstein to talk about AC Transit and the election.

The woman who had called me to schedule the meeting seemed very friendly, and I expected something similar to the forums I had already attended.

Boy was I in for a surprise!

DANIEL BORENSTEIN

Borenstein only seemed interested in AC Transit's pension fund shortfall. Bunched up buses, greenwashed bus lanes, fraudulent permit applications, none of that seemed to matter to him.

He asked me to define "unfunded liability" and honestly I didn't know the legal accounting definition. I understand the concept, that Greg Harper and the other Directors allowed AC Transit to underfund the pension account by more than $300 million.

Borenstein asked me what I thought would happen with the pension fund problem, I said I expected the AC Transit Board to push the problem down the road as far as possible and leave it for someone in the future to deal with.

Then he asked me what I thought should be done to fix it. I said my approach would be to improve AC Transit's efficiency by 5 percent by doing things like fixing bus bunching. On the $400 million budget, that would free up $20 million a year to go toward correcting the problem.

Borenstein said, rather petulantly, "that's not the way it works".

READ HIS ARTICLE:

http://www.eastbaytimes.com/2016/09/22/editorial-ac-transits-345-million-debt-concerning-east-bay-times/

I'll let you decide whether or not he libeled me. Also, I wondered why he endorsed 16 year incumbent Greg Harper and 18 year incumbent Chris Peeples, the very individuals who were on the Board while the pension fund was being neglected.

And note that Borenstein took my comment about AC Transit pushing the problem down the road and used it as his own insight, after claiming that I was "lost" discussing finances!

ALDEN GLOBAL CAPITAL

The East Bay Times is now owned by the Alden Global Capital hedge fund and recently cut their newsroom staff:

http://www.sfgate.com/business/article/Bay-Area-News-Group-consolidates-newspapers-6863720.php

Maybe they just don't have the time or interest to write honest, fair articles or do any research before making endorsements.

Here is how the employees are reacting to their new owners:

https://dfmworkers.org/2016/06/16/digital-first-media-workers-take-on-alden-global-capital-hedge-fund/

And check out the worst Yelp reviews I have ever seen for any business...
At the time of this writing, 18 of the East Bay Times' 19 reviews are one star, the worst possible rating!

https://www.yelp.com/biz/east-bay-times-walnut-creek

MY REACTION

I wasn't sure what to do about this rather nasty article.

I called the Executive Editor of the Bay Area News Group, Neil Chase, to discuss what happened.

He said I was not the first person to complain about Daniel Borenstein, and he offered to write another article addressing the issues I feel are important. He said he would call or email to set that in motionn

So far I haven't heard back from the East Bay Times. I emailed and called him, but no response.

I also did some research on Daniel Borenstein, and I found that he has done this kind of thing before. Here are two articles about him:

http://www.ebcitizen.com/2014/03/the-case-for-candidates-avoiding-bay.html

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/austeritys-champion/Content?oid=4345237

Again, I will let you decide.

THE MORAL OF THIS STORY?

I learned my lesson, in the future I will not trust Daniel Borenstein or the East Bay Times to have any journalistic ethics.

I wouldn't have minded if Borenstein wrote that he didn't like me, or didn't like my plan for fixing AC Transit bus service and finances. But I didn't expect him to lie about what happened in our meeting.

This is a good example of how elected officials, campaign contributors and the media work together to maintain the status quo.

AC Transit has mismanaged bus service and their finances so badly, for so long, that they are now over $300 million in the red. This despite receiving 86 percent of their operating budget as subsidies from the taxpayers.

And the response of the East Bay Times? Endorse the incumbents and misrepresent the challengers!

THE DAILY CAL

On October 11th, I talked on the phone with Alex Fang, a reporter from the Daily Cal, the UC Berkeley student newspaper.

He wrote the following article about the AC Transit and BART races:

http://www.dailycal.org/2016/10/11/candidates-run-ac-transit-bart-boards-directors/

I was satisfied with what he said about me, but I felt that the article gave the wrong impression of Greg Harper's approach to labor.

The Daily Cal wrote that Harper wants to change new bus drivers' contracts "so they receive better pay". But that doesn't tell the whole story. In the meetings I have been in with Greg Harper, he has repeatedly stated that he wants to severely cut bus driver retirement benefits while somewhat increasing their salaries. My understanding is that overall, he wants to cut their total compensation.

I talked to the Amalgamated Transit Workers Union 192, and they told me that they do not support Greg Harper or think he is on their side.

THE IMPRESSION

I think readers may come away from the Daily Cal article believing that Greg Harper is pro-labor, when in fact I am much more pro-labor than he is. My approach is to fix AC Transit's mismanagement of finances so the employees can get livable wages and retirement benefits.

I talked to the reporter about this, but the Daily Cal decided not to write a correction.

WHAT I WANT

I don't want special treatment from the media. I just want voters to hear about my platform and my opponent's platform, so they can make an informed decision.

It is frustrating to me that some voters may receive an inaccurate impression of what Greg Harper and I each stand for. And they may end up voting for one of us whose policies don't match their own.

At least the media got my name out there, and pointed out the financial mess the current Board of Directors has allowed to occur.

On November 8th, we will see how it all plays out!