Faced with a vote they say will determine whether BART gets a quick start on a planned rebuild or sinks further into disrepair, a high-profile group of Bay Area elected officials gathered in downtown Oakland on Monday to plead for passage of the agency's $3.5 billion bond measure.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf headlined a last-minute media event called to rally support for Measure RR.
"We know that BART is old -- it's 44 years old this year -- and no one has made a major investment in getting it into a good state of repair," Schaaf said to a throng of reporters and a small group of bond supporters. "We know that 450,000 Bay Area residents rely on BART every day to get to work. But don't forget that those of us who don't use BART are relying on it, too -- because people who ride the trains are not on the road for us exacerbating the unacceptable congestion that is choking the Bay Area."
While others talked about how the bond could pave the way for a major expansion of BART's capacity, Mayor Lee said he had a simple message for voters working through the unusually long and complex 2016 ballot.
"Go to the last measure on the last page, all right?" Lee said. "We've got 25 measures in San Francisco, 17 state measures -- seek out RR and vote yes. ... Riding BART this morning, I gotta say, you look at all the faces of the people there and you wonder what will happen to all of us if we don't maintain a reliable Bay Area system."
The measure, on the ballot in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties, needs to win two-thirds of the three counties' total vote to pass.
East Bay state Sen. Steve Glazer, some other local officials and the East Bay Times oppose the bond. They argue that in the wake of pay raises granted after a pair of 2013 strikes and amid continuing service problems and other woes they blame on poor planning, BART management can't be trusted to handle money from the bond.
Glazer has also campaigned against three board incumbents who voted for the labor contracts that settled the 2013 labor dispute. He supports a slate of candidates who say they'll try to take a tougher line with the agency's union -- reforming work rules they term wasteful and inefficient, for instance -- and develop a more tightly crafted bond measure that would be put before voters in a future election.
Although no names were mentioned, one of the dozen or so officials who spoke took on Glazer's opposition directly.
"I'm going to cut straight to the politics of this," said state. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco. "To advocate a 'no' position on Measure RR without a viable, immediate alternative plan is merely irresponsible. Obstructionism is not a plan, and anger is not an answer. ... I really do implore everyone to vote yes, and if you hear anyone suggest otherwise, ask them, 'What is your plan?' We haven't got another four years to wait for another presidential election to come up with something else that may not be exactly the way one person wants it."
Glazer's fellow Orindan, City Councilmember Amy Worth, supports the bond measure but said she understands voters' concerns.
Concerns about BART's management "do present challenges to the voter, so they're kind of torn," Worth said. "It's really incumbent upon the BART board to demonstrate that it will fulfill its commitment to the voters."