SACRAMENTO – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed a measure that will give Bay Area voters a chance to create an independent inspector general for BART to hold the sprawling transit district accountable for its spending, service to riders, and timely delivery of capital projects.
The inspector general was proposed by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, as part of a bill, SB 595, by Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) that will ask voters to raise bridge tolls to fund transportation projects designed to relieve traffic congestion in the bridge corridors.
Glazer wanted voters to be given the option of creating the accountability czar as a condition of his support for placing the measure on the ballot. Other major transit agencies, including those in Washington D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, have long had inspector generals to serve as an independent check on the bureaucracy.
“If an independent check is good enough for transit systems in most of our major metropolitan areas, it should be good enough for BART,” Glazer said. “BART will get about one billion dollars from toll revenues generated by this measure, so it’s vital that riders and residents have someone who be the public’s eyes and ears and will hold BART’s administration accountable.”
If approved by voters, the inspector general would be appointed by the governor from a list of three finalists nominated by the BART board. The person could be fired only with a two-thirds vote of the board and the governor’s agreement.
The BART inspector general would be tasked with investigating fraud, waste and inefficiencies, conducting audits and recommending changes in the agency’s practices that will improve services to riders.
Glazer, who has been critical of management-union relations that resulted in eight days of strikes in 2013, required in the inspector general’s job description that they assess whether management was using best practices to promote “positive and productive” relations with employees and their representatives.
“BART employees have as much to gain as the riding public by having an inspector general ensure that trains run on time, stations are safe and clean, and escalators and elevators work,” Glazer said. “They are hard-working, dedicated public servants who deserve an effective ally.”
Glazer also pushed for amendments to the bill that ensured Contra Costa and Alameda county commuters would see a fair share of congestion relief projects if the toll increases become a reality.
Projects to improve traffic flow on Interstate 680 and rebuild interchanges where 680 connects to state routes 4 and 84 were included in the final version of the proposed spending plan.
Glazer said he was proud of the collaborative process led by Sen. Beall, and Assemblymen David Chiu and Phil Ting of San Francisco and other members of the Bay Area legislative delegation. Members from throughout the region were able to provide input into the final proposal that included the crucial provision to oversee BART’s administration and spending.
“I look forward to voters determining whether to fund projects designed to relieve congestion throughout the entire region and providing independent oversight of BART,” Glazer said.