In the Bay Area, BART connects us all, and it deserves leadership that doesn’t divide us.
One of the best things about the Bay Area is the way its people live their beliefs. Hardly an election goes by without residents voting to support the places, institutions and services that matter most to them, whether those are schools, parks or libraries, or public transit. BART in particular is a beloved symbol of the region. It knits together our diverse communities, and allows more than 400,000 trips per day, day after day, helping people work, shop, play, visit friends and family, and more.
While BART faces real challenges, from capacity and cost issues to reduced ridership in the age of coronavirus, it stands as a truly unifying institution. That’s why it deserves leadership that doesn’t divide the communities it serves.
Since 2016, (former) Republican Debora Allen has been BART director for District 1, which includes Contra Costa County. During her time on the board of directors, she has promoted aggressive policing policies for BART, pursuing a crackdown agenda the community has roundly rejected. In the face of white officers shooting Black riders, Allen has repeatedly insisted that the answer is more officers, and more enforcement of petty crimes like fare evasion and panhandling. In a recent discussion, she strenuously objected to public comments criticizing BART police, and said the following: “I get that we can’t silence the public, but, I think it’s important we address some of these statements that are made that aren’t true. BART PD murders people? That’s not true. The definition of murder is the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.”
Her behavior at recent meetings proves that Debora Allen is more interested in arguing about the dictionary definition of the word “murder” than in preventing further violence. Allen’s history on the BART board of directors further shows her to be unresponsive to public wishes and hostile to public input. Instead of effectively advocating for expanded service hours or reduced fare costs or improved car cleanliness, Allen has tried to double the number of BART police, extending the politics of resentment and repression, and signaling clearly to the community that she rejects their preferences wholesale.
No one who rides BART would call it a perfect system. However, its challenges can only be solved by people whose priorities are to make it cleaner, faster, friendlier, and, yes, safer. None of those goals are obviously served by spending the system’s few dollars on more armed officers. The community, including Oscar Grant’s family, is correct when it calls for Debora Allen’s ouster and a transit system that is fair, friendly, safe, and welcoming for all. Other BART directors are correct when they go on the record to “completely disavow” Allen’s public comments, or call them “vicious, toxic, and racist.”
BART serves the entire area. That is what is wonderful about it. Debora Allen’s shameful track record clearly indicates that she believes BART should serve only the rich and those who agree with her. Our community deserves better, and in November, we should vote accordingly to replace Debora Allen on BART’s Board of Directors.
Anijar is the Executive Director of the Contra Costa County Labor Council, AFL-CIO, a federated body of more than 85 unions representing more than 85,000 members who live, work, and build their families in Contra Costa County.
Editor’s Note: Debora Allen is no longer a Republican. She left the party a few years ago and is now a registered independent.