A California state Senate committee pushing for more funding for Bay Area Rapid Transit and other regional agencies has lost a member, with East Bay representative Steve Glazer calling it quits in a letter on Tuesday.
Glazer, whose district spans Alameda and Contra Costa counties, wrote in a resignation letter addressed to Sen. Scott Wiener that Bay Area leaders have failed to hold BART financially accountable.
Wiener formed the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit to help study regional public transit challenges in the Bay Area and drum up support for funding from the state's budget.
“I recognize and support the pressing need for the state to invest in public transit agencies throughout the Bay Area given the financial uncertainty that looms over these systems,” Glazer wrote. “However, there is no guarantee that these agencies will spend taxpayer dollars sensibly without adequate oversight of their expenditures.”
In particular, he cited a 2022 report from the Alameda County Grand Jury that found that BART’s board, management and unions engaged in a “pattern of obstruction” against its Office of the Inspector General.
That office was responsible for a series of recent probes that found conflict-of-interest violations by employees-turned-contractors, a BART employee who faked their work hours for more than a year and a homeless outreach program that only got one person into a residential treatment facility after two years.
Glazer had previously tried to strengthen the independence and oversight powers of the Inspector General’s Office through legislation, but the bill was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year at the request of the BART Board of Directors.
In a statement, Wiener said he was "disappointed" by Glazer's resignation and added that Senate Bill 1488, Glazer's BART accountability bill, passed the legislature with "near-unanimous" support from the Bay Area delegation before being vetoed.
“Our public transportation systems serve a huge number of Bay Area residents, including in my district and Senator Glazer’s district, and it’s important for all of us to participate in the process, as our transit systems face an existential funding crisis and the very real prospect of entering a financial death spiral," said Wiener. "I have enormous respect for Senator Glazer, and he will have an open door to return to the committee if he chooses to do so.”
BART Board Member Bevan Dufty said he and Board President Janice Li spoke with Glazer about his concerns during a recent trip to Sacramento and are working with lawmakers to find a consensus.
"We will certainly continue working with the senator and appreciate his important role," Dufty said.
Local transit agencies including BART, Muni and Caltrain face serious fiscal cliffs as federal relief aid runs out and ridership fails to recover to pre-pandemic levels. BART alone could see deficits totaling more than $1.1 billion from 2023 through 2028.
BART General Manager Bob Powers has said that the system would need to “invert our funding structure” to survive its forthcoming financial crisis. That would likely only be possible with a major influx of new funding from state or federal sources. Glazer’s letter echoes existing skepticism among some policymakers to that prospect.
“We need to fundamentally transform the way BART operates and the [Inspector General’s Office] should be in the lead on this,” said BART board member Debora Allen. “Instead, the majority of BART board directors, unions and [executive] staff continue to focus on the 'more money please!' approach. That will only produce more of the same failed policies we see now.”
Kevin Truong can be reached at [email protected]