Tag Archives: Chris Peeples

My brief California & Oakland endorsements

2 Nov

I hadn’t planned to write a post with my endorsements, partly because I feel like others have that covered, and partly because a full endorsement post would take forever to write. But I realized I was going to email some of my friends with my endorsements so I figured I’d post them here too.

(Note that I’m skipping a bunch of races, either because they’re not really contested – I don’t see how Barbara Lee or Sandre Swanson could benefit from my endorsement – or because I don’t feel strongly about the race.)

California Propositions:

I agree with Calitics on the propositions so I’m just posting their endorsements here (emphasis added to the propositions I’m especially concerned about). Visit their site for a full explanation of these endorsements.

Proposition The Calitics Position Calitics Tag
Prop 1A (High Speed Rail) YES, YES, YES! Prop 1A
Prop 2(Farm Animal Conditions) Yes Prop 2
Prop 3 (Children’s Hospital Bonds) Yes Prop 3
Prop 4 (Parental Notification Again) No, NO, and NO AGAIN Prop 4
Prop 5 (Drug Rehab Programs) Yes Prop 5
Prop 6 (Runner Anti-Gang) NO Prop 6
Prop 7 (Renewable Power Standard) No Prop 7
Prop 8 (Anti-Marriage) NO! Prop 8
Prop 9 (Runner Victim’s Rights) No Prop 9
Prop 10 (Pickens Natural Gas) No Prop 10
Prop 11 (Redistricting) No Prop 11
12 (Veterans Bonds) Yes Prop 12

Oakland City Council At-Large: Rebecca Kaplan!!!

I’ve committed many hours of my time to getting Rebecca Kaplan elected so I hope you’ll join me in voting enthusiastically for her. If you need a reminder of why to vote for Rebecca, check out my initial endorsement from the June primary or my more recent explanation of why I’m voting FOR Rebecca, and not against Kerry Hamill.

Measures N, NN & OO: No!

I’m voting no on all the Oakland measures. While they might sound like they’re good ideas – increasing teacher pay, getting more police, and giving money to youth programs – they’re not!

Others have already done a great job explaining why you should vote these measures down, so go check these out:

Measures VV & WW: Yes!

If you appreciate buses and parks, vote yes on Measure VV & Measure WW. If you missed it, check out my full endorsement post on VV. Then, head over to A Better Oakland to read V Smoothe’s endorsement of WW, including a very detailed list of how Oakland would benefit from its passage.

AC Transit Director: Chris Peeples

Chris has been on the AC Transit Board for years and has done a great job. He thoroughly impressed me at the East Bay Young Democrats endorsement meeting. His opponent, Joyce Roy, has staked her campaign on complaining about Van Hool buses (which I love) and fighting BRT (which I cannot wait for). This choice is easy. Check out Chris Peeples’ and Joyce Roy’s answers to the East Bay Young Dems questionnaire for more reasons to vote for Chris.

Berkeley Measure KK: NO!!!!

Yeah, I know, this blog’s about Oakland, not Berkeley, but I couldn’t resist. KK’s anti-environment and anti-transit. That’s why the entire city council, the mayor, the Sierra Club, the League of Women Voters, and the Democratic Party are opposing it. If you need more reasons to vote no, check out the No on KK website or read the short opinion piece I wrote for the Daily Cal about KK.

Covering November’s transit measures & candidates

20 Oct

There are several local and state transit issues that Californians will vote on this November, and each of them have been generating a lot of discussion in the blogosphere.

With the vote on Measure KK in Berkeley just a couple weeks away, it seems like everyone’s talking about Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). V Smoothe wrote two must read posts over the past week, making strong arguments for BRT. First, she explained that the main advantage of BRT is not speed, it’s reliability. Today, she followed up by debunking the myth that the proposed BRT line is redundant to BART. Raymond at Oakland Space Academy is open to the idea of BRT but is a bit more skeptical than most of Oakland’s bloggers.

Shockingly, the Berkeley Daily Planet distorted what happened at Jane Brunner’s recent BRT meeting in North Oakland. I attended the meeting and wrote here that the overwhelming sentiment of the Oakland community was in support of BRT. Yet Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor claimed that Oaklanders at the meeting were as divided as Berkeley is on the issue (which couldn’t be much further for the truth). Luckily, in the same issue, dto510’s excellent opinion piece on BRT was published, along with a letter to the editor from me contesting Allen-Taylor’s claims about the meeting.

BRT is not all that’s at stake for transit on this November’s ballot. Prop 1A would authorize the sale of bonds to finance a high speed rail system from Los Angeles to San Francisco. While I agree with V Smoothe’s assessment early this year that the Altamont alignment of the rail line would have been much more favorable for the line as a whole and for Oakland in particular, I think this project is still worthwhile under the chosen Pacheco alignment. Robert’s been following this initiative closely for months now over at his California High Speed Rail Blog, making several convincing arguments about why we need high speed rail now. I especially appreciated his recent post explaining that the high speed rail project will provide needed economic stimulus to our state, much like bridges and dams did during the Great Depression.

Though at first thought it might not seem relevant to Oaklanders, Santa Clara County will be voting on Measure B, which would increase the county’s sales tax rate to fund the extension of BART to San Jose. Eric at Transbay Blog has embarked on an in-depth series of posts dedicated to explaining the history of this project and to making a clear argument about why BART to San Jose is a bad idea for the Bay Area’s regional transit system. 295bus agrees, arguing that the local transit agency’s obsession with the BART extension has gotten in the way of other opportunities to improve transit in the county.

And while we’ve all been distracted by the presidential race and the at-large city council race, there’s another important race happening in Oakland. At-large AC Transit Director Chris Peeples is being challenged by Joyce Roy, an Oakland resident who has staked her campaign on complaining about Van Hool buses and opposing BRT (PDF). Needless to say, I’m voting for Peeples, and Jeff Hobson from the Transportation and Land Use Coalition is too.

Things that make me smile

24 Sep

I’ve been having an extremely stressful week, but luckily there have been some nice moments too. Just wanted to share some of the Oakland things that have made me smile:

  • The sunshine in downtown Oakland. When I walked from the bus on Monday morning, I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful architecture surrounding me and thought about just how magnificent all the buildings look basked in the morning sunlight. Sometimes I think I live in the most beautiful city.
  • The dialogue at A Better Oakland between V Smoothe and dto510 about earthquakes. I know the post had a serious message, but it made me laugh too, since I’ve had this same argument with non-California natives dozens of times.
  • Chris Peeples sitting through the entire East Bay Young Democrats endorsement meeting. He was the only candidate who’s not a member of EBYD who sat through the whole meeting, listening to the speeches of other candidates and helpfully weighing in on questions about Berkeley’s Measure KK and BRT. I was already going to vote for him for the at large seat on the AC Transit Board of Directors, but his presence at this meeting made me have even more respect for him.
  • Listening to Mistah FAB’s “If ‘If’ Was a 5th”, especially the opening line: “What if there was a black president.” Considering the recent polling and the near implosion of the McCain-Palin campaign, I think we’ll soon find out the answer to that question.
  • The car driver who waved me through the crosswalk. Yesterday, as I crossed Webster and 14th on my way to work, a women was about to make a left turn. She looked at me, smiled, and motioned for me to continue crossing. This seems like a small thing, but drivers cut me off at that intersection all the time so it brought a smile to my face.

I know it’s easy to feel down about Oakland sometimes, but sometimes the little things make me remember why I love this city so much. What about you – what made you smile this week?

Community Speaks Out Against AC Transit Fare Increases

26 May

On Wednesday, I attended AC Transit’s public hearing on the fee increase proposals. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I was pretty amazed at how many people showed up (every seat in the council chambers was filled and more than 50 people spoke.)

To start things off, the President of the Board, Chris Peeples, turned the floor over to Nancy Nadel, who had helped the Board reserve the council chambers. Nadel referred to comments she had sent in writing to the Board about fare increases and voiced her concern over the proposed increased fees for passes, especially for youth. She also mentioned that the Oakland’s oil task force is aiming for the city to cut usage of oil by 3% every year and increased usage of public transit is key to that goal. To Nadel’s credit, she was the only elected official or candidate for elected office (besides the Board members) that sat through the entire meeting, and she seemed engaged, jotting down notes throughout the hearing.

President Peeples spoke next, starting off sounding fairly defensive. He reminded the crowd that unlike on the boards of most transit agencies, three out of the seven AC Transit board members are transit dependent and all seven of them use AC Transit regularly. He explained that the Board is holding this meeting because they do listen to public comments, and the fare increases are not a done deal. He also said that all of the written comments submitted had been transcribed and that all of the comments would be summarized. He also reminded us that no decision would be made that day – a decision will be made at the regular Board of Directors meeting on June 11th or June 25th.

AC Transit CFO Deborah McClain spoke next. She said that AC Transit is audited periodically by the FTA, MTC and an external auditor and always did well in these audits. However, since 2005 (the last fare increase), AC Transit revenue has increased 3.5%, while expenses increased 14%. She attributed this huge expense increase mostly to increases in medical costs, pensions, and, of course, rising gas prices. (Every $.10 increase per gallon increase adds $650,000 annually to AC Transit’s costs!) She went on to explain that Governor Schwarzenegger has recommended cutting significant funding to transit. If his proposal is passed in its current form, AC Transit stands to lose $19 million from the state next year. She closed by reminding us that AC Transit has typically instituted fare increases every three years and that fare increases are a key part of the operating budget.

Dan Leland, AC’s Treasury Manager, followed McClain, starting off by saying that he was sure all of them (the Board and AC staff) would rather be anywhere else, discussing any other topic. However, without the fare increases, AC would be forced to institute service cuts. He then delved into the four proposals recommended by staff. His comments about the proposals were incredibly confusing so I was glad I had looked at them the night before.

All four proposals would institute a base fare increase of $0.25 to $2.00 per ride. The proposals differ in their increases of student and senior passes. Proposals three and four also over discounts for transfers. I think the easiest way to see the differences between the proposals is to look at the table (which I copied from AC Transit’s site) – I’ve marked the significant differences in red. It really would have made sense for Leland to put this table on a screen, but at least everyone in the crowd had copies of the proposal.

AC Transit & Dumbarton Express Fare Change Proposals

Proposal

Proposal

Proposal

Proposal

Current

1

2

3

4

Cash

Local Adult

$1.75

$2.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth

$0.85

$1.00

Local Senior/Disabled

$0.85

$1.00

Transbay Adult

$3.50

$4.00

Transbay Youth

$1.70

$2.00

Transbay     Senior/Disabled

$1.70

$2.00

31-Day Ticket/ Monthly Pass

Local Adult

$70.00

$80.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth

$15.00

$28.00

$17.00

$15.00

$15.00

Local Senior/ Disabled

$20.00

$28.00

$23.00

$20.00

$20.00

Transbay Adult

$116.00

$132.50

Same as Proposal 1

10-Ride Ticket

Local Adult

$17.50

$20.00

Same as Proposal 1

Local Youth/  Senior/Disabled

$8.50

$10.00

Transbay Adult

$35.00

$40.00

Local Transfer

With cash or 10-ride tickets

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
1.5 hrs
1 use

$0.25
1.5 hrs
1 use

With TransLink

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Free
2 hrs
unlimited use

Transbay Transfer

With cash or  10-ride tickets

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

Free
w/transbay fare
1.5 hrs
1 use

With TransLink

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Same as above

Free w/transbay fare
2 hrs
unlimited use

Potential additional revenue*

$0

$9,299,449

$6,515,830

$4,510,438

$3,910,438

*assumes no change in ridership

Back to Leland – he echoed McClain and reminded us that the state is embroiled in a budget crisis. AC is making efforts to get a fair share of funding from the state, but counting on this funding is unrealistic. Also, while AC is focusing on increasing ridership, the increased ridership needed to close the budget gap is unrealistic to achieve in such a short time frame. He ended by recommending that Proposal 1 be approved and that it be implemented on September 3.

Over the next several hours, dozens of community members spoke. The vast majority of speakers focused on the proposed increases for youth and senior passes. I was impressed at how many students spoke (about a dozen), and many of them had touching stories to share. They spoke about how their families were already struggling, especially with increased food costs, and they were worried that they could not afford the increased fares. A single mom spoke and explained that fare increases would force her to choose between the cost of lunch and the cost of bus fare for her children. Several youth advocates echoed these concerns, explaining that increased transit costs create barriers to access to food, jobs, and school. One youth advocate explained that she works with youth groups, and towards the end of the month, many young people miss the meetings because they have no money for bus fare.

More than a dozen seniors spoke as well. Some said that if it wasn’t for the bus, they would never leave their homes and if fares increased, they’d leave much less frequently. Others said that even with current bus fares, they sometimes walk, which is increasingly difficult for some seniors with health problems. A senior advocate broke down some very real choices, saying that a $3 increase in monthly fares would mean one less meal for a senior, and a $8 increase would mean three fewer meals per month.

A bit surprisingly to me, almost no one protested the adult monthly pass increase. When I spoke, I focused on this (since the senior and youth issue had already been covered by pretty much everyone else). I explained that while I understand the need for fare increases, AC Transit has historically not treated regular riders much better than casual riders. The adults who have monthly fare passes depend on AC, and we should be prioritizing these riders. I also said it was unwise to make revenue projections based on the assumption that ridership will not change, since we had just heard from dozens of people who said their ridership would decrease.

Another speaker made a poignant argument for not increasing fares. He lives in West Oakland, where there are no grocery stores. He currently takes the bus to Pac n Save in Emeryville. He doesn’t think he could afford the fare increase, and he couldn’t walk to the grocery store because it would take two hours. If fares increased, he would be forced to shop at corner stores in West Oakland, which are more expensive and do not have a good selection of healthy food.

Most of the speakers throughout the afternoon were respectful and many said they understood that the Board was in a difficult situation. Some even told sweet stories about bus divers waiting for them and about how much they loved riding the bus. However, there were a few speakers that really railed on the Board. They claimed that AC had mismanaged money and that’s why they are now considering fare hikes. Most of these people focused on the purchases of Van Hool buses and said AC needs to stop buying those and find cheaper, safer buses – one speaker even held up the East Bay Express articles and waved them around. Others accused the directors of getting rich off of poor people, which amused me a bit since the directors do not get paid. Still others brought up the trips that directors and staff took to Belgium and France to look at buses.

After the public spoke, the directors responded. Joe Wallace spoke first, explaining that the directors are struggling too – he’s transit dependent. He also said that it was hard listening to people telling them that they’re mismanaging money, and that it made him feel bad that his constituents think that.

Rebecca Kaplan followed, saying that AC is committed to maintaining affordability for underserved communities. But AC Transit doesn’t control the tax system and spending, and transit funding is being slashed by the state and federal government. She called on all of us to call the Governor to tell him not to cut transit funding. She said AC plans to continue to work for more regional funding (MTC). They are also working to get more bulk passes out there – currently UC Berkeley has a deal with AC whereby all students pay a yearly fee and get free bus passes – they are currently working with Peralta, and the Cities of Berkeley and Alameda. She ended by again pointing the finger at Schwarzenegger – one of the first things he did as governor was to cut the Vehicle License Fee (which costs the state $6 billion annually), and this funding cut has been passed onto local agencies, like AC Transit.

Rocky Fernandez echoed Kaplan’s focus on the state, but urged the public to not just focus on the Governor but also on regional legislators. He said that legislators hear from constituents about other issues (like housing and crime) a lot, and they assume that transit is not important to their constituents because they don’t hear about it as often. He implored us to speak to candidates about transit and to make the transit lobby as important as the other state lobbies.

Greg Harper told staff that he wanted a report differentiating demographics on local and transbay ridership because he believes the demographics are different and that could effect the fee increase decision. He agreed with arguments about fare passes, saying that those with passes are transit reliant and the board should be loathe to raise their fares. He did think $2 made sense for one ride fares. He also pointed out that many youth pay cash and don’t use the monthly passes and also talked about the possibility of lowering youth fares during the mornings and afternoons (school time) and raising fares for all-time passes.

Chris Peeples ended the meeting. He thanked TALC and other organizations that go to Sacramento and to local legislators to speak about transit issues. He then proposed that gas should be taxed more heavily – at $4 per gallon – since the true cost per gallon is $7. He ended by saying that AC maybe hasn’t done the best job explaining their choices to the press (I’m guessing he was referring to the East Bay Express articles).

I have to say, I actually felt good leaving the hearing. I was impressed at how many community members spoke up (some telling me that it was their first time doing any public speaking), and I felt like the directors did listen. I’m sure there will be some kind of fare increase, but I’m hopeful that increases won’t be as large for seniors and youth. I also feel really good about the directors we have running AC. Though they only spoke for a bit, they all had a great grasp on the larger political issues and the needs of their constituents. The sad truth is, as many speakers and directors said, they’re stuck in a very difficult bind. The state is slashing transportation funding and their only short term choices are to raise fares or cut service. I have a bunch more I want to say about how the state’s actions are effecting AC Transit, but, I think there’s enough here to mull over here so I’ll get to that in a later post. If you want to read more about this issue, I recommend checking out Robert in Monterey’s analysis at Calitics of Arnold’s attempt to kill public transit.

That’s about it. If you’ve made it this far and still want to learn more, I highly recommend reading the staff memo on this issue.