AC Transit is shifting to fully districted elections, and the board of directors is scheduled to vote Wednesday on maps and election sequencing to decide which wards will vote in 2024 and 2026. It is critical that the election sequence selected does not leave Berkeley without representation.
Currently, Berkeley is represented by Ward 1 (Jovanka Beckles) and Ward 2 (Jean Walsh), both of whom were elected in 2020 to a four-year term ending in 2024. Under the proposed new maps, all of Berkeley will be in the new Ward 2, which will also contain all of Emeryville, North Oakland, and either Piedmont or West Oakland, depending on which map is selected. One of the sequencing plans has the new Ward 2 up for election in 2024, which makes perfect sense. However, the other one defers Ward 2 to a 2026 election. If selected, there will be no Ward 2 director between 2024 and 2026. The seat would not exist during those years; there is no opportunity to appoint someone.
These are critical years for transit. During that time, the board will be evaluating the BayPass multi-agency pass program, working with cities on San Pablo Avenue improvements, and providing input for the planned 2026 Bay Area multicounty transit funding ballot measure. While Berkeley is just 8% of the AC Transit district’s population, it has five of the 10 highest ridership bus lines: the 6, 18, 51B, 52 and 72R.
At the Oct. 25, 2023, public hearing, the AC Transit board president claimed that instead of Ward 2 voting in 2024, Ward 7 (Fremont) should have its election schedule moved up to 2024 to serve the interests of Asian voters. There is a major flaw with this argument. Fremont elected a director last year to a 2022-2026. In contrast, Berkeley, Emeryville, and North Oakland — home to over 48,000 Asian Americans — would have no director representing their ward if Ward 2 is deferred to 2026.
For this reason, we urge the AC Transit Board of Directors to select the election sequence where Ward 2 votes in 2024. The public can write to the board at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and participate in the board meeting in person or on Zoom Wednesday. Details are at www.actransit.org/redistricting.
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