Well Qualified Trio Vies For BART Seat: By J. DOUGLAS ALLEN-TAYLOR

Tuesday August 31, 2004

Three veterans of widely-different areas of public life are competing in the Nov. 2 election to represent a BART district that stretches from Kensington in the north to San Lorenzo in the south and encompasses the eastern portions of both Berkeley and Oakland. 

Seeking re-election to a fourth four-year District 3 term is retired City Traffic Engineer Roy Nakadegawa. He is being challenged by seven-year BART administrative employee Bob Franklin and management consultant Kathy Neal, who has served on several state and local boards and was recently considering a run for Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees. 

On the same ballot, under Measure AA, Alameda County voters will be asked to approve authority for BART to issue up to $980 million in earthquake safety improvement bonds. 

BART—which employs 3,500 workers under a $460 million annual budget in a rapid transit district running through Alameda, Contra Costa, and San Francisco counties—was recently named the top transit system in the country by the American Public Transportation Association. 

Nakadegawa, who says that this will be his last term on the BART board if he wins, lists seismic retrofit and emphasizing system efficiency over continued expansion as two of his key goals. 

“I brought up earthquake safety five years ago as the most important project we need to be undertaking,” he said. “We’ve now got new studies that say that the tube under the bay is the most vulnerable; we now believe that its foundation could liquefy in a major earthquake.” He credited his leadership with influencing the BART board to put Measure AA on this year’s ballot. 

Nakadegawa also said that he was “the only BART board member raising the issue of social equality,” insisting that BART is “spending megabucks for expansion to the more affluent suburban areas” while neglecting the needs of existing riders. 

Franklin agrees with Nakadegawa on the need for seismic retrofit, but disagrees in the area of expansion. His extensive campaign website lists extension to San Jose, Livermore, and Antioch as two of his goals. While he says a BART extension to San Jose “is a very expensive option,” he called a “better connection” between BART and San Jose “essential and inevitable.” 

He says that while BART is one of the “main [transportation] backbones for the Bay Area,” it needs to incorporate a more efficient system of “finishing shuttles” in order to correct a problem where “BART gets you near where you want to go, but far enough away from your final destination that most people opt to drive rather than to wait to transfer to a bus.” 

Franklin’s website lists several specific policy proposals for the system, including extending service past midnight, lowering pricing for all riders during non-commute hours and for “economically disadvantaged” riders during all hours, and making better labor relations a priority. 

He is currently on leave from his position as the Executive Staff Assistant to BART’s Controller-Treasurer. 

The politically-connected Neal, who operates her own Oakland-based consultant firm with several public agencies as her clients, says that BART needs to establish a better balance between quality service and expansion, adding that one problem with the system is that it “has historically thought of itself as a transportation agency only.”  

She said that BART could do a better job of managing its extensive land holdings, developing capital improvement projects as an alternative source of revenue. 

Neal’s name was publicly floated this spring and summer for the Peralta Community College District 6 board seat being vacated by trustee Susan Duncan. But Neal, who once served on the State Community College Board of Governors, said that she turned down requests from friends and associates to run for the board because of the “distraction” of sitting on a board that oversaw the activities of Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris, who is Neal’s estranged husband. 

“Nobody wanted to talk about anything else but that,” Neal said. “Nobody wanted to know my issues or concerns about the district.” 

She said she decided to run for the BART board because she is interested in public service, and because Nakadegawa is “a nice gentleman who suffers from a lack of leadership. We’re woefully underrepresented. I have not talked with anyone who has a good working relationship with the incumbent.” 

Neal has also served on the California Integrated Waste Management Board and the Oakland Port Commission. She once worked on the staff of Oakland City Councilmember Desley Brooks.ô