Van Hool Critic Will Run for AC Transit Board Seat

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday July 03, 2008 - 09:58:00 AM

Oakland architect and public transit advocate Joyce Roy announced plans last week to run against AC Transit Board President Chris Peeples for Peeples’ at-large board seat in the November election, setting up a probable electoral clash over the transit district’s controversial Van Hool bus policy. 

Over the past two years, the Alameda and Contra Costa county bus agency has been replacing much of its bus fleet—built by a variety of manufacturers—with buses made by the Belgian-based Van Hool. Roy has been the most persistent critic of that policy, and her arguments and statements against Van Hools have sparked a number of critical articles in local newspapers, including the Daily Planet and the East Bay Express. Peeples has been the board’s most vocal advocate of the Van Hool purchases.  

In 2004, Peeples easily won reelection to his at-large seat, 69.3 percent to 20.6 percent, over local student Rebecca Rae Oliver. A third candidate, paralegal James Karim Muhammad, came in a distant third with 9.8 percent of the vote. 

In an e-mail release sent out to reporters and supporters on June 25, Roy said that she is promoting a “reform slate” for the November elections, on which three AC Transit Board members—Peeples, Ward Two Director Greg Harper (Emeryville, Piedmont and portions of Berkeley and Oakland), and Ward One Director Joe Wallace (El Sobrante, San Pablo, Richmond, El Cerrito, Albany, Kensington and portions of Berkeley)—will be up for re-election. Roy said that Harper will be part of that reform slate, as well as a yet-to-be-named challenger of Wallace. 

Harper, Roy wrote, “has most consistently questioned the ‘special partnership’ (between AC Transit and Van Hool) but was often the lone voice and, with a seven-member board, it takes four to tango. He talks to drivers when he is on a bus and has said he has never found one who liked the Van Hools. He asked for staff to compile the data on passenger falls on Van Hool buses compared to other buses, which showed how dangerous they were. He also asked for the drivers to be surveyed and the results were so devastating that it hasn’t been released yet.” 

Roy added, “Joe Wallace always seems to vote with the general manager as though he was his employer and ignores his real employer, his constituents. He needs to be replaced.” 

Roy concluded, “With three reformers on the board, its culture will change.” 

Ironically, Harper first won election to the AC Transit board in 2000 over Roy, whom he beat 53.3 percent to 46.6 percent. 

There is a possibility that a fourth AC Transit Board seat could open up after the November elections, when at-large board member Rebecca Kaplan faces Oakland Unified School District Board member in a runoff for the Oakland City Council at-large seat being vacated by Henry Chang. Based upon longstanding board policy and the state election code, if Kaplan is elected to the City Council in November, her replacement for the remaining two years in her four-year term would be chosen by the AC Transit board rather than by voters in a special election. Both Kaplan and Peeples originally won their seats on the AC Transit Board through the board selection process for a seat vacated in mid-term.