State Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) has stepped down from the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit after only being on the panel for a matter of weeks.
Glazer, whose district includes the Tri-Valley, said the reason is because Bay Area leaders are not supporting the fiscal oversight of BART, according to a letter Glazer sent on Feb. 28 to Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) -- who is the chair of the transit support committee.
"Bay Area leaders have not stepped up to fix the fiscal oversight problems with BART, as well as the underfunding of the Inspector General's Office," Glazer said in a separate press release. "When these problems are addressed, I will join with my colleagues and support greater transit funding."
Roughly two weeks ago, state lawmakers had created the select committee with the sole focus of finding ways to assist Bay Area public transit agencies that are still suffering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic including low ridership numbers compared to pre-pandemic.
The committee also includes state Sens. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), Bill Dodd (D-Napa), Aisha Wahab (D-Fremont) and Mike Maguire (D-San Rafael).
Glazer, who is a longtime supporter of public transit while also a critic of BART upper management, went on to say in his letter that he is still concerned about the financial problems facing Bay Area transit systems but that the current status quo is unacceptable, which is why he left the committee.
"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 stated in his letter to Wiener. "However, there is no guarantee that these agencies will spend taxpayer dollars sensibly without adequate oversight of their expenditures."
He went on to point out the recent reports from the BART's inspector general -- a position that Glazer helped create back in 2017 as part of a transportation bill -- regarding BART's financial mismanagement and defiance of voter-mandated oversight.
"In June 2022, an Alameda County Grand Jury found that BART's leadership had repeatedly blocked the inspector general's authority and autonomy," Glazer stated. "Specifically, the Grand Jury found that BART's board of directors and management engaged in a 'pattern of obstruction' that has impeded the inspector general's ability to conduct independent oversight and 'stymied (the Office of the Inspector General's) independence and the confidentiality of investigations.'"
According to the press release from Glazer's office, former State Auditor Elaine Howle found that the BART office "lacked the authority and independence necessary to do its job" just two months later.
Wiener said in a statement to the Weekly that while he agrees with Glazer in that accountability is important, he was still disappointed in his fellow senator's decision to resign effective immediately as he thinks the committee will be doing important work in the near future.
"Our select committee will be a prime opportunity for Legislators to get answers and hold our systems accountable for doing the best job possible for our region," Wiener told the Weekly. "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. 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."
He also said that it is inaccurate to suggest there is a lack of support for BART accountability because of the fact that Senate Bill 1488 overwhelmingly passed the legislature -- with near-unanimous support from the Bay Area delegation -- before being vetoed by the Gov. Gavin Newsom.
According to the SB 1488 text, it would have revised the duties and responsibilities of the inspector general by requiring them to engage in fraud prevention activities and provide recommendations to strengthen internal controls to prevent or detect fraud, waste, or abuse.
But whether Glazer will return to the committee is still up in the air as he stated that California legislators have to do more to ensure fiscal responsibility.
"As BART and other regional transit systems seek additional state funding to stave off upcoming fiscal problems, the legislature must ensure that the same systems spend public resources responsibly," Glazer stated. "I wish you well with your important work."