Opinion: Jovanka Beckles is the leader we need on the AC Transit Board

Jovanka Beckles has a proven track record of progressive success as an elected official, and is the only candidate with ideas bold enough for the current moment.

The East Bay’s public bus system is in crisis.

Workers have struggled to keep themselves and riders safe from COVID-19. Because of reduced revenue from the pandemic, the AC Transit Board is considering cuts of up to 30%. These cuts would be devastating for the system’s largely low-income and POC ridership. These cuts would especially hurt our society’s most vulnerable members — students, the elderly, and the disabled — who rely heavily on the bus.

Potential pay cuts and layoffs of transit workers would disproportionately impact Black people, who make up 80% of the AC Transit workers union. These cuts would be bad at any time, but they are unconscionable in the middle of an economic depression.

The threats to our public bus service are threats to racial and economic justice. But they are threats to environmental justice, too. Transportation is the largest driver of greenhouse gas emissions. The wildfires that have raged up and down the West Coast and choked our cities with smoke make it clearer than ever that we need to do everything we can to fight climate change. We need to make our public transit more accessible and increase ridership, not cut lines.

We support Jovanka Beckles for AC Transit Board in Ward 1 because she is the leader we need to address the climate crisis and the crisis of AC Transit. She is the only candidate in her race who has won major legislative victories as an elected official, and the only candidate with ideas bold enough for the current moment.

As a two-term Richmond City Council member, Jovanka and other progressives fought Chevron’s stranglehold over their city government, winning re-election despite Chevron spending millions of dollars against them. Jovanka helped pass several progressive reforms that transformed Richmond — including $100 million in new taxes on Chevron, a $15 minimum wage, the first California rent control law in 30 years, automatic investigations of police shootings, and “ban the box” legislation allowing formerly incarcerated people to seek work with dignity. Jovanka also co-sponsored Richmond’s Climate Emergency Declaration and opposed the transportation of coal into the city.

Jovanka has a proven record as a fighter for racial, economic, and environmental justice. She’s also the only candidate campaigning on a fare-free bus service.

As a Black, working-class woman, Jovanka knows that working people and especially working people of color rely on public transit for their everyday needs. She believes that it should be treated like a right, not reserved for those who are able to pay.

Making the bus fare-free is also crucial to the fight against climate change. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, so we need more people riding public transit and fewer using cars. Cities that have eliminated transit fares have seen a large increase in the number of people taking public transit. (Take Olympia, Wash., for example, where getting rid of fares led to a 20% increase in ridership.)


Jovanka proposes to stop cuts, make the bus fare-free, and expand service. She plans to raise this revenue from various sources: for instance, through the AC Transit Board’s powers to levy taxes and through pushing for ballot measures and other legislation at the state and local level (like Prop. 15). Like she did in Richmond, Jovanka intends to work with a broad coalition of labor unions, grassroots activists, and progressive legislators to make sure corporations and the ultrarich pay their fair share to fund public transit.”

Jovanka’s record as a legislator and her bold ideas for defending and expanding public transit explains why she has received the endorsement of so many progressive leaders, unions, and grassroots organizations, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, Alameda and Contra Costa County Labor Councils, Our Revolution, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Sunrise Bay Area, and the Democratic Socialists of America.

Join us in supporting Jovanka for the AC Transit Board in Ward 1. We know she’ll be a voice for social justice and for our public bus service.

Jesse Arreguín is the mayor of Berkeley and Cheryl Davila is the District 2 City Councilmember.