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Supervisor Farrell replaces 20-year citizen committee member with political consultant

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Jackie Sachs attends her final session as a member of the SFCTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee on Tuesday at City Hall. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Citizens find numerous ways to give back to their communities. They volunteer in homeless shelters, tutor kids, organize rallies in support of causes and serve in government.

Jackie Sachs is a transit booster who has served on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s Citizen Advisory Committee for more than two decades.

“People don’t think of people like me, who need this transit to survive from point A to point B,” said Sachs, 70, who uses a walker to get around, explaining why she cares about transit.

Now, her tenure has ended.

On Tuesday, Sachs’ seat was open. Supervisor Mark Farrell declined to reappoint her to represent District 2 and instead appointed Hala Hijazi, a politically connected campaign consultant.

“Really happy and excited of [Hijazi’s] willingness to serve and bring a fresh perspective,” Farrell told the SFCTA board. He also acknowledged Sachs: “Thanks to many who have served, including our District 2 representative who served for a long time.”

Supervisor Aaron Peskin thanked Sachs for her “many, many years of superlative service.”

Members of the SFCTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee attend regular meetings where they advocate for projects and provide input about the communities in which they live. They’re appointed by SFCTA commissioners, who are members of the Board of Supervisors, on a district-by-district basis. Those appointments are then confirmed by the SFCTA board.

Sachs, who said her epilepsy prevented her from working, considers the SFCTA’s Citizen Advisory Committee her life’s work.

“This keeps me going,” she told the San Francisco Examiner two weeks before she lost her seat. “If I didn’t have this, I wouldn’t have anything.”

Hijazi was called a “rising star” by the League of Women Voters in 2011, was project manager for the restoration of the Old Mint and served on President Barack Obama’s national finance committee at the Democratic National Committee — she also “raised or contributed” more than $100,000 for the Hillary Action Fund, according to Hillary Clinton’s campaign website, which lists her as a “Hillblazer.”

Transportation sources experienced with citizen committees described them as toothless, but still able to provide some vital feedback for transportation planners.

Still, they are relatively obscure bodies, which is one reason former Mayor Willie Brown was surprised to hear Hijazi had been appointed to the body.

“Who appointed her?” he asked, laughing.

He added, “Frankly, I have never heard of this commission, but I have heard of Hala. I assume that she was assumed to engage in the abolition of the CAC.”

Farrell’s office did not offer comment on the appointment of Hijazi. At Tuesday’s meeting, he merely said it was time for a change.

Hijazi represents HKH Consulting, which provided email marketing services, outreach and “secured elected officials endorsements” during the 2016 Proposition O campaign to exempt office development in Candlestick Point for Five Point Holdings, LLC, according to filings with the Ethics Commission. She was promised $15,000 for those services.

In a blog post on the website Medium, Farrell endorsed Prop. O.

Hijazi is also a frequent contributor to campaigns of Farrell’s political colleagues, including Scott Wiener for State Senate, Julie Christensen for Supervisor, Joshua Arce for Supervisor, Alix Rosenthal for Democratic County Central Committee and Amy Bacharach for Community College Board campaigns. She’s contributed nearly $6,000 to candidate campaigns, according to Ethics Commission filings, dating back to Brown’s mayoral campaign in 1999.

Farrell’s supervisor campaigns were not among her donations.

When told Sachs had served more than 20 years on the CAC, Brown said, “Back up, that means that she preceded [Farrell]. She probably has been appointed by more supervisors over the years.”

Jackie Sachs served on the San Francisco County Transportation Authority’s Citizen Advisory Committee for more than 20 years. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

Sachs was first appointed in 1997, by then-Supervisor Tom Ammiano. She was also appointed by former supervisor, now mayoral candidate Mark Leno.

Sachs hails from Cleveland, Ohio, and first came to San Francisco in 1969. She first worked for Yellow Pages on Third Street, and it took her just 72 hours to find the job. By 1976, however, Sachs developed epilepsy and was told by doctors that she could no longer work.

She decided her life would have purpose, so she began to advocate.

Sachs said she advocated for 1989’s Proposition B, which was a half-percent sales tax that existed for 20 years and funded the formation of the SFCTA. She also advocated for streetcars along Geary Boulevard and was appointed to a task force by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Though the streetcar service never materialized, a proposal for Geary Bus Rapid Transit was later developed in its place. Sachs said she advocated for seniors and the people with disabilities.

Before Farrell appointed Hijazi, Sachs told the Examiner she wants to finish the work she started, but was glad her voice made a difference.

“I figure, Jackie, you accomplished something,” she reflected.

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