This year's BART board of directors election to represent District 8 in San Francisco pits the old against the new, with clean-air entrepreneur Nick Josefowitz working to unseat longtime incumbent James Fang.
Fang, 53, currently the longest-serving director at 24 years and the sole currently elected Republican in San Francisco politics, said his leadership has helped the regional transit system achieve about a 95 percent on-time performance rate and a $50 million to $60 million annual surplus. The lifelong San Franciscan also touts his role in securing federal and state funds for the Oakland International Airport connector and his proposal to extend BART from Civic Center west to Ocean Beach.
“We're kind of a victim of our own success,” Fang said of the transit agency. “We just continue to churn out positive results for our riders in the Bay Area and I think the challenge is to try to always do even better, and we will continue to do better.
We've set a very nice bar.”
Fang's challenger is a 31-year-old Briton who moved to The City about three years ago. Josefowitz questions Fang's record and looks to take BART in a different direction. The founder of both the solar-energy company RenGen Energy and Leadership For A Clean Economy zeroes in on BART's filthiness and promises to clean up the system.
“The least we can do for the hundreds of thousands of BART riders that go through the stations every morning is to provide them with a clean and dignified commute,” Josefowitz said.
Instead of expanding the system, the Pacific Heights resident said money should be spent on fixing aging escalators and upgrading the heavily used downtown San Francisco stations.
Josefowitz's campaign has raised about $200,000, nearly three times as much as Fang, and accused the incumbent of taking large sums of money from companies for which BART has awarded contracts.
Most of Fang's campaign money came from “my friends and people in the community,” not contractors, Fang said, adding that Josefowitz's backing is from venture capital. Fang, whose family is in publishing and once owned The San Francisco Examiner, also gained the endorsement of Service Employees International Union Local 1021 after backing workers during the two BART strikes last year, said Ed Kinchley, co-chairman of the union's committee on political education in The City.
“He was the only BART board member who actually came out on the picket line and showed his support for workers,” Kinchley said.
Kinchley added that SEIU Local 1021 also successfully prompted enough members of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, which according to its bylaws cannot endorse Republican candidates, to not endorse anyone for the seat. Some members of the democratic committee were then outraged when Fang distributed campaign literature listing their organization under the subject, “San Franciscans Reject Josefowitz for BART Board.”
“It's not OK for Republicans to attack Democrats using our name,” said committee member Matt Dorsey , who co-authored a resolution condemning Fang for the move.
Speaking on his own behalf, Dorsey — who is a spokesman for the City Attorney's Office — supports Josefowitz “because I think he is going to be an outstanding BART director.”