Black democratic socialist and children’s mental health professional Jovanka Beckles is running for the AC Transit Board of Directors in Ward 1 against 20-year incumbent Joe Wallace.
Beckles, a former Richmond City Council member who served for two terms, was part of a grassroots movement that successfully campaigned for policies such as the passage of a $15 minimum wage, $100 million in new taxes on Chevron and automatic investigations of police shootings. She officially launched her campaign July 18.
“I decided to run for AC Transit Board because the AC Transit workers of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192 asked me to,” Beckles said in an email. “I’m running to defend and expand the public bus service, and to fight for the safety and wellbeing of our transit workers.”
According to Beckles, AC Transit is facing service cuts of up to 30% because of the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic crisis. These cuts would affect those who most rely on public transportation, including students, older people, low-income individuals and those with disabilities.
AC Transit is currently governed by a board with seven elected directors who make policy decisions ranging from setting routes and fares to addressing working conditions and benefits for employees.
Beckles’ platform includes creating more union transit jobs and ensuring COVID-19 safety for both drivers and riders. Her platform also involves expanding the public bus service, making it fare-free and moving toward zero emissions as part of a local Green New Deal.
According to Beckles, fares only paid for 12.7% of operating costs before the pandemic, and by taxing billionaires, corporations and rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft, bus services can be kept fare-free.
Beckles also advocates for Proposition 15, which would place taxes on commercial and industrial properties if passed. Beckles added that it could bring back as much as $25 million to AC Transit.
“I can’t win the public transit system we deserve by myself,” Beckles said in the email. “We’ve got to build a movement of working-class people to fight for higher taxes on big business and the super-rich and investment in our communities.”
In addition to being recruited to run by ATU Local 192, Beckles has been endorsed by labor unions across the East Bay, such as the National Union of Healthcare Workers and the United Teachers of Richmond.
Grassroots groups such as East Bay Democratic Socialists of America and the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club have also endorsed Beckles, along with prominent individuals such as Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín and actor and film director Danny Glover.
“I’m a queer Black woman progressive, who has been organizing and fighting for working people in the East Bay for years,” Beckles said in her email. “Neither of my opponents in this race bring a similar perspective or experience to the table.”