State and National Candidates

The AFT has officially endorsed well-connected challenger Natalie Berg. Chairwoman of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, a longtime Jewish community activist, and former director of employee relations in the district, Berg is also dean of the School of Health and Physical Education at San Francisco City College's John Adams campus, a position she will vacate if elected.

Another union and Democratic Party favorite is incumbent Rodel Rodis, an attorney and former member of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. He comes with the support of some of San Francisco's highest-ranking Democrats, including Assemblyman John Burton and Mayor Willie Brown. Rodis has been a vocal supporter of expanded facilities and improved technology.

Incumbent Jim Mayo boasts an endorsement list that reads like a who's who of elected officials in San Francisco. He got the blessing of the AFT's executive board, but not the general membership, and tends to lean pro-faculty when the voting counts. Mayo is Northern California director of the United Negro College Fund and sits on numerous other community boards.

Attorney Fernando Tafoya, a community college teacher and former executive director of the AFL-CIO Immigrant Assistance Project, also is making a notable run for the board with the blessings of Supervisors Tom Ammiano, Susan Leal, and Michael Yaki.

On the flip side, incumbent Robert Varni, an eight-year veteran of the board and president of a software company, tends to appeal more to the bean counters. Varni is more politically moderate than a good deal of the rest of the ballot, especially in financial matters and strategic planning.

The BART Board
BART's $1.2 billion plan to build an extension to SFO by the year 2000 obviously will be the board's primary obsession for the next four years. The project is destined to go forward -- but basic questions like "when" and "how" remain.

BART's plan: to build a station at the airport's new international terminal, and another with a sizable parking garage farther south in Millbrae. But transit activists and environmentalists want a BART station connected with CalTrain and the airport's people mover, located outside the airport. They have sued BART, saying that the environmental review that BART directors approved is flawed.

Plans to start building this fall have been bumped back, since Congress decided to hold onto the $750 million earmarked for BART -- roughly two-thirds of the money it needs for the project -- until the legal issues are resolved.

BART, District 7
On a map, BART District 7 looks like a grade-schooler's cut-and-paste job, with one-third of the district in S.F. and the rest spread around the East Bay, from Richmond to West Oakland. Given the district's geographic character, representation is a key issue in this race.

The incumbent is former S.F. Supervisor Willie Kennedy, who was appointed to the BART board in August. She replaced BART Director Will Ussery, who resigned suddenly in June -- shortly after the FBI began investigating political donations to BART directors from potential contractors. (Ussery insists that the timing of his resignation was purely coincidental.)

During her 15 years on the board, the 72-year-old Kennedy was known more for speaking out on black community issues than for any bold legislative feats. A self-described political "middle-of-the-roader," Kennedy is again campaigning as a "Voice for The People."

But critics say that Kennedy is little more than a voice for the S.F. politicians who want to exercise their influence over BART. She is endorsed by the San Francisco Democratic Party machine -- and what looks like every African-American political group this side of the Sierras.

Kennedy's challengers are El Cerrito attorney and former Mayor Howard Abelson, S.F. businessman Mike Garza, and West Oakland community activist Kathryn Washington -- listed in order of political experience, from most to least. Kennedy's main rival is Abelson, who is known in East Bay political circles as a progressive and an all-around good guy.

Abelson has criticized the incumbent's ties to S.F. politics, and says he wants to bring "Good Government" to BART. He promises to serve only two terms. Abelson, 52, was appointed as an interim BART director for eight months in 1988, but lost the seat in the subsequent election.

Garza owns an auto parts business, and claims to be the only candidate with transit experience. He was a co-owner of North Gate Transit, one of the predecessors of SamTrans. The 64-year-old Garza has no endorsements, and says he decided to run at the last minute.

Washington describes herself as a grass-roots community advocate (by profession, she is a bookkeeper and a notary public). With no government or transit experience, Washington points instead to a rather meager record of community service in West Oakland that includes work with West Oakland Community Advisory Group.

BART, District 9
Several BART directors have come under fire in recent months for accepting campaign contributions from BART contractors, prompting an FBI probe. District 9 Director Michael Bernick's name has come up more than a few times.

Bernick, first elected to the board in 1988, has an impressive resume that includes endorsements from such notables as Democratic U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Independent state Sen. Quentin Kopp. He also used to help run the National Transit Access Center at UC Berkeley, a transit think tank. Equally impressive are Bernick's past campaign contributors -- Bechtel Construction, Gannett Fleming Engineers, Dillingham Construction, to name a few -- who also happen to be BART contractors.

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