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BART District 7 candidate Margaret Gordon is photographed at a candidate meet and greet at Maple Hall in San Pablo, Calif. on Tuesday, Oct. 09, 2012. Candidates answered questions and had an opportunity to meet the public. (Jane Tyska/Staff)

A recently minted city planning master's graduate from UC Berkeley is running for BART's District 7 board seat against three veterans of Bay Area politics who have taken their licks in recent years.

Zakhary Mallett, of El Sobrante, says he is the only candidate with training in transportation, his field of concentration in college and graduate school. His opponents are Maria Alegria, a former mayor of Pinole now on the Contra Costa Democratic Party Central Committee; Margaret Gordon, of Oakland, a longtime environmental and social justice advocate; and incumbent Lynette Sweet, of San Francisco, who also served on San Francisco's redevelopment and taxi commissions and worked more than 20 years as a bank officer.

BART redrew its boundaries in late 2011, resulting in a District 7 that includes more of West Contra Costa than before. Now District 7 covers West Contra Costa except Kensington and part of El Cerrito; Emeryville and parts of Albany, Berkeley and Oakland; Treasure Island and the eastern sliver of San Francisco.

Mallett wants to rekindle the idea of bringing BART, or a wBART rail extension, to San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules along Interstate 80, the region's most congested freeway. He also says that a $10-a-month transfer to BART for San Francisco Muni monthly pass holders is unfairly subsidized by the rest of the BART ridership. He campaigns ardently at local political clubs and on social media, with TV spots set to dramatic music on his website and on YouTube.


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Alegria notes in her candidate's statement that "as mayor of Pinole (1996-2007)" and as member of transportation and transit panels, she pushed for funding youth bus passes and WestCAT buses to BART. Alegria actually served four one-year turns as mayor in her decade and a half on the Pinole City Council, which ended when voters recalled her in February 2008 mostly over her close friendship with a bistro owner who owed the city money and her vote to let go the city manager who was trying to collect the debt. Alegria lost a bid to get back on the council in November 2008. She did not respond to requests for comment.

Gordon, of West Oakland, cofounded the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project in 2005 and won a $100,000 Purpose Prize in 2010 for her fight against industrial pollution and her efforts to educate neighbors on health issues. In 2007, then-Mayor Ron Dellums appointed Gordon to the Port of Oakland commission.

In July, the Oakland City Council replaced her with current Mayor Jean Quan's choice; earlier, a council member had blamed Gordon and the rest of the commission for potentially squandering $242 million in state funding to redevelop the Oakland Army Base.

In an interview last month with this newspaper, Gordon said the criticism was unfounded because the city did not have a full-fledged plan and the private developer in the deal had not put up its share of the funds.

Sweet has served on the BART board since she was appointed to a vacancy in 2003. Sweet says she has worked to level the playing field so that women- and minority-owned businesses and small businesses can "compete alongside the big guys for BART contracts."

In 2010 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Sweet owed the Internal Revenue Service about $20,000 in back taxes and that she failed to disclose $120,000 she earned for community outreach work. Sweet did not respond to emails from this newspaper.

At a forum in San Pablo on Oct. 9, the candidates broadly agreed on the need to beef up public safety, restore confidence in BART police, and help create jobs; the discussion did not get around to BART finances. Mallett chastised Sweet for failing to attend West Contra Costa Transportation Advisory Committee meetings, saying she has neglected 60 percent of her constituency. Sweet countered that she is "represented at every meeting."

Christina Atienza, the transportation advisory committee's executive director, confirmed in response to an inquiry from this newspaper that Sweet has not attended any of the six WCCTAC meetings this year nor the December 2011 meeting at which her appointment as the new BART delegate was announced.

What Alegria has done professionally since the 2008 Pinole City Council recall is unclear. At the time, she had for several years been the executive director of Contra Costa Faith Works, an organization with the primary purpose, according to IRS filings, of "Community Education on Human Rights for Work and Living Conditions." In May 2008, Alegria told this newspaper that the organization was in the last year of a four-year, $400,000 grant from the Ford Foundation.

But according to the California Secretary of State, the organization was suspended by the state Franchise Tax Board in late 2006; as of this week, Faith Works was still suspended, a spokeswoman for the state agency said.

In 2008, the state Employment Development Department filed a $20,000 tax lien against Faith Works. And earlier this year, the IRS revoked the organization's exempt status for failing to file a Form 990 disclosure for three consecutive years.

Faith Works nevertheless has stayed active. In 2010 and 2011, Alegria appeared on behalf of Faith Works at several Richmond Planning Commission hearings on the Richmond General Plan, minutes show. More recently, Faith Works has hosted meetings at a church in Richmond. At a Martinez number listed in online sources for Faith Works, a person answered the phone last month as "Central Labor Council" and referred a caller to a 510-area number for Faith Works.

A call to the 510 number this week yielded a voice-mail message from Alegria saying she will be out of the office until mid-November.

Contact Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760. Follow him at twitter.com/tomlochner.

MEET THE CANDIDATES
Here is background information for the four candidates running for the BART District 7 seat in the Nov. 6 election. Details were gathered mostly from news sources and candidates' websites and campaign materials.

Maria Alegria
Place of residence: Pinole
Occupation: Community advocate
Political experience: Former Pinole mayor and city councilwoman; member of Contra Costa Democratic Party Central Committee
Education: B.A., UC Berkeley
Focus: Better connections between BART and other transit systems and better access for pedestrians and bicyclists; affordable fares; partnerships; rebuild trust in BART police; create jobs and reduce pollution
Website: www.alegriaforbart.org

Margaret Gordon
Place of residence: Oakland
Occupation: Environmental and social justice activist
Political experience: Former Port of Oakland commissioner
Focus: Better access for bicyclists and car sharers; electric vehicle charging stations; noise and pollution reduction; community-oriented policing; "Buy American" procurement; transit-oriented development; expanded hours of operation
Website: www.gordonforbartboard.org

Zakhary Mallett
Place of residence: El Sobrante
Occupation: City and transportation planner
Education: Master's in city planning, UC Berkeley; B.A. urban studies, Stanford
Focus: Infrastructure improvements, including elevators and escalators; bringing BART or wBART to San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules; improve train flow and upgrade capacity to accommodate future demand; "fairer fares" that do not force some BART riders to subsidize others; regular attendance at meetings to assure East Bay representation
Website: www.mallettforbart.com

Lynette Sweet
Place of residence: San Francisco
Occupation: In politics after more than 20 years in banking
Political experience: Incumbent, appointed in 2003, elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008
Education: UC Berkeley graduate
Focus: Job opportunities for local residents, women and minorities; continue police reforms, including better oversight and upgrading technology; fiscal health; fairness in contracting to allow women- and minority-owned businesses and small businesses to compete for BART contracts
Website: http://sweetforbartdistrict7.com