No one knows for certain how the recently ended BART strike will affect taxpayers and riders -- higher fares are a safe bet -- but there's little question that it raised public awareness of Steve Glazer, an Orinda city councilman and 16th District State Assembly candidate.
Glazer, a political consultant, correctly gauged public sentiment in late September as unions made strike threats. His petition drive to outlaw such a job action gave voice to voters who were unhappy at having their transit system held hostage. He started a website (www.banbartstrikes.com), handed out fliers and gathered signatures while visiting all 44 stations.
"If you want to know how long it takes to go to every BART station," he said, "I know the answer -- 5 hours and 35 minutes. That's with no bathroom stops and not getting off to eat. You have to do some transfers, of course."
Glazer isn't announcing a signature count because the movement is still alive, but he reports that more than 10,000 supporters boarded his bandwagon just between the time the October strike started and ended.
One signature not among them is that of Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich, who's also a candidate for the District 16 seat. He thinks the strike-ban campaign was a disgrace. He charges Glazer with politicizing a hot-button issue and "harvesting email addresses" for his political campaign.
"This is exactly what's wrong with our system of government," he said in a statement. "We need solutions, not politics, to solve our area's most pressing problems. Standing in front of a BART station, directing commuters to your campaign website does nothing to solve the BART problem for commuters."
If you detect the scent of sour grapes, you are not alone. While Arnerich stakes out the high road -- what other road was left? -- he surely knows that Glazer won followers by championing a popular cause and raised his profile in a race that will also include Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti and Dublin attorney Catharine Baker.
Arnerich said it's presumptuous to call for a ban on strikes. He acknowledged that the rhetoric plays well with unhappy commuters, but he also said it ignores the nuances of the negotiation process.
"We weren't sitting in those rooms and knowing what was going on," he said. "I think you need to have the facts. Steve brought this up purely for political gain. I don't think it's appropriate to have elected officials speculating on what is right or wrong."
Apparently, quite a few local officials disagree. Among a dozen or so whose support Glazer recently secured were five at a media briefing last week -- Oakley Mayor Kevin Romick, Moraga Mayor Dave Trotter, Orinda Vice Mayor Sue Severson, Lafayette Vice Mayor Don Tatzin and Walnut Creek City Councilman Bob Simmons. They followed Glazer to a makeshift podium at the Walnut Creek BART station.
"Although I'm a registered Republican and on the other side of the political aisle from Mr. Glazer, this is an issue that deserves bipartisan support in the Legislature," Trotter said.
"It's time the Bay Area leaders come together," Severson said, "and give serious consideration to a ban on BART strikes."
Added Simmons: "This is an essential public service."
Glazer stood to the side, a thin grin creasing his face as TV news cameras rolled. He may or may not be the best Assembly candidate, but he definitely understands politics.
Contact Tom Barnidge at firstname.lastname@example.org.