The only Black member on the BART board, who is also legally blind, a widowed mother, and had to move because of racial harassment, has been kicked off the board for moving “a stone’s throw” outside of her district. But she says she has the receipts showing BART officials said it was OK for her to move there.
A sudden announcement just before Thursday’s BART Board of Directors meeting informed us that one of the members had just been kicked off the board. Lateefah Simon, the only Black board member, elected in 2016 and board president in the obviously difficult year of 2020, was suddenly removed from the board, according to KPIX. BART said in a Thursday statement that “BART has made the determination that as of March 9, 2022, the BART District 7 Board of Director seat is vacant. BART staff has confirmed Lateefah Simon has moved outside the boundaries of District 7. Based on state law, this move disqualifies her from serving as a BART Director of District 7.”
The optics are obviously terrible to fire the only Black member of the board. Making the optics even more terrible, Simon is legally blind, a widowed mother, and had moved to the new apartment over racial harassment at her previous home. There is also the inconvenient matter that Simon says BART officials told her the new residence was indeed within her District 7, and Simon says she still has documentation of this.
Lateefah has been a tireless leader for those who have no alternatives to transportation than our BART system or public transit. She has delivered on equity, fairness and reforms that put people first. What happened here is very concerning and needs to be looked at more closely. https://t.co/7obcCjQFjR— London Breed (@LondonBreed) March 11, 2022
Simon said in a statement to the Chronicle that “Before moving, I informed top BART officials and sought their input, and was assured that the building is within District 7. I would not have moved my family otherwise.” She describes her residence as “a stone’s throw” from the district boundary.
And she reportedly still has the smoking gun proving this. The Chron reports that BAT officials drew up a “conflict-of-interest memo, since her home is part of a transit-oriented development on the agency’s land,” and that she “presented a document to The Chronicle to prove she had discussed the move with top BART staff.”
The issue here is that MacArthur BART station is actually split into two different districts. Simon’s district is District 7 (seen in yellow above), while her new residence — which is on BART property, and legally part of the MacArthurs BART land parcel — has been determined to be in District 4 (seen in green above). The Chron points out that “Simon’s district included the station, itself, while [BART board member Robert] Raburn’s district covers the portion east of northbound State Route 24 that includes the station’s entrance plaza, parking garage and apartments built on BART property.” Simon moved into one of those apartments, which a Google Maps search indicates is roughly 300 feet from the station.
I'm devastated that @lateefahsimon will no longer be a BART director. And as I've spent the day in a BART meeting, it's sunk in even more just how much I'll miss her.— Rebecca Saltzman (@RebeccaForBART) March 10, 2022
Thank you Lateefah for everything you've done for BART, BART riders, and the Bay Area ♥️https://t.co/MWJXtb4WZJ
Moreover, she moved in because of racial harassment at her former home. “Simon was receiving death threats and other harassing messages — some of them laced with racist and misogynistic slurs — including an incident in which she found urine on her doorstep in North Richmond.”
Rules are rules and all, but this is not an Oh no, Ed Jew involving an official who intended to deceive the public. And the human error may have been on BART’s part, not Simon’s. Either way, BART says they are carrying on with appointing an interim director to replace Simon, until another District 7 BART board election can be scheduled, at a date not yet announced.