by Brenda Barron
It took courage, patience (waiting for four hours and through chanting by the Tea Party) and brevity (each speaker allowed one minute or 60 seconds).
Despite the hurdles, three students from Oakland public high schools testified for better transportation and more low income housing last Thursday at a heated 4 ½-hour meeting hosted by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG).
No action was taken but the two groups unanimously voted to move forward with a deeply flawed draft of the “One Bay Area” plan, a $277 billion transportation and housing plan in the nine-county Bay Area that must also help meet greenhouse gas reduction targets set in California SB 375.
As one of the students and as a senior at Emiliano Zapata Street Academy. I spoke publicly about many problems in the community and the change that is needed.
I talked about taking public transportation since I was five years old when I started riding the bus to my mom’s work. I never thought transportation was a big deal until I grew up, but it has changed a lot since I was five.
In the last few years, bus lines have been cut and changed so often that people get confused about which lines go to which place. People do not want see bus service cut. They want to see more bus routes, and more frequent buses.
Many people take buses because it costs less than BART, but BART takes you farther, and goes faster. I would like to see the BART and buses cost less, especially for the young people — because we go to school and most of us don’t have jobs, so we can’t afford it. I would like to see more clean buses and BART.
Other speakers (including McClymonds graduate Devilla Ervin) pointed out flaws in the plan considered: that it does not restore lost transit service, does not protect people from displacement, does not protect people from diesel fumes and does not create new affordable housing for people who live there.
Oakland Tech student Tanika O’Guinn and Street Academy student Eliezer Mendoza also spoke.
Pamela Tapia, a graduate from McClymonds, also representing New Voices Are Rising, talked about her own homelessness after her family lost its housing and was forced to relocate.
“My family in West Oakland lost our apartment,” Tapia said. “My mom was supporting three people on a minimum-wage job. She and my sister moved to Stockton but I had to choose between going with them and dropping out of school or staying here. The explosion of luxury homes has pushed out low-income people. As a homeless teen, I want to tell you to stop the displacement,” Tapia said.