Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 11 / 15 March 2018

Anti-LGBT law leads AC Transit, SFMTA to boycott national conference in North Carolina

Courtesy AC Transit

Courtesy AC Transit

AC Transit and the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will both boycott a national transportation conference set to take place next month in North Carolina due to the state’s enactment of an anti-LGBT law.

The Bay Area agencies join the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which announced in early April it would not pay for the travel costs of its employees to attend the event. A Capital District Transportation Authority bus driving team in Albany, New York, also canceled its plans to participate due to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s executive order barring non-essential travel by public employees to the state.

In an announcement released this morning (Friday, April 29), the Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District said the East Bay public transit agency’s Board of Directors had voted unanimously Wednesday evening to affirm General Manager Michael Hursh’s decision to prohibit district employees from traveling to the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) International Bus Roadeo  – slated to begin May 13 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The statement noted that North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory’s decision last month to sign the controversial legislation known as HB 2, which both blocked transgender individuals from using restrooms of their choosing and restricted cities within the state from passing nondiscrimination laws, is in direct conflict with AC Transit’s “longstanding commitment of access and inclusion to all members of our community without regard to race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.”

AC Transit employees have been past Grand Champions of APTA’s Bus Roadeo: a competition that recognizes superior skills of operators and maintenance teams nationwide. And the agency’s award winning team members were planning to again compete this year.

In explaining his decision to cancel the trip, Hursh stated, “AC Transit cannot support any government action that effectively reverses civil rights protections for all citizens.”

The statement stressed that his decision “was not made capriciously,” and came after consultations with his executive staff, union leadership, and the employees who had been set to compete.

“I am empathetic to our valued staff but remain resolute to the commitments I made when I assumed this position less than one-year ago,” stated Hursh. “That AC Transit will continue to maintain zero-tolerance of any discriminatory acts and foster the rich diversity of our riders and employees alike.”

San Francisco’s public transit agency is also boycotting the APTA conference. San Francisco cable car operator Kevin Grady, who won APTA’s 40-foot bus Roadeo last year, had been planning to attend and defend San Francisco’s first place international title at the conference, the San Francisco Examiner reported earlier this month.

At the time SFMTA Director of of Transportation Ed Reiskin had told the paper that he was urging the APTA to postpone or relocate its conference this year before pulling the plug on Grady’s trip. Should it not do so, then Reiskin said he would abide by Mayor Ed Lee’s executive order that bans publicly-funded travel to North Carolina.

This afteroon Tom Nolan, a gay man who chairs its board of directors, told the B.A.R. that the agency had decided not to pay for Grady’s trip and is now reviewing if it has any contracts with businesses located in North Carolina.

Nolan will be attending an APTA conference this weekend in San Antonio, Texas for board members of transit agencies. He said he plans to push the APTA to adopt a policy that would ban it from having its meetings in so-called hate states with anti-LGBT laws.

“These people have shown the only thing they respond to is money,” said Nolan, who is one of dozens of people on APTA’s board of directors.

Nolan and Reisken sent APTA Chair Valarie McCall and President Michael Melaniphy a letter dated April 7 explaining the SFMTA’s position.

“While we would like to applaud cities like Charlotte and its mayor, Mayor Jennifer Roberts, who have taken steps at the local level to protect gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination, we recognize that other states, like Mississippi, have joined in passing more discriminatory laws,” wrote Nolan and Reisken. “To that end, we call on APTA to cancel or move any meetings currently planned and not schedule future meetings in any state that supports discrimination against any lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.”

APTA did release a statement in early April denouncing McCrory’s signing the anti-LGBT legislation into law and stood by Charlotte leaders’ enactment of a local measure banning LGBT discrimination, which prompted state lawmakers to rescind it with HB 2.

But it also noted that it had signed the contracts to hold its Bus & Paratransit Conference and Roadeo in North Carolina more than four years ago, and, “Unfortunately, we are legally bound to adhere to those contracts.”

It added that, “We want to ensure attendees that at the conference we will shine the light on the importance of treating all people with respect. We will spotlight the impact and strength that diversity brings to our industry.”

— Matthew S. Bajko, April 29, 2016 @ 11:37 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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