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Anti-SMART Group Ready to Gather Signatures for Ballot Initiative

RepealSMART aims to shut off valve of sales tax funding for passenger train in Sonoma and Marin counties.

Anti-train folks are going on the offensive in Marin and Sonoma counties. A group opposed to the building of a passenger rail system through the counties is going full-force with its effort to from cash-strapped rail authority, according to a release sent out Thursday.

RepealSMART is circulating petitions to qualify a ballot measure that would repeal a quarter-cent sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008. If successful, the Sonoma Marin Area Rail Transit district would lose its biggest source of funding and all but kill the effort to get a commuter train rolling on the tracks by 2014.

RepealSMART has until Jan. 28 to submit the requisite number of signatures. How many signatures are required is up for debate, but the group is aiming on a minimum of 5 percent of the amount of those who voted in the last general election, which is just over 15,000. Initially, RepealSMART was told it had to obtain 10 percent of all registered voters in the two counties, which would be closer to 40,000.

If elections officials validate enough of the gathered signatures, it would appear on the June 2012 or November 2012 ballot, RepealSMART said. It would need a simple majority to pass.

Farhad Mansourian, SMART'S general manager, has said because more than two-thirds of the voters wanted a rail system to unclog Highway 101 and cut back and greenhouse gas emissions.

RepealSMART spokesman Clay Mitchell said volunteers have been eager to gather signatures the more SMART reveals about its funding shortfalls.

“The people … need to have their voices heard, and we are confident that we will reach the appropriate signature threshold in a timely manner,” Mitchell said in the release.

RepealSMART is working to set up signing events, possibly with a professional signature-gathering vendor, and publicize them via social media and its website.

Mitchell said it’s unfortunate that the SMART board of directors “does not demonstrate respect for the democratic process by bringing this question to the voters themselves, as we have requested.”

RepealSMART backers point to all the economic changes since the Measure Q vote was taken in 2008 — the year a deep recession started to rock the American way of life. The group accuses SMART organizers of refusing to acknowledge the sea changes and understand how voters then in favor of the passenger trains might now be opposed to it. Mitchell said he was one of those voters.

Stinky October 17, 2011 at 04:55 PM
SMART is coming to Sonoma County too! Have you ever taken the Larkspur Ferry? Did you have to drive there? You'll have every oppurtunity to do the same with SMART. Taxes built the roads you drive on every day, as well as the ones you don't drive on. Roads built before you earned your first dollar. This is how democracy works; We all take a vote, and sometimes you lose.
Stinky October 17, 2011 at 04:57 PM
There's no such thing as a "train to nowhere."
Stinky October 17, 2011 at 05:06 PM
I can hardly wait either, and am deeply saddened. Folks seem to think using "their money" to build alternative transportation projects is wrong. Who do they think built the roads before they were born? Let's not have yet another expensive ballot measure. Please people, if you have concerns with SMART officials, please find the agency/government representative in charge and make your voice heard.
Frankie2011 November 18, 2011 at 01:27 AM
Yes I did see the salaries, and benefits for City of Petaluma! It's the biggest part of this City's budget. How nice, isnt it? Heaven forbid that reduce their dam salaries and benefits! OMG! Get Real politicians of Petaluma! We should start a petition to lower their salaries and benefits. That's step one !
Worry November 18, 2011 at 01:46 AM
Hey all.. lets follow the path of the enlightened folks in Europe: "I mean the example that I love, was an example that was figured out by a former finance minister named Stefanos Manos. And Manos sat down and showed me that the Greek National Railroad generates a mere $100 million euro in revenues a year, and pays out $400 million euro in salaries to the employees of the Greek National Railroad. He'd actually made a calculation that it would be cheaper to put the Greeks who took the trains into taxi cabs than to keep this railroad running." Michael Lewis http://www.npr.org/2011/11/17/142437694/lack-of-trust-underlies-greeces-societal-problems

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