I voted for SMART. In fact, I still believe in the SMART concept, but I am against going full-steam ahead until the voters have a chance to reaffirm this drastically-cut project.
The SMART concept we passed in 2008 and the SMART reality today are two very different truths. We are now only getting only one-half the train and one-third the bike path that we voted for in 2008.
SMART tells us they are now building in “phases” despite that this is not what the voters approved, and they are spending all the money on “Phase I.” The train will not connect to the Larkspur Ferry. Cloverdale and Windsor have already built their stations, yet northern Sonoma County residents will not see the train with their tax dollars for the next 17 years.
When it has changed so drastically, we should vote on this initiative again before undertaking the largest capital works project in North Bay history. It is only fair that we vote on the current reality of SMART and not the 2008 concept. This is why I ask you to please sign our petition.
I formed Repeal SMART about a year ago and we now have more than 1,200 members. There are about 250 volunteers circulating our petition for a ballot initiative to repeal Measure Q, the quarter-cent sales tax in Marin and Sonoma counties that goes toward the passenger rail system.
In October, SMART tried to make us start over and throw out the signatures we had already collected. They wanted to write an “objective” summary for our petition. They wanted to shorten the time we could collect signatures from six months to three. They wanted to make their own general manager, Farhad Mansourian, the elections official instead of the county registrars.
Mr. Mansourian, who was recently hired as one of the highest-compensated public employees in the state despite having no rail experience, wanted the electoral authority to validate our signatures. Unbeknownst to us, the California Secretary of State thankfully intervened and told SMART that they had no legal authority to enact this ordinance. They could not pick and choose which election laws to follow. The SMART board then defiantly voted unanimously to pass their unlawful ordinance.
California voters passed Prop. 218 in 1996, and amended the state constitution that raised the voter threshold for all tax initiatives from the standard simple majority to two-thirds. This is why SMART needed 66.6 percent to pass back in 2008.
Prop 218 also lowered the signature requirement for all tax-repeal initiatives — in the SMART district to 14,902 signatures from 39,651. The voter registrars have told us that they will certify either number of signatures, but SMART will decide which number is sufficient. We don’t think this is fair, as it puts the burden on us to prove in court the very same law that dictated SMART needing 66.6 percent.
SMART wasn’t asked if they wanted Measure Q to pass with a 50.1 percent or 66.6 percent majority, yet they are now allowed to interpret the same law for us. Mr. Mansourian should not be allowed to decide if the voters have the opportunity to vote on whether he keeps his job.
SMART is hitting an all-time low. First, Farhad Mansourian insulted one of our volunteers a couple of weeks ago. She was circulating our petition in front of the Novato post office and he called her a “liar and trust-fund baby.” Now, they have organized a formal campaign to bully our volunteers and intimidate voters into not signing our petition.
They started their “blocking campaign” last weekend, using thugs from their SMARTrider Coalition. Four of our volunteers who happen to be women were “blocked” and harassed until they stopped collecting signatures. This occurred at the Greenbrae CVS store and the Marin Civic Center Farmers Market. These four women’s average age is about 55. Grown men should not be bullying our female volunteers. Our volunteers’ safety is more important, so we will not be scheduling the women alone anymore. We don’t mean to be sexist, and hope you understand. This intimidation of our petition circulators, as well as voters, is an insult to us all.
This disruption of the democratic process and our rights to petition is just wrong. It is as morally reprehensible, as SMART misleading the public into believing they are creating 1,000 local jobs. If they have this supposed “mandate,” why are they so scared to let the people ratify this reduced project? It is not fair to go forward without asking the people if they are satisfied with getting only half the project we approved, for the same price as what we thought the whole project would cost.
Our volunteers should hit the 15,000 signature mark, but unfortunately will not get 40,000 by our Jan. 27 deadline. We wish we could, so the voters can decide without first going through SMART and the courts. We would rather spend our money giving temporary jobs to some of our unemployed neighbors, instead of fighting SMART in the courts.
We want to get 40,000 signatures, so SMART doesn’t get to decide if we have an election.
Therefore, we are now making the following job offer:
We are offering a job to anyone of voting age in Marin or Sonoma to work as a petition-circulator. We will pay you $1 per valid signature. Our volunteers average 10-15 signatures per hour. If you would like a job for the next couple of weeks, please go to repealsmart.org for more information.