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.