It's all systems go in the regional effort to yank funding away a planned passenger train system through Marin and Sonoma counties.
Despite a new addendum to the petition to kill a thre-year-old, quarter-cent sales tax increase to fun the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system between Santa Rosa and San Rafael, volunteers continue to gather signatures to try and place the referendum on a ballot next year.
RepealSMART said in a release Tuesday that it is moving forward in the manner approved by election officials and California's Secretary of State. If the effort is successful, SMART would have to find funding elsewhere to start its commuter rail project, designed to alleviate traffic on Highway 101 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
SMART Executive Director Farhad Mansourian said this summer that the repeal effort is bound to fail because more than two-thirds of register voters in Marin and Sonoma counties voted for the sales tax increase in 2008 and are ready for alterative transportation.
At its meeting on Oct. 19, SMART's board of directors voted to change the rules for the RepealSMART signature-gathering effort and require an impartial statement to be included on the petitions. California's top elections authority rejected the legality of SMART’s action when the Secretary of State's office stated that a newly created SMART election ordinance does not follow California law.
"We are crystal clear the ordinance does not meet state law," said Nicole Winger, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State, according to a release from RepealSMART.
RepealSMART’s effort will allow voters to decide whether they want to continue paying sales tax to build the train project, which has severe financial problems. The sales tax increase known as Measure Q is the primary funding source for SMART.
“The SMART board of directors should play by the rules," said RepealSMART spokesman Clay Mitchell. "It should revisit its improper election ordinance, which does not meet state law, and repeal the ordinance immediately. There is no question that the state constitution trumps the local ordinance."
Mitchell said RepealSMART would continue to comply with the California Secretary of State and the local county registrars in the initiative process.