Monorail supporters, long convinced that the recall effort was anything but grassroots, were not surprised by the news that Monorail Recall would turn to paid signature gatherers to do its work. "This certainly doesn't look like a grassroots movement," says Monorail leader Peter Sherwin. "It also goes against what they've been saying about the ease with which they'd get the signatures."
Additional fodder for those like Sherwin who believe Monorail Recall is the antithesis of a grassroots movement can be found on the recall group's finance reports. Monorail Recall's biggest donor, according to April filings, is Second Avenue property magnate Martin Selig. Selig owns an $80 million office building on Second between Spring and Madison Streets. He is also a member of OnTrack--a separate anti-monorail group devoted to lobbying the city council to block the monorail. The group has not disclosed its finances. [See this week's "Lobbying Loophole."] OnTrack's membership includes wealthy Second Avenue property owners who've been working behind the scenes to scuttle the monorail because the line runs down Second. In addition to Selig, OnTrack's membership includes Equity Office Properties, which owns nearly $400 million worth of property on Second, Aaron Alhadeff (who owns $22.4 million on Second), and Matt Griffin (who owns $5.6 million on Second).
"We have believed for some time that Monorail Recall and OnTrack are connected," says John Arthur Wilson of the pro-monorail group Monorail Now. Indeed, Selig gave Monorail Recall $1,000 on April 1.
Monorail Recall's other largest donor, Fred Kettlewell--who gave $1,000--is not a Second Avenue property owner, but is a big property owner along the monorail line in West Seattle. "I have several properties in West Seattle," Kettlewell says, "and I'm worried about my property values and also the views of my tenants."
He may have another interest in killing the monorail as well. He owns a gas-guzzling Hummer. So, thanks to the monorail's 1.4 percent motor vehicle excise tax, Kettlewell pays at least $1,280 in monorail tax. That's a lot of cash. He'd probably rather spend it on gas for his 10 mpg steel beast.
"Two fill-ups of that Hummer would pay for my MVET," says Monorail Now leader Sherwin, referring to the monorail tax.
"That's funny," Kettlewell says, "but it has nothing to do with why I'm against the monorail. What I drive is of no interest to anybody."
Actually, it is interesting that a leader in the monorail recall effort drives a Hummer. Heck, if the monorail agency succeeds at nixing a traffic lane along its downtown route to accomadate a bike lane, I imagine Kettlewell wont have enough room to drive his oversized Hummer there.
Monorail Recall's grassroots image isn't the only disinformation coming from the campaign. On May 28, the monorail agency and several monorail supporters filed a lawsuit against Monorail Recall in King County Superior Court, saying the group's ballot title would mislead voters. The suit, joined by enviro group Transportation Choices Coalition, the Seattle/King County Building and Construction Trades Council, the Seattle Glassblowing Studio and Gallery (a business along the monorail route), and Uwajimaya CEO Tomio Moriguchi challenges the recall's "inaccurate" ballot title. The title simply says the initiative "concerns" monorail permits, as opposed to the more accurate "prohibits" them.