Five to Four
Sidran's Monorail Charade
Judging from the way he talks, you'd think mayoral candidate Mark Sidran was monorail candidate Grant Cogswell.
For example, a September 27 Sidran press release states: "[At] an estimated cost of less than $100 million per mile, [the] monorail may cost about a third less... than light rail's estimated $150 million per mile and [the monorail] would have a separate right of way.... There isn't enough money to deliver on what Sound Transit promised the voters in 1996 and it will be extraordinarily difficult to pay for a monorail to boot."
Don't be fooled. Sidran's monorail leanings are an exercise in shameless political opportunism, as well as personal historical revisionism. While Sidran sees the political benefits of supporting the monorail today, as Seattle City Attorney he led the legal battle against the popular citizen initiative.
In March 2000, Tom Carr, chair of the beleaguered monorail board (the Elevated Transportation Company), sent a letter to Sidran asking the city attorney to take legal action on behalf of the monorail. (I-41, the original monorail initiative passed by voters in 1997, mandated financial support from the city, and the city was ignoring that charge.) Sidran fired back a curt letter to Carr the next day saying the city attorney's office would not help the ETC.
Not only did Sidran withhold his support, but as legal counsel for the city he went on the offensive against the monorail. Sidran advised city council members that I-41 did not require public support, and that the council was correct to fight the ETC. Thanks to Sidran's sage advice, the council battled the monorail in court.
In its legal brief against the monorail, Sidran's office argued that the city council could pull the financial plug on the monorail. Sidran's Assistant City Attorney Gary Keese wrote: "That choice is left to the City Council.... Nothing in I-41 creates a specific... legal duty to publicly fund the monorail...."
In a strongly worded opinion trashing Sidran's legal shenanigans against the monorail, Superior Court Judge J. Kathleen Learned called the city's position "inconsistent" and "insupportable." Learned sided with the ETC, ultimately ruling that the city could not simply withhold money from the monorail.
Sidran may argue that his anti-monorail position was dictated by his legal clients, the anti-monorail city council. But this is nonsense. Sidran's job is not simply to rush to the defense of the city--but more important, his job is to provide the city with preemptive legal guidance. Thanks to his disdain for the monorail (during a 1997 city council meeting, he famously belittled it as a 1962 World's Fair relic like the "Bubbleator" ride) Sidran provided disingenuous and faulty legal counsel to the city.
So the next time you catch Sidran singing the praises of the monorail, ask him why he waged a legal battle against it as recently as last year.