ON MONDAY, September 18, the city council voted 8-0 to put I-53, the new monorail initiative, on the November 7 ballot. The city council didn't have a choice: Having gathered the required number of signatures, I-53 was headed for the ballot anyway. If voters approve I-53 this November, they will resurrect the Elevated Transportation Committee (or the ETC, which was killed by the city council in July) and fund a $6 million study of an expanded monorail system. The ETC will have two years to draft a proposal for an expanded monorail--complete with routes and funding sources--before submitting it to voters to accept or reject.

Monday's vote was a victory for Peter Sherwin, Grant Cogswell, and the pro-monorail group Rise Above It All. Last July, the city refused to pass a $4 million monorail study proposed by Nick Licata and Judy Nicastro, and the council went on to gut the original monorail initiative (I-41). At that point, Rise Above It All filed a new monorail initiative, gathering 30,000 signatures in less than two months. But just turning in the signatures wasn't enough: The King County Records and Elections Division disqualified scores of valid signatures, which prompted local attorney and monorail supporter Christopher Beer to sue the city and the county over the issue for the second time this year. Records and Elections caved, and informed the city that--well, what do you know?--I-53 had plenty of valid signatures.

"When 30,000 people sign an initiative in less than two months," says Beer, "it becomes obvious even to the most closed-minded of our elected officials that voters care about an issue, and they have to take it seriously." After Monday's vote, some members of the city council --Richard McIver, Jan Drago, and Jim Compton--seemed shell-shocked. Council Member Heidi Wills, who sponsored the ordinance that gutted the ETC last July, pulled a 180 by asking her colleagues to enact I-53 without sending it to the ballot (one of the council's two legal options). Rather than enact I-53, the council voted to put it on the ballot. Clearly, the monorail is an issue that refuses to die. It's the Freddy Krueger of Seattle City Politics: Every time Margaret Pageler, McIver, Drago, and Compton think they've finally managed to kill the monorail, it jumps back up and terrorizes them again.

"We had I-53 coming to us," says Peter Steinbrueck. "We asked for it."

But I-53 isn't safely out of the woods yet. McIver, the monorail's biggest foe on the council, will make one last attempt to kill I-53 on Friday, September 22, when the city council meets to consider placing two competing "monorail" proposals on the ballot.

"One proposal," wrote The Seattle Times, "would give $2 million to [study] 'integrated in-city transit service,' including a monorail.... The other proposal would authorize the city to spend $6 million on a monorail expansion. [McIver's proposed resolution would suggest] that an expansion funded solely by property taxes could cost the average homeowner up to $1,141 a year."

While the two extra proposals appear to be pro-monorail, they actually represent a transparent ploy to kill the monorail. By crowding the ballot with three pro-monorail proposals, McIver hopes to confuse voters and divide the pro-monorail vote. If monorail supporters split their votes between three proposals, the end result will be that all three fall short. Having divided the pro-monorail vote by packing the ballot with phony "pro-monorail" resolutions, McIver (as well as Pageler, Drago, and Compton) will then be able to declare the monorail dead--and claim that the voters killed it.

"I think it's completely disingenuous," says Rise Above It All treasurer Patrick Kylen, who declared his intention to run against Jan Drago this week. "By proposing alternatives to I-53, council members continue to demonstrate dismissive attitudes toward the voters."

"They want to try and confuse voters," says Beer. "The city council has demonstrated again and again that it doesn't think too highly of voters. What McIver is proposing is just the latest example of the contempt the council has for Seattle's voters."