The ad presents the anti-monorail initiative, I-83, as a stark choice between Sound Transit's light-rail line from downtown to just shy of Sea-Tac Airport and the Seattle Monorail Project's 14-mile monorail from Ballard to downtown to West Seattle. "Instead of two separate systems, how about building one really good one?" the flyer reads. "Yes [on I-83] means creating one good integrated mass transit system."
Despite the anti-monorail campaign's misleading pro-transit rhetoric, dismantling the monorail will not fund Sound Transit. If anything, it will make funding future transit lines more difficult, by setting a precedent under which voters can undo any taxing decision--from the combination of vehicle taxes that funds Sound Transit to a proposed regional-transportation district--the moment they have second thoughts.
The other inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the insert--which include the false claim that the monorail can't run at-grade or underground and a fabricated diagram showing a "potential light rail expansion" to Ballard that can't be found on any Sound Transit map--are too numerous to detail. But one particularly egregious example deserves voters' scrutiny: Near the end of the insert, a chart unfavorably compares the monorail's construction costs to the cost of light-rail systems built decades ago in Charlotte, Dallas, Portland, and San Diego, among others. What it doesn't mention is Sound Transit's scaled-back light-rail system, which, in its current configuration, will cost $171 million a mile. The omission cannot be accidental: The monorail, contrary to the mailer's claim, will cost an estimated $115 million a mile--nearly $1 billion less than Sound Transit's truncated, over-budget rail line.
"Recall" proponents point out that if the project has fundamentally changed, voters should have the right to reject it. That's true: The state legislation that authorized the monorail lays out a specific process for dismantling the agency. But that process--which requires 56,000 signatures and a finding of "significant financial difficulty" by the city attorney--was too arduous for monorail opponents, who instead opted for the sneaky, backdoor route of revoking the agency's land-use permits and permanently banning all monorail facilities in Seattle, which requires a much lower signature threshold. The move could pave the way for citizens to rewrite land-use law, setting a scary precedent that could come back to haunt Seattle in the future. By going around the process set out in state law, the initiative fails every legal and ethical test. "Monorail Recall" isn't a recall at all--it's an attempt to force a revote on a concept that voters have already approved.
For those who see I-83 as an opportunity, however legally questionable, to revote on a project that has gone astray, consider: Of the "recall" campaign's "23 reasons for recall" (conveniently excised from the campaign's new "pro-transit" website but still available at the pro-monorail truth-squad website buildthemonorail.com), not one is a fundamental change from the plan voters approved in 2002. Sure, many of them sound compelling--"preserve historic Seattle Center," for example--but none address promises that were made to voters. The decision to go through or around Seattle Center, for example, was explicitly delayed until after the vote. Other claims--"Elevators instead of escalators!" and "They're tearing down the 1962 monorail!"--are so disingenuous they border on hysteria.
Maybe that's the real reason for the anti-monorail campaign's 11th-hour transformation. But if Monorail Recall was really pro-light rail, they would have been making their "pro-transit" arguments all along--not doing a 180 the instant they realized that their anti-transit histrionics weren't tracking. We urge readers to ignore the anti-monorail campaign's misleading rhetoric and hyperbolic claims and vote, one more time, for fast, reliable mass transit in Seattle. Monorail transit, remember, is a concept Seattle has embraced not once, not twice, but three times--most recently in 2002, when voters approved funding for the Seattle Monorail Project and charged the agency with building a 14-mile monorail line from Ballard to downtown to West Seattle.
Once again, we urge voters to sort out the facts from the misrepresentations. The arguments I-83 supporters are making--from banal claims that the columns will be "ugly" to asinine complaints that the line will ruin the "pristine beauty" of Seattle Center (unlike, say, the Ferris wheel or the Wild River log ride)--are the exact same ones monorail opponents used, unsuccessfully, back in 2002. Now they're back for an illegitimate, and probably illegal, round two.
Voters shouldn't forget how this initiative got onto the ballot in the first place: through a paid signature-gathering effort in which hired guns used misleading statements to convince voters to sign their anti-monorail petitions. There's something deeply offensive about an initiative whose only claim to a spot on the ballot rests on a signature-gathering campaign paid for by a group of wealthy property owners who have opposed the monorail for the better part of a decade. From the beginning, monorail opponents have outspent supporters by tremendous margins, and that's not fair. Martin Selig, Washington Mutual, and Equity Office Properties shouldn't have the right to buy our monorail out from under us.
Initiative 83 isn't a choice between light rail (a regional rail system that will, if it's ever built, connect the inner city to the suburbs) and monorail (inner-city, mass public transit that gets Seattle drivers out of their cars and lifts them above traffic). The monorail will be the first link in a citywide system that will connect neighborhoods, help revitalize and densify the city, and replace slow, clunky bus lines. It's time, once again, to say yes to the monorail--by voting NO on this wrong-headed and destructive anti-mass-transit initiative.