As the Seattle Monorail Project started to disintegrate after its disastrous $11 billion financing plan was released last summer, monorail board chairwoman Kristina Hill remained one of the agency's most dogged proponents, replacing Tom Weeks as board chair during the agency's most troubled period ever. At meetings that, by early September, stretched well into the evening three or four nights a week, Hill, a member of the original ETC Board since 1998, sat stolidly while monorail opponents hurled invectives and accusations; now, she says, she's looking forward to no longer having to "waste my life hearing from these people who are basically complainers."

Can you put your finger on the moment when things started to fall apart?

I remember when (former King County Councilmember) Lois North was on the board. She had gone around and talked to the elected officials—Ron Sims, Paul Schell, Ed Murray—and she came to the conclusion that there was no support for it in the establishment. She said, you will never get this built because the elected leadership is not going to allow it to be built. That is the moment that I look back to now and say, wow, why didn't I pay attention? I was willing to dream for so long that it could happen. I didn't think that was the fundamental issue.

In retrospect, maybe I would have resigned when Lois North left. You can't build infrastructure by initiative. There is no infrastructure in the United States that has been built by petition—none!—and you have to ask yourself why. I think that maybe it's because political leadership is really vanity leadership, not principled leadership.

Do you think defending the $11 billion plan, rather than denouncing it, was a mistake?

Joel [Horn] and Tom [Weeks], for all their faults, actually do know something about money. For all I think they're autocratic or they had a tendency to be unavailable, they knew something about money. When they reasoned through it, the idea of borrowing from 2040 to 2050 to pay for today's transit system made sense.

If I had known then what I know now—that there was no way to dig us out of the $11 billion hole—logic would dictate that, for god's sake, the last thing you want to do is go to the ballot.

A lot of people blame Joel Horn's leadership style for the agency's downfall. To what extent was Joel the problem?

Any time you bring someone in from the private sector to run a government agency, there are risks. When I came in as board chair, I spent an entire month kissing asses all over the Puget Sound region. I ate a lot of shit. I have never seen Joel eat shit. I don't think he realized the extent to which politics in this region requires you go apologize to people and act like you think they're fabulous even though you don't. He is not good at that and that is an essential skill around here. It is not a meritocracy. The smart people are not in charge. He wasn't good at that and over time he collected enemies.

Was there any way the monorail could have gotten the political establishment to sign off on the project?

If [the mayor's office] had said, "I will support this if you take the devil incarnate to be your interim executive director," I would have said yes. I would have sold my soul. It would be the Nickels Green Line. I would have done anything to see it get built. Between June and September, I would have taken any legal deal and I would have sold it to the board. I was not offered a deal of any kind. There was never any kind of an olive branch from them. I'm an eight-year veteran of a citizen volunteer project and the message I got in the end was "we don't want your help; we'll solve this problem ourselves." I really felt the city government told us as citizens, fuck you—you're on your own. I think that has a really chilling effect.