In the waning weeks of the monorail's precarious existence, Seattle Monorail Project board member Cleve Stockmeyer—who cowrote the second monorail initiative in 2000 after the city council killed the project the first time around—emerged as the most compelling spokesperson for the doomed project. Humbled by the $11 billion fiasco, yet unapologetically vocal in his demand that the agency recover and build the monorail, Stockmeyer went down with class during a process that was otherwise ugly, dishonest, and heartbreaking.
What does this defeat do forfuture grassroots efforts?
The burden is now on the politicians and the opponents of the monorail because they all claim to be pro-transit. If they come up with an alternative rapid transit system for the western half of Seattle that is better than the monorail—faster than trains every six minutes, lower costs than $160 million a mile—I will say, "Thank you for killing the monorail." And if they don't, not only does it depress grassroots politics, it depresses their politics. How are they going to say, "Please give us another $1.5 billion to get light rail from 45th Street to Northgate. Ballard, and West Seattle, please tax yourself"?
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat said without establishment support you ended up with nowhere to turn.
The political class didn't support the monorail. But you shouldn't blame the people for trying to make something happen. That's like blaming people for not being powerful. The P-Iºº Robert Jamieson said, "It was your fault you didn't have the political class behind you." No. It was the political class's fault they weren't behind us. The political class decided to kill it off, instead of reviving it. There was nothing any more wrong with the monorail than with light rail. But they gathered around light rail like when someone goes into the hospital and their family gathers around, and they rally, and they donate blood. And then there's Tony Soprano with the pillow suffocating his mother. In all this time, the mayor, the council, no one ever came to us with solutions or help. At no time did they ever come to us and say, "If you do this, we will support it." We asked Nickels, "Will you actually support it if we do a billion dollar line from West Seattle to King Street?" as he requested. He said, "No, I cannot promise to support it."
So when I look back, the one thing I can say for sure is this wasn't intergovernmental cooperation to fulfill the people's will. The sad news for the people is we could have had a mass transit system, and instead we will get nothing. The reason is: Nickels wants to get his hands on [the MVET] or the presence of that tax stream.
There was a startling photo of you after the election results came in. You were ripping up a map of Seattle.
It was the map of the light rail and monorail where I was ripping off the western half of the city. I was saying, "This is what the political leaders have done." They have ripped the city in two. There won't be anything in the western half of the city. And that's not a city transit system. The monorail was the best thing for light rail. We should have been having joint press conferences announcing that each system enhances the ridership of the other system. There was such synergy here that was never explored.
When did you first see the $11 billion number?
In the newspaper. I want to be very clear. That was a failure. But it's not like we ever adopted an $11 billion plan. Sound Transit has a billion-dollar cost overrun, and we have to pay it. We never approved paying the $11 billion. It was a proposal. So there was a failure of oversight. I share responsibility for that, the whole board does. I think most of the responsibility lies with Joel Horn and Tom Weeks; they were running this thing in a dysfunctional way. We would ask for information and get blown off.
The mayor's office said your final plan denied the financial reality.
It is bullshit to say our 38-year finance plan was a deal breaker. That's arbitrary. It is bullshit to say what the mayor was quoted in the papers saying: "They can't finance it!" It's also bullshit because the policy of paying a little bit more is okay for every other project in this region. The airport expansion was $4 billion. What do we get? You shave 10 minutes off a third of the flights.