As the monorail plan moves closer to the November vote, debate is heating up at the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC). Should the monorail run down Second Avenue or Fifth? How much advertising should stations have? Will the monorail run 24 hours a day? The latest debate, however, is more fundamental.

At issue: Will the new ETC board, in charge of the construction, implementation, and day-to-day operation of a future Seattle monorail, be elected or appointed? (After the November vote, the current ETC will be disbanded.) Because of the immense power the new ETC board will wield, monorail supporters like I-53 author Peter Sherwin are pushing for elected board positions.

Most of the current ETC board and staff, however, disagree. The ETC argues that direct appointments are the best way to keep the monorail on track. The less time board members have to think about getting themselves elected, they say, the more they'll be able to focus on the monorail. And there's always the possibility that some moron with a slick campaign and no working knowledge of the monorail could get a board seat. "Implementing a $1 billion monorail system is going to be very complicated," says ETC technical coordinator Joel Horn. "We need the best people possible."

A compromise may be in the works. Critics may drop their insistence on elected board members if the ETC sets up strict accountability measures. For example, if the ETC goes with the appointed board, then the public would be empowered to remove the board. If costs spin out of control (à la Sound Transit) or the board refuses to listen to the public, a petition with just 20,000 signatures could oust the board and set up a new governance structure.

"There's got to be recourse if something goes wrong," says Grant Cogswell, I-41 co-author and recent city council candidate.

pat@thestrager.com

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