The buildup was hot and heavy, but the climax was a letdown. Earlier this week, the Monorail Recall campaign announced breathlessly that it would turn in an astonishing 37,000 signatures for its monorail-killing initiative. This time, though, almost none of the press folks who assembled for last week's feverish, last-minute press conference bothered to show, leaving Ayn Rand clone Liv Finne and her very own Nathaniel Branden, Recall board member Jim Day, looking a little forlorn in front of a solo television camera--or so I'm told. The second I slipped out to grab some coffee, Finne and Day hightailed it up two flights to the City Clerk's office, where, a helpful pro-monorail spy who was present informs me, they plunked down to start poring through the boxes of signatures. The measure still faces plenty of hurdles on its way to the November election, including two lawsuits and the city council, which could put the measure off until a later election.
It didn't hurt that Finne and her cronies had a little help from a deep-pocketed friend: real estate magnate Martin Selig. But Selig did more than just donate tens of thousands of dollars to the anti-monorail cause: He also enlisted the help of his security guards, on company time, to gather signatures from hapless visitors to his buildings. "I encourage all my guards to collect signatures," Selig told me bluntly. "They ask everybody who comes in the door to sign." But on Tuesday, one day after I called Ethics and Elections head Wayne Barnett to ask him what he thought of the guards' on-the-clock volunteering, Selig had changed his tune. "I've reported [the guards' time] as an in-kind contribution," Selig said. "Thanks for bringing this to my attention."
That's a pretty creative use of employee time. But not as creative as some of the things paid signature gatherers have reportedly told voters in their quest to get as many names as possible on the anti-monorail rolls. Among the more inventive pitches, according to folks who have been approached: "They're only going to build four miles." (It's 14). "They're over budget." (Not true.) "They're overvaluing your car." (Blame the state, not the monorail.) Deceit trumps honesty, every time.
Monorail bidder Team Monorail--headed by Bombardier, whose faulty software delayed the opening of the Las Vegas monorail line by more than six months--has asked the Seattle Monorail Project for an extension on its bid, claiming it needs extra time to come up with a plan that meets the SMP's new 2009 deadline. (Previously, the agency planned to open an initial segment in 2007, followed by the entire line in 2009.) But in a letter last week, Team Monorail competitor Cascadia Monorail Company, headed by Hitachi, informed the council that it "does not require any additional time" to make the changes SMP requested. Another possible explanation for Team Monorail's request: The team, which lost three members in April, still has to get SMP approval for its new partners before it can go forward with its bid. SMP spokesperson Natasha Jones says the agency "has no plans" to grant the extension.