Horn does move fast. For example, his brand-new agency has already set up six four-hour community meetings (hand-delivering invites to every resident whose front door sits on the proposed monorail line), hired a slew of talent, including a former Bay Area Rapid Transit exec, and contracted a design team, VIA Suzuki. The rapid-fire moves have left critics alarmed that decisions are being made without public input. (On the plus side, with a guy like Horn--who's already announcing the date of the monorail's opening day: December 15, 2007--we think a rapid transit system is finally going to get built in this town!)
The upcoming set of neighborhood monorail meetings, which began January 21 at West Seattle High School--where Horn's Seattle Popular Monorail Authority (SPMA) is presenting preliminary plans to communities along the 14-mile line--are likely to be showdowns between Horn's impatient go-go attitude and Seattle's overwrought, consensus-happy approach.
In fact, Stambor--who already led a successful community effort in 2001 to check the $20 million aquarium project--is putting together a monorail watchdog group that she hopes will be a force at the meetings. She wants to ensure the sessions serve as forums for meaningful public input rather than dog and pony shows with predetermined results.
"Is it really an opportunity to weigh in," Stambor asks, "or is it already a done deal?"
Stambor, a regular at CityClub meetings and an active member of the League of Women Voters (she's in the group's Port of Seattle watchdog group), already has some complaints about the way the SPMA is doing business.
Stay-at-home-mom Stambor says her alarm bells went off last summer when the SPMA predecessor, the Elevated Transportation Company (ETC), ran bus ads to promote public meetings. She felt the ads were campaign-driven. Currently, she's concerned with how hastily Horn himself was appointed to the $172,000 top spot--and the series of appointments Horn has made since.
"Joel Horn was just kind of put in there," she says, "and just kind of appointed his buddies from Wright Runstad. And people start asking, 'What's going on here? Is this a good old boys' club?'" Stambor doesn't want the monorail to be a pork barrel for Horn's real-estate contacts from his real-estate days. (For the record, Horn was appropriately appointed by the SPMA board, and only one of Horn's seven director hires had anything to do with Wright Runstad.)
Stambor says she has nothing against a monorail particularly--although she voted against the plan because she didn't like the tax. (With two cars, a 1998 Acura and a 1999 Saturn, she'll be paying $521 a year, the Department of Licensing says.)
Stambor simply believes in accountability for public projects. "Look what we've gotten stuck with on Sound Transit," she complains. "It's not my goal to stop monorail. I just want openness and transparency."
Her penchant for accountability comes from research she did for the League of Women Voters on public-private partnerships. On that project, she discovered a lack of public oversight on contracts, which led to sweet deals for private parties. As a Magnolia neighbor, she's predominantly angered about the West Galer Street Flyover, which featured a contract favoring Immunex's private interests at the public's expense. ["Corporate Infection," Josh Feit, March 21, 2002.]
"The city council left themselves wide open to pay [Immunex's] costs," she complains. "I don't trust the council to do oversight on the monorail. We need a separate group."