Selig, who owns at least six cars (including a 2003 Land Rover and a 2002 Mercedes), is funding a campaign that is misleading--and clever. His anti-monorail group is falsely portraying all the details of the current monorail plan as "changes" that render the monorail project radically different from what voters approved in 2002. It's a tactic that polls well in a city that's fed up with being misled by government agencies like Sound Transit.
To make the case, you'd expect Selig's anti-monorail campaign to have damning examples similar to the egregious changes Sound Transit made to its original plan: 10 years late, one-third short of its original route, two-thirds short on its original ridership projections, and putting voters on the hook for an additional $1.7 billion--a 68 percent increase from the original cost.
Selig's anti-monorail campaign, however, isn't talking about these sorts of problems (because these sort of fundamental problems don't exist with the monorail). They're bitching about things like shadows, the monorail's decision to use high-speed glass elevators instead of escalators, and the use of switches.
It's no wonder Selig's troops are bringing up subjective gripes and off-point minutiae to topple the larger monorail project. When it comes to the fundamental blueprint (which is all voters approved in 2002), the anti-monorail campaign cannot make the case that voters have been betrayed.
The route approved by the monorail board last March, and subsequently approved by the city council in May, is exactly what voters mandated in 2002: a 14-mile line that will run from Ballard through downtown to West Seattle, provide 69,000 rides a day, and run trains every three to four minutes downtown and six to eight minutes in the neighborhoods. Admittedly, there is one glaring change from 2002: The project's estimated $1.6-billion price tag represents $150 million in savings from the original price ($1.75 billion) approved by voters.
There are also a slew of other "changes." However, far from being a betrayal of the public trust, these changes were generated during the public process after a year's worth of city council meetings and over 100 community meetings at places like Ballard High School, West Seattle High School, and Benaroya Hall. The list includes moving the alignment 15 feet away from buildings instead of just eight feet; additional trains running on the monorail tracks between King Street and Seattle Center to serve higher downtown ridership; column placement that preserves bike lanes over parking lanes on Second Avenue; curbside alignments (instead of center-street alignments that clog traffic and turn lanes); and station sites that don't displace as many businesses (for instance, the final route saved Guppy's bar on California Avenue Southwest in West Seattle, the Seattle Glassblowing Studio on Fifth Avenue, and eight indie businesses by repositioning Alaska Junction station).
The anti-monorail campaign's favorite line, though, is that voters were never apprised of the term of the monorail tax. That is patently false. In 2002, the monorail agency explicitly said it would administer the 1.4 percent motor vehicle excise tax until the bonds were paid off. In documentation that has been publicly available since August 2002, the agency estimated they'd need between 34 and 37 years to do so.
More important, the tax has unprecedented checks placed upon it. For example, here's what's also been in the tax plan for two years: a $1.5 billion bonding cap. In other words, voters put a limit on how much the agency can go into debt, and logically, how much taxpayers are on the hook. "We don't have a cap on how long the tax can be collected," monorail finance director Jonathan Buchter has admitted, "but we do have a cap on how much."
"How much" certainly seems like the germane issue for taxpayers. In fact, the monorail agency's ability to draw out the payment schedule means future Seattleites will share the costs of this public transportation system.
Additionally, the value of the taxable base (cars) increased exactly as the monorail agency predicted this year--scofflaws who evade the MVET aside--by 6.2 percent. This means the agency is on track, despite last year's revenue shortfall, to easily fund the $1.6 billion system.
For a handy rebuttal to the anti-monorail campaign's other obstructionist red herrings--"soaks up taxes for basic services" (um, public transportation is a basic service); "monorail riders already ride buses" (the plan assumes 20,000 drivers will convert to monorail, and besides, bus riders deserve better transit); "it's noisy!" (70 decibels at 50 feet in the air is quieter than a car or a truck and certainly Selig's SUVs); "it casts shadows and blocks views" (to say nothing of Martin Selig's buildings); and oh, "those damn glass elevators!" (take the stairs)--check out this useful website: www.buildthemonorail.com/23distortions.
It's also worth noting that this whole revote is potentially illegal. In fact, a King County Superior Court judge ruled just that on August 13--tossing out the "recall" on the spot after hearing a motion for summary judgment. Judge Steven Gonzalez ruled that I-83 circumvented the process voters mandated for recalling the monorail--a process that requires petitioners to show significant financial problems. (Again, the monorail is no Sound Transit, and so it's unlikely that anti-monorail folks could have met that test.) Instead--and here's where the "recall" campaign ran into legal problems with Gonzalez--Selig's campaigners did an end run around the process, floating an initiative that focused on city permitting. Gonzalez found the permitting initiative illegal, explaining that only local governments, not initiative campaigns, have the power to dictate growth management policy. (Otherwise, rich landowners could simply ignore sprawl guidelines through bought-and-paid-for initiatives.) There's also an outstanding legal question about the validity of 10,000 I-83 signatures, which Gonzalez ruled were obtained under a misleading ballot title.
Unfortunately, the Washington State Court of Appeals decided not to weigh in on any of these legal issues (the illegitimate sigs, the recall process, or the growth management implications) until after the election.