Petitions to repeal the quarter-cent sales tax to help pay for the SMART train and pathway between Santa Rosa and San Rafael will contain a summary analysis of the proposed ballot initiative drafted by SMART itself.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District's Board of Directors Wednesday afternoon unanimously approved an ordinance that allows SMART to prepare a neutral analysis of the repeal initiative.
Starting Oct. 26, the analysis will be attached to the petitions being circulated by RepealSMART. Signatures in petitions already collected since last month still will be counted.
It's still uncertain how many signatures will be required to put the tax repeal measure on the ballot next year.
The grassroots organization says the tax should be repealed because voters approved the quarter-cent sales tax in 2008 for a 70-mile rail and bike and pathway between Cloverdale and Larkspur, not the current 37-mile, $360 million rail and pathway segment between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.
SMART downsized the project because of the adverse economy and reduced sales tax revenue since 2008. The "initial operating segment" between Santa Rosa and San Rafael could be in operation in 2014 or 2015, according to SMART. SMART hopes the rest of the rail line and pathway will be completed when funds are available, possibly by 2017-2018.
Several members of RepealSMART this afternoon questioned whether SMART could draft an impartial analysis of the project. Others advised the SMART board of directors to draft its own ballot initiative on whether SMART should proceed with the project and submit it to voters in the spring or fall of 2012 rather than inject itself into the
RepealSMART repeal initiative effort.
Lowell Finley, Chief Counsel for the California Secretary of State, informed the SMART board on Monday it does not have the legal authority to adopt the ordinance.
The SMART board, however, proceeded with the vote on the advice of its two attorneys.
The difference of opinion stems from which section of the state Elections Code applies to the initiative process for districts such as SMART.
Clay Mitchell, spokesman for RepealSMART, said he doesn't know if the group will challenge the vote to approve the ordinance. The deadline to collect signatures on the petitions is Jan. 28.
--Bay City News Service