King City will vote on 'light rail' measure in September
City Council reluctantly agrees to mandatory-but-costly election
Should King City have a say in whether a light-rail system runs along Pacific Highway from Portland to Sherwood?
Following a contentious, verbal free-for-all at the July 11 City Council meeting, council members voted 7 to 0 to put a measure on the Sept. 18 special election ballot that would prevent the city from spending any money or staff time on discussions or decisions regarding light rail.
Ballot titles are limited to 10 words, and the caption for the measure approved by the city attorney reads, "Voter Approval of City Resources for 'Public Rail Transit Systems.'"
Councilor Suzan Turley said, "The title is terrible. It's not about a public rail system. The city is smack in the middle of 99W - why would we not want to be involved in discussions about this?
"It is appalling to me that our city would not want to be involved in discussions that would drastically, drastically affect us. I have faith our voters will (do the right thing)."
She added that voters need to be educated on the issue, and "if they don't like us, there will be three openings on the council in the November election. (The anti-light-rail group) wants us to lie down and play dead."
Council members made it clear that they were opposed to the measure, but their choice was either to adopt the measure as presented, thereby putting it into effect, or put it on the September ballot for the voters to decide.
Councilor Dick Winn called the measure unconstitutional.
"It abridges our duty as a City Council," he said. "We must be able to do our job as city councilors. We should require our city attorneys to get some fire in their guts and protect us. Get an injunction! It's wrong! In this particular case, they can't abridge our rights to do our job."
In response to a question, City Manager Dave Wells said the city had spent approximately $7,000 to date on the issue, mostly in attorney fees, and the special election will cost the city another $3,300.
Councilor Malka Sekey added, "It really is non-democratic It's horrendous - horrendous in ways that go beyond this measure."
Councilor Ken Gibson said, "People don't realize the impact - we won't even be able to discuss this."
Turley asked chief petitioner Billie Reynolds, who was sitting in the audience, "Was there any thought given to the cost of this?"
Reynolds replied, "Your $3,300 is small compared to the $25 million cost to Milwaukie (for the Clackamas County light-rail expansion project). I'm grassroots. I have friends who are very unhappy with what's happening. We don't want something rammed down our throats.
"Maybe the solution is more buses, but not light rail with only two cars because that is the number that can get through Portland intersections on a light. A lot of people are being harmed. We would lose businesses long 99W that would lose their right of way - this is not right."
Turley, who represents the city on the Southwest Corridor Commission, replied, "There is so much misunderstanding. We are discussing transportation along the 99W corridor - all kinds of things. Light rail is the teeniest, tiniest part of a broader discussion.
"As a King City resident, I want to have a say on whether a train comes down 99W. I have talked to citizens on both sides of the issue, and some are very concerned about the ramifications of this (measure)."
Gibson said to Reynolds, "We would not sit here and make an arbitrary decision on something. When you take (decision-making) away from us, our hands our tied if we can't even discuss it. We can't make a decision you elected us to make."
Sekey asked Reynolds where she suggested the $3,300 would come from in the city's budget, and Reynolds said she was confident the city could come up with the funds and added, "I was told by two councilors, 'This is a republic - we vote, and you don't.'
"We understood the cost of this. And we thought (by putting this measure on the ballot) that people in King City would have the chance to speak up, not just the council."
Sekey emphasized, "We are here to serve the citizens, and (this measure) takes away from us the option to even discuss it. Did you realize the consequences of the wording on the measure? This keeps us from speaking about this.
"This is a city with citizens who can't drive. Shouldn't we be allowed to discuss public transportation?"
Gibson added, "This is saying there is a lack of trust in letting us decide if light rail should come down 99W
"(In the signature-gathering process) this has been presented to King City residents in a very one-sided way."
Councilor Dave Newham, who remained silent until the end of the discussion, said, "The state of Oregon owns 99W - they can put anything they want down it. It's a mute point."