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King City hitches a ride on regional anti-light rail fight

King City residents will vote in September, but Tualatin and Sherwood will not make deadline for November ballot


by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT - Opponents of MAX light rail hope to put the measure before voters in Tigard, Tualatin, Sherwood and King City, but so far only King City voters will see ballot initiativesKing City has become ground zero for those working to put initiatives opposing light rail on several local ballots.

For months, petitioners in King City, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood have been working to gather enough valid signatures.

On July 11, King City’s City Council reluctantly approved a plan to put the measure in front of voters in the Sept. 18 special election.

The goal was to put four separate measures before voters in Tigard, Tualatin, King City and Sherwood to amend the cities’ charters, preventing them from contributing to possible MAX light-rail lines.

TriMet has said for years its next regional priority for high-capacity transit would be along Southwest Barbur Boulevard through Tigard and into Sherwood.next regional priority for high-capacity transit would be along Southwest Barbur Boulevard through Tigard and into Sherwood.

Only the King City petition made the deadline to appear in the September special election.

Petitioners in King City could have agreed to wait until the November general election as those in Tigard have done, but opted instead for September.

“I thought we would opt for the November ballot, but the others working on this want to make King City an example of a city that says no,” said Billie Reynolds, the chief petitioner for the King City initiative. “They think King City voters will support the initiative and turn down light rail.

“Think (about) what will happen — Sherwood and Tigard might say no,” Reynolds added. “No one expected this to happen.”

According to the initiative, King City’s City Council would not be able to authorize city resources to be spent on financing, design, construction or operation of any public rail transit system without city voters approving an authorization ordinance in an election.

Reynolds said almost all the signature-gatherers in King City were local residents who “worked” their own streets, knocking on doors and talking to people.

“I would say that 5 to 7 percent of the people I talked to really want light rail to come down 99W,” she said. “Another 10 percent were indifferent, so about 15 percent were OK with it. That means 85 percent were against it.

“People don’t want the crime and high-density housing that follows light rail. Most women in King City, being older, are not going to use light rail. They can’t walk to the bus stop now. They are not going to walk to or from 99W home at night, especially if they use canes or walkers.

“Most people see this as futile and terribly costly,” she added. “With the right of way that light rail would take, not a lot of the businesses along 99W have 12 feet of frontage to give up. Several will go out of business.”

On the other hand, council members said approval of the initiative would severely limit how the city does business and how council members and staff interact with the public and other governmental bodies.

At the contentious City Council meeting July 11, King City leaders voted 7 to 0 to put the measure on the Sept. 18 ballot, which will cost the city $3,300. The council could have adopted the measure as presented, thereby putting it into effect, or put it on the September ballot for the voters to decide.

“The city is smack in the middle of 99W — why would we not want to be involved in discussions about this?” asked Councilor Suzan Turley at the meeting. “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).”

Turley asked chief petitioner Billie Reynolds, who was sitting in the audience at the council meeting, “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.”

Councilor Dave Newham, who remained silent until the end of the council discussion, said, “The state of Oregon owns 99W — they can put anything they want down it. It’s a mute point."

To learn more about the ballot initiatives, click here

Other cities weigh in

Petitioners in Tigard have turned in more than the 3,800 signatures needed to Washington County to place a similar initiative on Tigard’s ballot in time for the November general election. The county is currently verifying the signatures. Petitioner Art Crino said he expects the initiative to make it onto the November ballot.

He said the initiative isn’t about saying no to light rail — although he says it’s too expensive and won’t fix the region’s significant congestion issues — but it’s about the process.

“It isn’t for or against light rail, it’s for or against an election,” Crino said. “If the people of Tigard want light rail, then we’ll get it. Metro is very anxious to provide it.”

But things haven’t been so lucky in Tualatin and Sherwood.

The deadline to turn in signatures to Washington County was Tuesday.

Proponents in Sherwood pulled their petition after a Washington County Circuit Court ruled in June that the Sherwood city attorney was not obligated to use the petitioners’ examples on the initiative’s ballot title.

The ballot title the city wrote said the city would not be allowed to attend meetings about light rail and city-owned buildings could not be used to host meetings without public approval.

The petition was withdrawn on July 16.

In Tualatin, deputy City Recorder Maureen Smith said signatures would have been needed by Tuesday in order for the city to go through the necessary process to get it onto the November ballot.

“It isn’t feasible,” she said. “If they do bring them in, it will have to be for the special election in March.”

— Geoff Pursinger contributed to this article



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