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Transit initiative moves closer to Tigard ballot

Petitioners have most of signatures needed to put the measure on ballot


by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Esau checks his voter roll for addresses of people who have previously signed a petition to stop light rail from coming to Tigard. The group has until mid-September to collect 4,122 signatures to put their anti-light rail iniative on the ballot.Armed with a clipboard and petition, Tim Esau is making the rounds across Tigard.

Esau spent his summer marching from house to house collecting signatures for an initiative he hopes to put on the November ballot: stopping a TriMet light-rail line from coming to town.

Esau is part of a group that opposes bringing a high-capacity transit line — such as MAX light rail or bus rapid transit — to Tigard. Metro, TriMet and area cities have worked for years to bring some form of high-capacity transit line to Tigard and Tualatin as part of the Southwest Corridor Plan.

But the deadline to gather signatures is fast approaching. Esau has less than 27 days to collect the 4,122 valid signatures he needs to put the measure on the ballot. At last count, Esau said the group has collected more than 3,000.

“We’ve got a good cut at it so far,” Esau said.

The proposed ballot measure would change the city’s charter to formally oppose construction of any high-capacity transit system without a vote of the people. It’s similar to the ballot measure the group tried to get to voters last year. That measure ultimately failed to gather enough signatures, falling 46 signatures short of making it onto the ballot.

That failure will be remedied this year, Esau said.

“This year we just go down the list,” said Esau, showing a list of registered voters in the area. “I don’t even go to a house that isn’t registered to vote.”

Last year, the group collected signatures at the Tigard Public Library, local supermarkets and at gas stations.

The high-traffic areas drew a lot of signatures — they collected more than 5,600 signatures in a few months — but the majority included people who lived outside of the city or weren’t registered to vote.

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Tim Esau and Andy Bergman go over Tigard neighborhood maps to find the best spots to petition to stop light rail from coming into Tigard.“A lot of people who think they live in Tigard actually don’t,” said Esau, who works as an Intel Corp. systems analyst.

Washington County’s elections office only counts signatures of registered voters in the city, “but people that live on Bull Mountain don’t realize that they’re not in the city limits,” Esau said.

Esau and a small host of volunteers have been going door-to-door weeknights and Saturday mornings. It takes longer to gather signatures that way, but he said it’s worth it.

“The yield we’re getting out of these target voters is much higher quality,” Esau said. “These are folks that are legitimately entitled to have a say on this issue.”

Support for the petition doesn’t fall along party lines, Esau said — although a majority of petition gatherers are conservative Republicans.

“You can’t pigeonhole it really well to say who will say yes or no, but we find that the economic boundaries make a difference,” Esau said. “Up on Bull Mountain we will see a lot of support, because a MAX line doesn’t serve them. But people that live around Highway 217? We were working down Pfaffle Street and we couldn’t get anybody to sign there.”

After last year’s initiative nearly made it to the ballot, the city put its own referendum on the ballot. Voters overwhelmingly approved that measure, which calls for a vote before the city can raise taxes or fees in order to build a light-rail line through town.

Some of last year’s supporters have opted not to re-sign Esau’s petitions this year, but Esau said it has little to do with the city’s referendum.

“Most people don’t remember it passed, most barely remember what was on the ballot last time,” he said.

The group hopes to collect about 6,000 signatures in order to have some wiggle-room in case some of the signatures turn out to be invalid.

“That’s a lot of hard work between now and then,” Esau said. “But I’m pretty confident that we’re going to get there. As the signatures come in we are verifying against voter lists to make sure they live in Tigard.”

For more information on the petitions visit swrailvote.org.

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