Anti-LRT petitions being circulated in SW Corridor cities

The Portland Tribune is reporting that groups in four cities which may be affected by the Southwest Corridor project–Tigard, King City, Tualatin, and Sherwood, have filed initiative petitions with respective city governments. (This was previously mentioned in the open thread; now petitions have been filed). The petitions, if able to collect sufficient numbers of signatures by the respective deadlines, would place a measure on the ballot to require public votes to approve future city funding of light rail projects. Petitioners are hoping to place the measures on the September ballot.

The petitions are based on a similar petition which was recently circulated in Milwaukie. They don’t attempt to ban light-rail outright (something which was tried in Damascus, but narrowly defeated) or prohibit funding for it altogether, they merely require a public vote for any municipal funding for such be approved.

My reaction?

The right time to speak up

No, I don’t say this because I’m skeptical about the Southwest Corridor project–which at this point, is still in the planning phases. (Technically, no mode or alignment has been chosen for the corridor–though I would be surprised if light rail weren’t the ultimate decision). Nor do I particularly care for the motives of the petition supporters, which include a few folks who hold positions that I would characterize as anti-transit. I say “good” because I’m a firm believer in democracy–if the good citizens of the affected cities don’t wish to pay for light rail, that’s they’re right.

But more importantly, I say good because–unlike the Clackamas County efforts–these petitions are being circulated at the right time: when the project is still in the planning phases, and no commitments have been made. The Clackamas County and Milwaukie petitions, not circulated until the ink was dry on the intergovernmental agreements (and the project had actually started construction), are a bit late in the game. (There’s a reasonable chance that the petitions, even if they pass, may not have the desired effects: I could easily see legal council for Milwaukie and Clackamas County ruling that they only affect future projects, not Milwaukie MAX as designed, as use of legislative power to abrogate public contracts is impermissible under the Contracts Clause).

If one or more of the aforementioned cities doesn’t want a MAX line, or other type of transit infrastructure, it is good to know it now, so that plans can be made to accommodate these civic desires. That said, it would be nice to see a similar standard be applied to freeway construction.

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