WatchSonoma Watch

Fewer signatures likely needed to repeal SMART


The number of signatures needed for a ballot measure to repeal the quarter-percent sales tax for the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit district may be half of what was first projected.

Instead of close to 40,000 signatures, Repeal SMART may only need to collect about 15,000 in Sonoma and Marin counties to get a measure on the ballot.

The Sonoma County registrar’s office said a final ruling has not been made, but it has drawn a preliminary conclusion that a 5 percent threshold, rather than 10 percent, likely will be enforced.

“The jury is still out,” said Gloria Colter, assistant registrar of voters in Sonoma County. “There is still a question, and it is in counsel’s hands.”

Repeal SMART is organizing and about to have petitions printed even as it waits for the final word, but obviously hopes for the lower threshold, said Clay Mitchell of Windsor.

“We are cautiously optimistic, but until we have final word, we are still gearing up to collect 40,000 signatures,” Mitchell said. “It would allow us to shift our focus to make sure we get out message out, why we feel it is important.”

Mitchell said the group wants to put the issue before voters in either the June or November election in 2012.

Although two-thirds of the voters were needed to approve the sales tax, the major source of funding for SMART, only a majority is required to repeal it.

“The project is changed, it does not accomplish its goals, it does not substantially accomplish the goal of reducing congestion,” Mitchell said. “We should repeal the tax. It is impossible to accomplish what was envisioned and was was sold to voters with this funding mechanism.”

Mitchell called the low threshold “one of the vagaries of living in California.”

SMART Chairwoman Valerie Brown called it unfair.

“It seems interesting that a proposition that requires two-thirds vote on any kind of issue would require such a low threshold for repeal,” Brown said. “It doesn’t seem like that was the intent. It just seems there ought to be protections both ways.”

Attorneys for both Sonoma and Marin counties are reviewing the election statutes.

To qualify a districtwide initiative for the ballot, the threshold is 10 percent of registered voters in the SMART district encompassing Sonoma and Marin counties, with almost 400,000 registered voters as of the February count.

However, Repeal SMART contends a 1996 proposition dealing specifically with tax issues lowers the threshold to what is required for a statewide initiative, or 5 percent of the voters in the last election for governor.

Under that scenario, the threshold would be about 15,000 signatures.

SMART was created by the Legislature in February 2002 by then-Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael, to create and manage a commute rail line between the two counties.

12 Responses to “Fewer signatures likely needed to repeal SMART”

  1. Slow Train to China says:

    We also need a ballot measure to recall the 12 elfs on the SMART Bark. They are the ones who have taken us down the golden path to OZ with one hand on the train whistle, one hand on the throttle.

    How much more will they spent on the “cannonball” before she is derailed like Casey’s train?

    Repeal SMART!

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  2. John Hudson says:

    Article XIII C (Section 3) of the California Constitution is quite clear: “…(T)he initiative power shall not be prohibited or otherwise limited in matters of reducing or or repealing any local tax, assessment, fee or charge.The power of the initiative to affect local taxes, assessments, fees or charges shall be applicable to all local governments and neither the Legislature nor any local government charter shall impose a signature requirement higher than that applicable to statewide statutory initiatives”. Article II (Section 8(b)) of the California Constitution sets the signature requirement for a statewide statutory initiative at 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.

    Even the City of Rohnert Park, which has been described by the First District Court of Appeal as a “recalcitrant municipality”, conceded that the applicable signature requirement for the Measure L sewer rate roll back initiative was 5% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. They complained bitterly about how easy it was for us, but they really had no choice. This initiative measure is on sound legal ground with the lowered signature requirement.

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  3. Social Dis-Ease says:

    They have concrete resolve,kinda makes you wonder why. Taken to a vote(remember those things?)Smart would probably be the biggest landslide ever.
    What’s it going to take?
    Do we have to physically block the track?
    With this kind of majority, I don’t think they can even ‘tweak’ the count.
    Dig in!

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  4. Ricardo Sorentino says:

    Come on, Repeal SMART; let’s not focus on the lower threshold. Set your sights high, on at LEAST 40,000 signatures, and let’s get them.

    Let’s prove definitively that the SMART train is nothing more than a GravyTrain for a chosen few public employees and those that didn’t have a Lionel train when growing up.

    Let’s make this a decisive ‘win’.

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  5. Alex says:

    Where do I sign?!

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  6. @Kim- We have discussed this issue in depth, and are prepared to tackle either threshold as well as several eventualities. I’d be happy to discuss with you in depth the variables in this equation- you can email me at clay@repealsmart.org.

    There are some that contend that a lawsuit is a certainty, regardless of which threshold we meet. While we would hope that SMART and its supporters would place a higher value on the voice of the people in this process than to try to use legal technicalities and gamesmanship to block a vote of the people, it is certainly possible.

    But realize that at this point we are not making a decision regarding which threshold to pursue- we have simply asked for clarification from the registrar’s office based on the guidance that they had given us.

    I find Supervisor Brown’s comments particularly surprising- given that she spent 6 years in the state assembly, one would think that she would have a clear understanding of which legislative or electoral situations require a super-majority and which ones do not. The voters of California have decided that there is wisdom in putting tighter controls and higher thresholds on politicians’ power to levy new taxes, but not on the people’s ability to reduce or repeal taxes.

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  7. Steveguy says:

    I was shocked at the almost 40,000 threshold, There are so many ‘casual’ voters, that it a shame for our country.

    Do we have the deficit per year numbers yet ?

    Are we going to take $11 Million or more a year from our bus, and other transit monies to subsidize this fiasco ? I hope not.

    They will probably steal from the handicapped transportation monies. Really. Look at every AGENCY with an agenda. They are really adverse to the little guy even.

    All for themselves. When are others going to speak out against this disaster ?

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  8. Kim says:

    One thing that would really tick me off is that if ya go for the lesser signatures gathered and someone (or some entity) sues, that some judge could trash it all! Go for the larger number. DO NOT leave it to chance! PLEASE!

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  9. Just Sailing On says:

    When the little train to nowhere is finally buried and the epitaph is written, people will wonder what were they thinking?

    How could they have promised so much, spent so much, taken so long, and accomplished so very little.

    Someday we will look back at this farce and many will be even more cynical of government and they should be.

    Public officials are suppose to watch over precious tax dollars, not spend tax money like they printed it. The SMART Board has taken in the cool aid and believe. Too bad they haven’t taken care of the essential services like road repair that voters expect.

    The SMART Board needs to be called to account for this boondoggle and hopefully they will be in coming elections.

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  10. David says:

    When the tax is repealed by the voters, you can bet the employees of the GRAVY train will figure out some way to keep those fat paychecks and benefits coming. The highly paid ex PD writer who is supposed to be extolling the virtues of little train to nowhere has certainly been quiet lately.

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  11. Thank You Valerie Brown says:

    I thought Valerie Brown wasn’t at all worried about the DUMB tax being repealed.

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  12. Poll says:

    The Marin IJ is currently conducting a poll on their website asking whether or not the repeal of the SMART tax should be on the ballot. With 471 votes, “Yes, it should be on the ballot”, is winning 75% to 25%. Guess Valerie Brown won’t have to worry about that pesky 30% of the voters she ignores on every issue. LMAO and can’t wait for the petition to come out so I can sign it.

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