With construction crews finishing track replacement work through Santa Rosa this month, officials at Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit are starting to plan for the final stages of the $360 million project that will link Santa Rosa to San Rafael.
The Sonoma-Marin commute rail line is exempted from having to give local design review boards its plans for stations and buildings under legislation that was signed by the governor on Friday. Such local oversight, while only advisory in nature, may have let any single city along the 70-mile line attempt to hold up construction, rail officials said. The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District already was exempt from local planning and zoning regulations, they said.
Opponents of Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit’s plans are recruiting paid signature-gatherers in a last-ditch effort to get a measure on the November ballot to overturn the commute line’s sales tax. RepealSMART organizers also said Thursday they are intent on gathering 40,000 signatures by Jan. 27 to force SMART directors to set the election.
Repeal SMART co-founder John Parnell has conceded that volunteers are not likely to get the number of signatures SMART contends is needed to force a repeal vote. So the group is offering to pay workers $1 per signature.
With the deadline six weeks away, organizers of an initiative to repeal the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit sales tax have about half the signatures they believe are needed to put a measure on the ballot. Clay Mitchell of Windsor, co-chairman of Repeal SMART, said about 100 volunteers have returned petitions, containing 7,500 signatures.
California’s Secretary of State has stepped into the debate over an initiative effort to bring the commute rail sales tax back to the ballot, clarifying which elections code should be enforced and who should run the election.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District said Friday it is requiring a tax repeal effort to attach an agency-written statement to its petitions, despite state officials’ warning that SMART’s action oversteps its authority.
The agency building a Santa Rosa-San Rafael commute rail line and the campaign to stop it are in a race against time. Organizers of RepealSMART, who are mounting an unprecedented petition-gathering drive to roll back the sales tax paying for the rail line, must gather enough signatures by January and if successful, gear up for an election next spring or November.
Commuter train officials on Tuesday dismissed a new effort by opponents to end the train system’s public tax support, saying it merely reflects old battle lines.
Opponents of a Sonoma-Marin commute rail service and its growing costs took the first legal step Monday toward repealing its main funding source.