Light rail supporters, opponents have their say in voters’ pamphlet

EVERETT — Two starkly different perspectives on Sound Transit 3 will be laid out in the Snohomish County voters’ pamphlet this fall.

Supporters say it will provide drivers relief from traffic, reduce pollution and fulfill a longtime pledge of extending light rail train service into Everett.

Opponents contend the measure, known as ST3, is a “$54 billion monstrosity” with proposed increases in property tax, sales tax and car tab fees that will hurt working families, seniors and the poor.

Those are the gist of the arguments put forth in 250-word statements to appear in the pamphlet that Snohomish County voter’s will receive in October. Copies of the statements were made available Friday.

Separate but similarly written statements have been created for voter pamphlets in Pierce and King counties. The measure will appear as Proposition 1 on ballots in all three counties.

As proposed, ST3 promises 62 new miles of light rail with 37 new stations in the counties. It relies on higher sales tax, property tax and car-tab fees to pay for the work. Supporters estimate it will cost the average adult taxpayer about $14 more a month, or $168 a year.

In Snohomish County, the key to the plan is bringing light rail to Paine Field and onto Everett, arriving around 2036. Under ST3, bus rapid transit service on I-405 and Highway 522 would be expanded.

Proposition 1 “completes our regional vision” and “helps working families, students, seniors, and people with disabilities get to jobs, school and healthcare,” reads the statement signed by Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson, Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson and noted travel expert and author Rick Steves of Edmonds.

“Proposition 1 lets you escape congestion, reduces climate pollution, and improves transit access and affordability for all,” they wrote. “Let’s end the frustration and get moving again!”

Opponents argue the cost is too high and there’s no means of holding Sound Transit accountable.

“Just say No to new property taxes. Just say No to 55 percent increase in sales taxes. Just say No to tripling car tab taxes,” writes Gary Nelson of Edmonds, a former Snohomish County Councilman, and Tim Eyman of Mukilteo, a professional initiative promoter. “Just vote No to false promises.

“Nothing requires them to deliver what’s promised — projects, costs, and timelines are not binding. Only thing certain are its massive permanent tax increases,” they wrote.

On Friday, Nelson said the “’Just say No’ theme mirrors the approach he used in 1998 in voter pamphlet statements penned against five proposed county tax hikes. All five lost by 3:1 margins.

“I thought as long as we were successful then, why not just use it again,” he said.

Meanwhile, authorship of the statements is a source of continuing frustration for some opponents.

Sound Transit Board of Directors selected Eyman, Nelson and Chuck Collins to pen the con statement for the pamphlet in Snohomish County. For the pamphlets in King and Pierce counties, the board decided to go with Eyman and Collins and a third person.

Eyman’s selection angered Collins and other leaders of People for Smarter Transit, the committee conducting the campaign against ST3. They wanted members of the formal opposition effort chosen and Collins decided not to participate as a result.

Their concern is that Eyman is a divisive figure and his involvement could cost votes.

“Tim Eyman was not our choice. It was Sound Transit’s choice,” said Maggie Fimia of Edmonds, a former King County Councilmember and founder of Smarter Transit.org.

“It will prejudice some people, the exact ones we are trying to reach,” said Fimia, who is also working on the opposition campaign. “The Sound Transit board obviously could not tolerate 200 words of dissent in the voter’s pamphlet.”

In response, Eyman said it “insults the voters’ intelligence” to think people will purposely tax themselves because his name is on the statement opposing ST3.

“When you do a ballot measure, the only thing that matters is the argument itself,” he said. “Voters will make their decisions on the merits.”

As to the statement itself, an effusive Eyman said, “I think we really knocked the ball out of the ballpark.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623: jcornfield@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @dospueblos.

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