It Keeps Going and Going and Going . . .

Monorail supporters and opponents start race for the ballot.

So much for getting along well with others. Rise Above It All (RAIA), the monorail campaign, launched an all-out assault on its (real or perceived) enemies last weekend, when campaign founder Peter Sherwin sent a letter to monorail supporters urging them to “take to the streets” in support of the cause. The occasion for this momentous call to arms? The Seattle City Council, which at its Monday meeting delayed a vote on the monorail plan until Sept. 9, had threatened to discuss the monorail plan further and possibly even—gasp!–amend it to reflect its concerns about the proposal, potentially the biggest public-works project in Seattle history.

That didn’t sit well with monorail stalwarts like Sherwin, who rallied his troops to go out and gather signatures to force the measure onto the ballot without the input of those pesky elected representatives. “We have reason to believe that the plan will not be put on the ballot intact,” Sherwin warned supporters in his letter.

Sherwin says he has no specific concerns but worries that the monorail plan might get put off so long that the council won’t have a chance to vote it through before Sept. 20, the deadline for putting measures on the November ballot. “We just want to be sure the people get a chance to vote on the monorail plan in November,” Sherwin says. In his letter, Sherwin also mentions “the motives of several members of the City Council.”

Topping that list is council member Richard Conlin, whose aide recently participated in a meeting and exchanged e-mails with members of an anti-monorail group. In an e-mail responding to Sherwin’s letter, Conlin chastised the “zealous monorail supporters” whose petition “virtually ignores the work done” on the monorail to date, and expressed hope that voters won’t have to choose between two plans in November.

For what it’s worth, Elevated Transportation Company (ETC) chair Tom Weeks, who was out gathering signatures himself last weekend, notes that the plan has been changed several times to respond to the council’s concerns and says he believes the council has to pass the measure as adopted by the ETC. At the end of Monday’s council meeting, the contention over the monorail measure had been reduced to a single point—whether the ballot title put before voters in November should specify which neighborhoods the monorail line will traverse, or whether it should just refer to the ETC’s adopted plan, which specifies most of the 14-mile route.

The signature campaign may have a bigger problem: Tim Hatley—the former Ron Sims aide who launched, then abruptly dissociated himself from, the anti-monorail campaign—has “drafted a potential” monorail initiative to go up against Rise Above It All’s. It’s no surprise that the monorail opponent’s plan differs drastically from that of monorail supporters—capping the car tax (1.4 percent in the ETC’s plan) at 0.5 percent; limiting the monorail line (14 miles in the ETC’s plan) to a short stretch between Westlake, Seattle Center, and South Lake Union; creating a five-member board to be elected by districts (mostly appointed in the ETC plan); and establishing a 20 percent disadvantaged-businesses goal on contracts over $100,000. The ballot title, except for the amount of the car tax, is identical to the ETC’s.

Hard as it is to believe, Hatley’s petition appears to be legit. That’s because the way the legislation authorizing the ETC to create a monorail plan is written, anyone—Peter Sherwin, a monorail opponent, or a Seattle Weekly staff writer—can put a monorail proposal on the ballot, provided they gather the signatures of a mere 1 percent of registered Seattle voters, or around 3,700 names. (The legislation, incidentally, also includes a provision for voters to change the plan after it’s passed. But that bar is set substantially higher, at 15 percent of the electorate—around 56,000 voters.) Hatley says he’ll gather his signatures during Hempfest, held Aug. 17 and 18. He says he expects no problems coming up with the names: “After all, it’s the pro-monorail initiative!”

But Rise Above It All should have its own petition together by then; as early as Saturday, RAIA canvassers were seen gathering signatures, and by Monday they were more than halfway toward their goal. What happens if RAIA and the Seattle City Council put competing measures on the ballot? The short answer is, no one knows. According to city clerk Judith Pippin, the legislation authorizing the initiative doesn’t say which measure would take precedence. And what about Hatley’s initiative, which could also be a contender for the ballot? If both Hatley’s measure and Rise Above It All’s qualify, it’s conceivable that voters could be faced with three monorail measures in November. Although the monorail legislation says the monorail can be sent to the ballot by “a [singular] petition,” Pippin says, “We just don’t know,” when asked whether more than one petition could qualify. Will either initiative take precedence? Again, Pippin says, “We just don’t know.” County elections superintendent Julie Ann Kempf, whose division would make that decision, was not available on Tuesday for comment. But Weeks believes the ETC’s measure is the clear winner. “If you just drew something up in 10 minutes and put it in front of voters, my guess is that it wouldn’t withstand scrutiny,” Weeks says.