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Tigards light rail initiative falls short

Tigard voters wont vote on whether to allow MAX line.


by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Tigard's Art Crino had hoped to put a ballot initiative before voters in November to decide whether or not to allow MAX light rail to come to Tigard. The initiative failed to get enough signatures to make the November election.Tigard petitioners were so close, and yet so far.

A ballot initiative that would have allowed Tigard voters final say in whether or not to allow a TriMet MAX line through town will not go before voters in November.

The Washington County Elections Division said last week that petitioners did not turn in enough valid signatures to qualify for the November general election ballot.

According to Cathy Wheatley, Tigard’s city recorder, the group needed 46 more valid signatures.

For months, petitioners in King City, Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood have been working to gather enough valid signatures to put four separate measures to stop light rail — one for each city — in front of voters.

Light rail is too expensive, they said, to be decided without a vote by residents.

“We aren’t anti-light rail,” Petitioner Art Crino told The Times last week. “We’re pro voter.”

This was to be the second of the initiatives to go before voters.

Last month, King City’s City Council reluctantly agreed to allow a similar initiative to go before King City voters as part of the Sept. 18 special election.

TriMet and Metro officials are still deciding whether a rail lane, or some other form of high-capacity transit, should come down Southwest Barbur Boulevard through Tigard. A light-rail line has not been confirmed and would not be built for at least another decade.

Tigard petitioners needed a total of 3,867 valid signatures from Tigard residents to qualify for the November ballot.

Playing it safe, Tigard petitioners turned in 5,625 signatures to the county by last Tuesday’s deadline, county officials said, but the county was only able to validate 3,821.

Crino, the Tigard petitioner who spearheaded the Tigard initiative, declined to comment about possible next steps, but Eric Winters, a lawyer working with Crino and other petitioners, said that the group was “looking very closely” at the county’s decision.

“I was at the county (elections office) for two hours today and two hours yesterday going through the signatures,” Winters said on Tuesday. “I saw some areas of concern that will probably merit a discussion at the very least.”

If the signatures go unchallenged, petitioners will have to wait until the next election — a special election in March 2013 — before they can try again.

At that time, petitioners will have to restart their signature gathering process from scratch. Under Tigard city code, signatures for a petition must be gathered within 90 days after the prospective petition is filed.

Winters said that he was looking into the legality of the 90-day limit.

“We are trying to decide whether to challenge that,” he said. “But I need to talk to the (petitioners) on this and see if the county did an adequate job validating the signatures.”

When petitioners first proposed the ballot initiative in March, organizers said they were not worried about collecting enough signatures.

That turned out to be a more difficult task than they had thought.

In Tualatin, petitioners failed to gather enough signatures to make it onto the September or November ballots.

Sherwood petitioners stopped their plans of putting an initiative forward after losing a court case against the city of Sherwood over how the proposed initiative would be seen in the ballot.

Petitioners in King City were easily able to gather enough signatures, since the number of signatures needed depends on a city’s population, they only needed less than 350 to place the issue before voters.

Winters said that gathering signatures in Tigard was harder than initially expected.

“All those folks (from Tigard, Sherwood, Tualatin and King City) are working on this together,” he said. “They gathered those signatures for King City and then made the mistake of working on Tigard and Tualatin at the same time. Tigard turned out to be a lot harder than they thought.”



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