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Key vote Friday to determine fate of $10 car registration fee

  • Pine Crest Elementary schoolteacher Deb Johnson, right, helps Erika Sanders and her son, fourth-grader Ben Sanders, cross Hayden Avenue, at Pincrest Avenue, on Thursday afternoon, March 11, 2010. A new stop sign was added for westbound traffic at the intersection as recommended by the Safe Routes to School program.

Sonoma County's transit authority meets Friday with only hours to decide whether or not to put a $10 car registration fee increase on the June ballot to fund buses, bike paths and a school safety program.

"Every poll we do, our residents say transportation is the most important issue and one of the things that are cut every year are mass transit funds," said Sonoma County Supervisor Valerie Brown. "We need to move people and get them out of a single-occupant vehicle."

The members of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority board, made up of representatives from the county Board of Supervisors and nine city councils, were supportive when it was first discussed Monday.

Now, however, divisions are showing up.

Healdsburg and Rohnert city councils oppose putting the proposal on the June ballot, a Petaluma councilman has reservations about the timing and Supervisor Paul Kelley said he opposes it altogether.

"It is going to be a very narrow decision one way or the other," said Jake Mackenzie, the authority's chairman and a Rohnert Park council member. "It will be a close thing."

The Sonoma County Transportation Authority measure would increase vehicle registration fees by $10. The measure would be on the June 8 ballot and need a majority vote to pass.

It would raise $105 million over 20 years that would partially restore services cut by Sonoma County's four bus transit agencies the past three years, fund the Safe Routes to School program, and help build bike and pedestrian paths.

The authority board deferred a final decision until today to allow some city councils to discuss the measure.

"It was the staff proposal to go in June," said Suzanne Smith, executive director of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority. "I think that in this economic climate it is difficult to ask for money whether it is June or November."

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