A citizens group pushing for repeal of the Sonoma-Marin commute rail line sales tax said Tuesday it will ignore an order by the agency to revise its petitions.
The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District told repeal organizers last week that they must attach an agency-written summary document while gathering signatures.
In response to a deadline set for today, repeal backers said they would move ahead without following the order. They want to undo voter approval in Sonoma and Marin counties three years ago of a quarter-percent sales tax to pay for the line.
"We are confident with our legal standing and have been given direction by our legal counsel and state elections officials," said Clay Mitchell of Windsor, co-chairman of RepealSMART.
The stand underscores the legal uncertainties surrounding the action by SMART directors, who decided to set rules for the election despite a warning from the Secretary of State that they would be overstepping their authority.
The board has taken the position that a repeal election would be unprecedented because it involves voters in the two counties who approved the rail plan and funding, and that the agency is in a position to set impartial guidelines.
"I think our message has been fairly clear," said SMART Chairwoman Valerie Brown. "We believe there needs to be something neutral for people to utilize when they see a petition."
The 167-word title and summary authorized by SMART says the rail agency, formed by the Legislature in 2002, is funded by the sales tax and because of the slowing economy is now building the commute line in phases, beginning with initial service between Santa Rosa and San Rafael.
Backers of the repeal say SMART has failed to meet its promise to voters to deliver a train from Cloverdale to Larkspur, that the beginning of service has been delayed one to two years, and the the train will not attract enough riders to reduce freeway congestion.
The Secretary of State's office said last week that it is "crystal clear" that the election ordinance adopted by SMART does not meet state law.
Directors also named the clerk of SMART's board as the election official.
RepealSMART has until Jan. 28 to submit its petitions to registrars in Sonoma and Marin counties to certify the signatures as being made by valid registered voters.
At that point, SMART has said petitions would need to be submitted to the district, which would then decide whether to call an election.
If there is a challenge, the issue of SMART's authority in the election process could then ultimately be determined by the courts.
SMART decided last week that valid signatures already collected, estimated at about 5,000, would not be rejected.
Still unanswered is the question of how many signatures are necessary, 15,000 or 30,000, to qualify the initiative for the ballot next year, either in the spring or in November.