SMART won't acknowledge bond sales

The Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District this week began selling millions of dollars in construction bonds, but officials refused to acknowledge the fact or disclose the terms.

"If it is available, the bonding will be announced on the 21st," said SMART Chairwoman Valerie Brown, referring to a board meeting on Wednesday.

"The board ought to have an opportunity to see what is available to them before it is announced to the public," she said.

SMART critics, who are mounting an effort to have SMART's sales tax measure overturned, said it was another example of SMART not doing business in public.

"I am troubled at what I see as a lack of transparency," said Clay Mitchell, co-chairman of RepealSMART. "It is like the public doesn't need to know what is going on."

The district previously said it intends to sell $191 million in bonds to finance construction of its initial rail line between downtown Santa Rosa and downtown San Rafael.

On Thursday, there were 14 separate sales of variable rate SMART bonds, according to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, an industry self-regulating group. The initial interest rate was one percent, according to the agency's documents.

The specific value of the bonds was not available, but 13 sales were identified as more than $1 million each and one was for $300,000.

SMART General Manager Farhad Mansourian was not available Friday to comment on the transactions.

The proceeds from selling $191 million will be $171 million, the district has said. It will be used for re-construction of the rail line and development of related facilities.

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