SMART repeal effort falls short

  • Clay Mitchell, middle, co-chair of RepealSmart places petitions at the Sonoma County registrar of voters, Friday Jan. 27, 2012 as signatures are counted by Gloria Colter, left and Kamari Marchbanks. A preliminary count tallied 5,471 Sonoma County signatures for the repeal of the SMART train. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

Opponents of the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit train apparently have failed in their attempt to force a repeal election on the sales tax that is the agency's major source of funding.

RepealSMART on Friday submitted petitions with 5,471 signatures to Sonoma County election officials and an undetermined number to Marin County. Repeal supporters have estimated that their total number of collected signatures will be about 15,000. That will almost certainly be inadequate after the voter-registration verification process.

Marin County's numbers will not be available until Monday.

"We thought we needed 19,000 to 20,000 to make the 15,000," said John Parnell of Novato, founder and co-chairman of RepealSMART. "Of course, the thing that disappoints me the most is people won't have an opportunity to vote on the tax."

The number of signatures RepealSMART says it needs, 14,902, is in dispute, however. SMART officials contend 39,000 are required. The sides cite different state laws to support their contentions.

Clay Mitchell of Windsor, co-chairman of RepealSMART, said his group is submitting the signatures as a symbolic gesture. He acknowledged the almost-certain failure.

"All of our volunteers and all the people who signed it, they signed it to make a statement," Mitchell said. "For us to decide not to register their statement, not to put it out there, is not for us to decide."

Parnell vowed not to give up, saying a new petition drive will begin next week with the goal of getting a repeal measure on the November ballot.

"All we have been saying from the beginning is that all we want is people to vote on it," Parnell said. "The only way we can get to the ballot is to start again."

SMART Chairwoman Valerie Brown said the failure is good news for SMART, which now can tap into construction funds being held in escrow pending the outcome of the repeal effort.

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