Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Aug. 11, 2020

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Petition aims to prevent light rail

If successful, voters could bar city from spending on project


Vancouver light rail opponent Larry Patella is circulating a petition that would prohibit any city resources from being used to extend TriMet’s MAX line into Vancouver.

Patella said he and volunteers hope to gather up to 6,000 signatures by mid-June in order to put the ordinance on November’s ballot.

Though his move follows talk of a nonbinding advisory vote on the bridge, Patella said his vote would be binding.

“I don’t know about you, but the petition that I drafted is a hell of a lot better than ramming Portland’s Light Rail the Gravy/Crime Train down our throat,” Patella wrote in an e-mail to his local listserv Tuesday.

“They have spent so much money on this project, with a nonbinding vote they’re not going to back out of it,” he said by phone.

In his e-mail to the listserv, Patella said: “The ordinance if approved will prohibit the city of Vancouver, the Vancouver City Council, Vancouver city manager, city employees, or city agents for taking any action, or enacting any legislation that would allow the use of city revenues, including revenues from the sale of bonds, from any source to promote, establish, construct, subsidize, guarantee, warranty, or underwrite any cost or other financial obligations for the extension of Portland light rail across the Columbia River into the city of Vancouver, Washington.”

The ordinance is the same as the one Patella drafted last year. However, he and other light rail foes did not begin collecting signatures in time to allow for verification by the county clerk and review by the city council and the city attorney’s office.

The petition was abandoned in July with about 3,000 signatures. That petition should have been turned in by mid-May or earlier to ensure they’d have enough time, Chief Assistant City Attorney Judy Zeider said at the time.

The county auditor needs time to verify signatures. Then, the city clerk must determine that the petition itself is valid.

Next, it goes to the city council. The elected officials, according to the city charter, must give it due process that includes two readings and a public hearing; they have 60 days to do so. At the very minimum, such readings take two weeks, but it’s rare for something to move through the city council so quickly.

If it gets to the city council, they must do one of three things: Adopt the ordinance as is, amend the ordinance and adopt it, or put it on the ballot.

“I think we’ll have time” this year, Patella said. “If we get enough people out there (to collect signatures). We’ve got enough people worked up.”

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.