Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Clackamas County Oregon referendum requiring citizens vote in favor to participate in light rail projects passes

The failure of successful votes in favor of a sales tax transportation measure in most of Georgia wasn't a surprise as the measure was overly broad, mixed road and transit projects--generally transit measures pass at a 70% rate which is pretty good in an anti-tax climate, and didn't provide enough time to build support, less than two years from the passage of the enabling legislation to the election.  ("Failure of the transit-roads sales tax measure in Metro Atlanta")

Image of 3-401 supporters from the Portland Oregonian article, "Oregon Secretary of State's Office dismisses elections complaint against Clackamas County light rail opponents."

But the successful passing of a seen as anti-transit referendum in Clackamas County, Oregon one of the three counties included in the "Tri"-Met Transit District surrounding Portland is definitely troubling, although it is another example of the downside of referenda being voted on in primary, rather than general, elections, as primary voters tend to be fewer and more hard core (either positively or negatively depending on the issue).  See "Clackamas County anti-rail measure passes comfortably; effect could resonate for decades" from the Portland Oregonian.

From the article:

Clackamas County light rail opponents scored a convincing victory Tuesday night that could resonate for decades.

Initiative Measure 3-401, which passed 60 to 40 percent, requires countywide voter approval before officials can spend money to finance, design, construct or operate any rail lines in the county.

It's unclear what effect the measure will have on the controversial Portland-Milwaukie light rail extension, the $1.5 billion project at the heart of the battle. The line is already under construction, and on Friday county officials obtained a private loan from Bank of America to pay TriMet $19.9 million for its share of the project.

But if left intact after possible legal challenges, the measure could severely limit the future development of rail in the county, including possible high-speed passenger rail connecting Seattle and Eugene.

Note that like with the initiative in the Atlanta area, the center city and inner ring suburbs favored the measure and favored transit, while outer suburbs and exurban areas did not.

Perhaps a similar dynamic is working in Oregon, which overall, isn't always as "progressive" as people from outside the region believe, as there are cleavages between the eastern and western part of the state, cities and rural areas, Portland and the rest of the state, coastal issues vs. agriculture, and general property rights concerns.

In the DC-Maryland-Virginia multistate region, a transit referendum--nonbinding--is up for vote in Virginia Beach, Virginia this November, and will consider whether or not the new Tide light rail system will be extended from Norfolk to serve Virginia Beach.

It's possible that anti-toll fervor could shape the outcome, not to mention that municipal workers unions are against the measure because they see new transit services as competition for raises in tight and constrained municipal budgets.  See the past blog entry, "Virginia Beach municipal workers unions taking positions against against transit: see budget as either/or choice."

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