Taking the bull by the horns
The rebels of Clackistan, who are fighting tooth and nail to stop construction of Tri-Met's Mystery Train to Milwaukie (pop. 21,000), have really done it this time. Having foiled the county's ability to use "urban renewal" slush funds to pay for construction, now they're pushing a new ballot measure that would flat-out forbid the county from working on the project unless future voters approve it first.
The proposition now has an official ballot title and everything, and given the anger shown by the Clacka-voters in recent elections, it's got a pretty good chance of passage. So much so that the train pushers on the county commission (they're also apartment bunker pushers, which is what this train is about) are trying to figure out how to fight it.
They'll start with the obvious tactics, of course. Try to discourage people from signing the petitions, look the other way when trolls and fraudsters try to sabotage the signature collection process, and then challenge every signature collected. If that fails, wheel out a parade of horrible, horrible things that will happen if the measure passes. Already they're working on that -- the county won't be able to do maintenance work at existing railroad crossings, the sheriff won't be able to respond to derailed Amtrak trains, one distortion after another, probably written up by a big-bucks Portland real estate law firm.
And in that package, this time there'll be the threat of a lawsuit. "But we've already signed a contract with Tri-Met," the county commissioners will say. "We've already promised to pay $25 million toward the MAX. If we don't pay it, Tri-Met will sue us. It's too late to turn back now."
Now, that would be one of the funniest lawsuits seen in these parts in years, wouldn't it? Maybe after many years in court, Tri-Met could get some money, but it doesn't stand a snowball's chance of getting a judge to order county officials to perform acts prohibited by a voter-approved county ordinance. In any event, there would be years of expensive litigation for Tri-Met. Good luck selling bonds for a boondoggle in that kind of atmosphere.
There will be other arguments made against the ballot measure as well. Some of the commissioners who are pushing MAX are now, comically, wrapping themselves in the constitution. One thing we'd worry about if we were the ballot measure proponents is that there's some state, or even federal, law that somehow pre-empts what the measure sets out to do. But that surely wouldn't stop us from trying.
Last night we learned that the Lake Oswego streetcar may have died a sudden death. If the Clackistanis also stop the Mystery Train at the county line, it will be truly remarkable. And a sign of hope for our region.
We have some advice for the Clackamas County commissioners: Wise up, like the Lake Oswego City Council has. Let this ballot measure pass, and then let the whole thing go. Tell the Goldschmidt people that you did what you could, but the rebels won. After that, your life will get a lot easier. You might even get re-elected.