SMART White Papers
Following the razor-thin defeat of its ballot measure in November 2006, the Sonoma-Marin Rail Transit District’s Board of Directors convened an ad-hoc committee to meet with community groups, local government officials, supporters and opponents of the passenger rail project.
The goal of the committee was to gather input from all quarters regarding what people felt was right with the project, and where they perceived it fell short.
The overwhelming message was that SMART was on the right track. The measure to raise the sales tax by one-quarter of one percent to pay for the project earned 65.3 percent of the vote in Marin and Sonoma counties – 1.4 percent short of the required two-thirds super-majority.
Still, there were things SMART could do better. Add weekend service. Consider lighter-weight self-propelled rail cars. Move up construction of critical links in its adjacent 70-mile pedestrian-bicycle path. Those elements and others underwent environmental review as SMART moved toward returning to the ballot in November 2008.
In addition to those changes in the plan, SMART’s ad-hoc advisers repeatedly emphasized that SMART needed to do an even better job explaining its project to the public. It’s a good project, they said, but some people still don’t understand it. They don’t know what it does, and what it doesn’t do.
In an effort to correct misunderstandings and overcome some of the confusion that was deliberately spread by the opposition during the 2006 campaign, the ad-hoc committee recommended that SMART prepare a series of white papers, or fact sheets, about various components of the project. These papers were based on SMART’s previous planning documents, environmental studies and expenditure plans, all of which are public documents. They also included information gleaned from research by SMART staff and advice from SMART consultants and advisers.
In 2008, SMART placed a second sales tax measure on the ballot (Measure Q), which district voters passed by a 69.6% majority.
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