Washington state

Activist loses bid to alter viaduct ballot

SEATTLE - Former Monorail activist Peter Sherwin has lost his bid to change the ballot language on two Alaskan Way Viaduct measures on a March 13 advisory ballot.

"Rewriting (the ballot measure) is not necessary to inform the public," ruled Superior Court Judge John Erlick, in a hearing this morning. "It meets the constitutional statute requirements."

Sherwin, who ran four ultimately unsuccessful campaigns to build a new Monorail from Ballard to West Seattle, had challenged the ballot titles of the two measures. One asks voters whether they want to replace the aging viaduct with a new six-lane elevated structure, the other whether they prefer a new four-lane tunnel that the city claims can save more than $1 billion from a now-abandoned six-lane tunnel proposal.

In court today, Sherwin argued that Seattle voters aren't being told that they will have to pay for any cost overruns on the viaduct reconstruction and that the ballot title says shoulders "could" be used for peak-period travel, when the Seattle City Council asserts they "will" be used.

Sherwin said it isn't clear whether the federal government will approve the use of the shoulders.

Assistant City Attorney Carlton Seu said that while Gov. Chris Gregoire insists that the city will pay for tunnel cost overruns - and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels has also conceded it will- there's nothing in writing that requires that. "There's nothing set in stone on the city's obligation to pay for cost overruns," he said.

Further, said Seu, it's up to the state, not the city, whether the shoulders will be used, so it's irrelevant what the City Council says.

Assistant County Prosecutor Janine Joly said that if the judge had changed the ballot title today it would have delayed the mailing of ballots to military and other overseas voters.

The viaduct is the only issue on the city ballot, however other King County school districts have elections that day.

Sherwin, who represented himself in the case, said he was disappointed by the judge's ruling. "I respect the court's decision, but I disagree with him," he said.

"Leaving cost overruns out is deceptive. Now they can roll the presses."