Labor groups oppose Tigard ballot measure targeting high-capacity transit

Two large labor organizations are opposing a ballot measure in Tigard that they say is designed to cripple the Southwest Corridor Plan — a high-capacity transit connection between Portland, Tigard and Tualatin.

Delegates to the Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council (CPBCTC) and the Northwest Oregon Labor Council voted last month to oppose Measure 34-210. Ballots in the vote-by-mail special election will be counted the evening of March 11. It is the only item on the ballot.

Union officials believe backers of the measure arranged for a special election (rather than wait until the May primary) in hopes that fewer residents will turn out to vote, thus giving it a better chance of passing.

If passed, the measure will make it the official policy of the City of Tigard to oppose the Southwest Corridor Plan unless it is specifically approved by voters. It will also require the City to send annual letters to every state and federal elected official from Oregon reminding them of their opposition to high-capacity transit. Unless there is a specific measure passed by the voters first, the City couldn’t amend its comprehensive plan or land-use regulations to prepare for any transit project, bus or rail.

Metro, TriMet, Portland, Tigard, Tualatin and other area cities have been working on the Southwest Corridor Plan for years. The idea is to bring a high-capacity transit line from Portland to Tualatin, either by MAX light rail or bus rapid transit.

Willy Myers, executive secretarytreasurer of CPBCTC, said backers of the measure are anti-light-rail conservatives, libertarians and Tea Partiers who are trying to gain a foothold in Washington County. One of the backers is the Oregon Transformation Project, an organization that helped elect conservatives John Ludlow and Tootie Smith to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners.

“Their stated strategy is to make an anchor city oppose light rail to stop the funding and thus kill a $2 billion union construction project,” Myers told delegates to the NOLC meeting Feb. 24. “It’s time for labor to hold the line and defeat this poorly written and community-damaging ballot measure.”

The Tigard City Council, Tigard Chamber of Commerce, the Westside Economic Alliance, the Oregon Environmental Council and dozens of other groups also oppose Measure 34-210.

The Tigard City Council, which was unanimous in its opposition, pointed out that Tigard’s current city charter already gives residents a transit vote. The charter states that voters must approve any new city fees or revenues for light rail construction in Tigard.

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