Rail vote passes Council hurdle
A proposal aimed at letting voters decide the fate of the city's rail transit system passed 9-0 yesterday in an initial vote by the City Council.
The first-reading vote is procedural, with most measures passing before going to committees for further debate and crafting.
Councilman Nestor Garcia, chairman of the Transportation Committee, said he voted in favor of passing along the proposal so there could be further discussion on the issue.
He said he would proceed cautiously because the resolution calls for amending the City Charter to let voters decide whether to approve a steel-wheel-on-steel-track rail system.
"You have to be careful when you deal with the Charter," Garcia said. "You don't want to fall prey to the whims or the emotional furor over an issue and amend constitutions or charters willy-nilly."
The proposal was introduced by Councilman Charles Djou, an opponent of rail, who argued that a vote by the public would bring finality and closure to an issue that has "bedeviled" city and county government for three decades.
"The best way to bring legitimate, democratic closure to this rail debate is a vote of the people," Djou said.
Charter amendment resolutions require a two-thirds majority vote by the Council. The Council has no power to override a mayoral veto of a Charter amendment question.
The Stop Rail Now group has been holding a petition drive to get an anti-rail question before voters. The city clerk ruled last week against allowing the group's question on the Nov. 4 general election ballot. Djou introduced his bill in response to that ruling.