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S.L. COUNTY ALTERS WORDING FOR BALLOT ONLY A LITTLE

Some said it was too long, some said it was too short. Some said it was too detailed, others said it didn't tell enough.

In the end, after hearing nearly two hours of testimony about ballot language for the light rail/balanced transportation referendum, the Salt Lake County Commission unanimously stuck with its own version after making a few changes.In one case, the commission inserted the phrase "or other fixed guideway system" in addition to an original reference to a light-rail system. This would allow future consideration of a monorail system.

Hendrik Pater, president of Pater Associates, whose firm has built nine monorail systems in the United States, said light-rail means trolley cars, while the state Legislature used the looser term of a fixed guideway system when authorizing the election.

A letter from Salt Lake County Attorney David Yocom warned against a too-detailed ballot measure, saying it would be "fraught with legal hazards." For example, the measure refers to 15-minute interval bus service along major routes, but what happens if service turns out to be every 20 minutes?

Some speakers questioned whether the ballot provided enough information. Others were happy with what was presented.

Mills Crenshaw warned the commission that it might be "perpetuating a fraud" if it holds an election and provides so little information to the public, particularly regarding costs.

Sharon Brinton suggested the rail question be separated from plans to expand Utah Transit Authority bus service - an approach also favored by Mary and Steven Pederson.

Bonnie Fernandez, a UTA board member, recommended the commission clarify the measure's language to show that the proposed quarter-cent sales tax would have to be supplemented by federal funds for any transit project. She said it would be misleading to suggest sales taxes alone would do the job.

Fernandez also questioned why the ballot contained a reference to a citizen oversight committee along with the sales tax.

Commissioner Randy Horiuchi said he expected the committee would be composed of unpaid volunteers and would not spend any money. He said it was important to create an advisory committee to keep an eye on things.

Horiuchi said Fernandez made good points, but he rejected her suggestions.

"You can only do so much with ballot language," Horiuchi said, adding that other issues and questions can come out in the campaign before the November election.