Baerwaldt putting money where his mouth is in Prop. 1 debate
Once an enthusiastic supporter of Seattle's monorail plan, Mark Baerwaldt is crusading again. But this time he's opposing Proposition 1...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Once an enthusiastic supporter of Seattle's monorail plan, Mark Baerwaldt is crusading again. But this time he's opposing Proposition 1, the roads-and-rails ballot measure.
Not only is Baerwaldt the public face and spokesman against the transportation measure, but he's spent more than $200,000 of his own money opposing it, state records show.
The ballot measure, covering the urban areas of Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, calls for increasing sales and car-tab taxes as part of a plan to spend $38 billion over the next 20 years.
"Using the regressive sales tax is wrong," Baerwaldt said. "It's bad public policy."
While he's happy to talk about his dislike of Proposition 1 — it costs so much and does so little, according to Baerwaldt — he would rather work behind the scenes.
While Baerwaldt acknowledges he's wealthy, all he will say about his own business background is that it involves computers. Records show he's chairman and board president of a company called Toucan Inc., which Baerwaldt calls a holding company. Between the mid-1980s and mid-'90s, he was CEO of USA Maritime, which did oil and gas exploration around the world.
"It's doubtful if I'll ever be out in the public again," Baerwaldt said. "I'll disappear into the background. That's where I'd like to be."
Bellevue Square developer Kemper Freeman, also a leader in the fight against Proposition 1, said he knows little about Baerwaldt — the two have only met over a conference table talking campaign strategy. Freeman, who has put $200,000 into the campaign, said, "I have high regard for him and his commitment. He's worked as hard as anybody."
Freeman said he and Baerwaldt don't dislike the ballot measure for the same reasons — Freeman wants more roads built, while Baerwaldt dislikes Sound Transit — but says "we come from a different place, but end up the same."
Baerwaldt, 55, a University of Washington graduate, said he got his start with a series of lunches and philosophical talks with the late U.S. Sen. Henry Jackson.
Later, Baerwaldt was a leader in Sane Transit's lawsuit against Sound Transit's light-rail system. Sane Transit argued that voters in 1996 approved a Sound Transit 21-mile plan that was to extend from the University District to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.
By late 2000, however, the project was $1 billion over budget and three years behind schedule.
So, in November 2001, the Sound Transit board downsized the project to a 14-mile line from downtown Seattle to Tukwila, to be finished in 2009. Later the route was extended to the airport.
Sane Transit filed a lawsuit to block the line, arguing it was illegal because it wasn't the same project that voters approved in 1996. By a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court upheld a lower-court ruling that voters had given Sound Transit discretion to scale back the project in the event of unforeseen circumstances.
Baerwaldt said his opposition to Proposition 1 grew from his distrust of Sound Transit.
Baerwaldt also was a leader and financial contributor opposing ballot measures that would have built a new Seattle Mariners stadium — his side won but the Legislature overturned it — and a new football stadium, which voters approved.
"The wealthiest part of society feeds at the public trough at the expense of everyone else," said Baerwaldt, adding that he's not a sports fan, although he lettered in freshman football at the University of Washington. "This is why people are cynical about government."
Baerwaldt lives in a Belltown condominium, has been involved in crime-fighting issues there, and walks and runs virtually everywhere, some days clocking 10 miles. He has a car, but often he has to recharge the battery before he can drive it.
As far as his own politics, Baerwaldt said he's neither a Democrat nor a Republican but a "radical rebel." He has no interest in running for office.
"I'd get bored with it ... and it would take me away from the other fun things I do."
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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