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Friday, August 10, 2001 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Rainier Valley group drops claim against Sound Transit

Seattle Times staff reporter

A neighborhood organization that has been fighting surface light rail in Rainier Valley has dropped its last legal claim against Sound Transit.

Save Our Valley plans to file a motion asking for voluntary dismissal of its claim that the agency had intentionally discriminated against the neighborhood in its decision to build a rail line down the center of Martin Luther King Jr. Way South.

The group had sued last year hoping to block construction. U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein threw out most of the lawsuit last month but left the issue of whether the agency had intentionally discriminated against the community, which has a high proportion of minority and low-income residents. That issue had been set for trial in early October.

The organization decided to voluntarily dismiss its last claim because of lack of money and because Sound Transit hasn't determined where a light-rail route will go.

"We don't know if there's even going to be a light rail or what it'll look like," said Save Our Valley board member George Curtis. "So do we spend the money now? We could even win the lawsuit and the project might change completely."

Following through on the case could take about $30,000, Curtis said. The group is asking for dismissal without prejudice, which preserves its right to raise the issue in the future.

Sound Transit officials said they were pleased. "This seems to substantiate our claim that there was never any intentional discrimination to begin with," said agency spokesman Lee Somerstein.

In other Sound Transit news, the organization's board yesterday approved a $172,000-a-year, two-year contract for Executive Director Joni Earl. Earl joined the agency last October as chief operating officer. The former executive director, Bob White, had been earning $168,580 a year when he resigned in January after a controversy over budget overruns.

Janet I. Tu can be reached at 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com.

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