Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Media needs to stop giving Tim Eyman special attention

The Washington State press corps' favoritism for initiative profiteer Tim Eyman is getting old. Really old. And this organization - the Northwest Progressive Instiute, through its Permanent Defense division - is sick and tired of it.

As anyone who has followed NPI for the past couple of years knows, we have long been engaged in a major fight to stop Tim Eyman from destroying the state of Washington.

That fight continues today. Permanent Defense is currently getting ready to oppose Eyman's next attempt to slash transportation funding, while also continuing to push for real tax reform.

Yesterday, an article appeared in the Aberdeen Daily World, which talked about a proposal from two Democratic state legislators, Rep. Lynn Kessler and Sen. Tim Sheldon, to get rid of the user fees at Washington State Parks:
The lawmakers will urge the Legislature to eliminate the $5 fee for vehicle parking in state parks. The 2006 legislative session convenes Jan. 9.

Users have had to pay the fee since 2003. Attendance and fees at state parks are both down, the legislators say.

“We’ve really turned our rangers into parking attendants,” Sheldon told The Daily World Tuesday. “I think funding parks is something that should be paid out of the general fund. I don’t have a problem with paying for a boat launch fee or moorage fee or to camp, but to pay to picnic or to walk on the beach is ridiculous.”

“I have two slogans right now,” said Nora Porter, a Port Townsend resident who has been advocating lifting the parking fee since 2002. “I have lapels and T-shirts and the works that say ‘Free the parks’ and ‘Give the parks back to the people who own them.’”

Virginia Painter, a spokeswoman for the Washington State Parks & Recreation Commission, said that in 2002, prior to the fee being introduced, parks statewide saw 46.868 million visitors. After the fee was introduced in 2004, there were only 38.138 million users. That means at least 873,000 people stayed home instead of using the parks. Rep. Kessler says that’s a clear signal the current system isn’t working.

“It’s ridiculous our own citizens have to pay for our own parks,” Kessler said. “It’s irritating to our citizens because they thought we already pay for our parks with our tax dollars. We tried to eliminate (the parking fee) in the past, but the reality is that the money wasn’t there (to replace the revenues from the fees). Well, it’s there now.”
We agree. The parking fees need to be eliminated. The user fees hit our state's poorest citizens the hardest - and that's wrong. The fees need to go.

Of course, the Daily World reporter who wrote this story just had to go to Tim Eyman to get Tim's opinion:
Tim Eyman is against Kessler’s notion that the Montana-style plan would be a good alternative. He’s already drafting an initiative to ensure that vehicle owners only pay $30 to renew their tabs.

“Her legislation is just a sneaky attempt to get around the voters’ twice-approved $30 vehicle tabs,” Eyman wrote in an e-mail to The Daily World Tuesday. “Such legislation will eventually ‘morph’ into another tax increase on vehicles. We’re going to spend all of 2006 fighting to save our $30 tabs and arrogant legislation like that proposed by Kessler will simply pour gasoline on the fire of enthusiasm for ‘Save Our $30 Tabs’ initiative.”
We're sick of you and your lies, Tim. YOU ARE THE REASON why the state doesn't have enough money to avoid charging user fees at state parks! Your initiatives are a threat to our quality of life.

It's regrettable that the media keeps going to Eyman to get quotes for news stories like this. Every time he's given the opportunity, he uses it to promote his initiatives. Eyman won't ever talk about the consequences of his initiatives. He won't talk about what should be cut. He is a coward. An irresponsible coward.

What makes us even angrier is that Tim keeps getting column after column in newspapers across the state. In response to Eyman's two columns this week, we released the following to Washington State media outlets today:
This organization - the membership and leadership of Permanent Defense - is getting pretty tired of the special treatment that Tim Eyman keeps getting from Washington State media outlets. Today, Tim has a column in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, entitled "2006 initiative: Save our $30 tabs." Just yesterday, the Everett Herald ran the very same column for Tim, entitled: "Politicians should be held to their word on $30 tabs". Why are media outlets going out of their way to give Eyman special treatment?

The members of this organization would like to know why.

It's been said that the media is not very good at telling people what to think, but is good at telling people what to think about. The power to set the agenda. To decide what is "buzz" and what is not. This organization is fairly confident that the media understands who Tim Eyman is and what he wants.

His goal is to destroy government. And his philosophy (if you can call it that) is well summarized in this quote from national right wing activist Grover Norquist, who famously stated: "My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years - to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub."

Eyman's initiatives are all attempts to reduce the size and scope of government in some way. Not just state government, but local government, too. Most of his initiatives have been proposals to drastically cut back taxes, which has an immediate and significant effect on the ability of government to deliver quality public services to its citizens.

Year after year, editorial boards and commentators across Washington have opined against nearly every one of these initiatives, concluding that they will not lead to a healthier Evergreen State.

Despite this, Eyman keeps getting the attention he wants and needs to remain influential. In fact, Tim has probably received more media exposure than any other politician in the state, save for the Governor.

Whenever Eyman wants to "announce" a new initiative effort, the Associated Press usually has an article about it. Whenever Eyman calls a press conference in Olympia, the major TV stations (KOMO, KING, KIRO, KCPQ) usually send their cameras over to the Capitol campus to cover it, and then those stations run the clips during their five o'clock broadcasts. When Eyman submits columns to newspapers, they usually get printed. We know because we keep seeing them.

Reprinted below is a blog post from the Chair that was printed on the Northwest Progressive Institute Official Blog last May 4th (the Northwest Progressive Institute, or NPI, is Permanent Defense's parent organization). This post still rings true today:

[We are] appalled that Tim Eyman has managed to secure as much free publicity as he has in recent days.

He's played the state's op-ed pages like a fiddle. He has a column this morning in the Seattle Times and yesterday he had one in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Not to mention columns in the Tacoma News Tribune, Everett Herald, and Wenatchee World, all in recent days.

Eyman doesn't deserve any of this. He's accomplished nothing during the last two to three years, and yet he is treated by editorial page editors like royalty. [Note: After this was written in May, Eyman's I-900 did pass in November, although I-912, which Eyman tried to latch onto, failed. Still, that's a 1 for 5 record for all of his initiatives since the end of 2002, not counting Initiative 912.]

The state's op-ed pages can do better. Tim is less than a mediocre writer - he's a pitiful, lousy writer. His columns are nothing more than recycled talking points from his e-mails coupled with ranting and rambling at the courage of elected officials to do what it takes to tackle our state's toughest problems.

Tim would destroy all of that. If he gets his way, we'll be mired in deficits and stuck in gridlock for decades to come - not to mention our communities will deteriorate.

Unless he is refuted, people will buy his talk because the temptation to think only of one's pocketbook is simply too great. Unless people understand the profound consequences, they will be won over.

Tim has a gift for deception and salesmanship. He'll use that gift to the full extent possible. He's good at getting people to think only in their self-interest and forget about the needs and benefits of living in a community.

The newspaper editors that printed Tim's columns should be ashamed for falling over each other and giving Tim space to write column after column. Three of the papers even ran the same column - one of Tim's rehashed e-mails.

Why reward a paid politician like Tim with column after column when Eyman hasn't even achieved anything? He's 0 for 4 in his last four attempt to pass an initiative. Apparently, his failures haven't affected his media clout very much yet.

The op-ed pages of our newspapers are too valuable to waste on people like Tim. Newspaper editors should get some real local talent for their op-ed pages, or get guest commentary from local officials and state legislators.

While we're on this topic, I thought I'd share this advice from the Seattle Times Company for op-ed writers:

DON'T submit the same piece to different papers at the same time. Editors hate to see a piece on their desk appear in a nearby paper. As a general rule, ride one horse at a time.

Apparently, that isn't true because three different editors for three different newspapers each approved Tim's rehashed email as a column in their respective newspapers. [And it just happened again this month, December 2005.]

And then, after Tim had gotten four other columns in four other newspapers (in quick succession), the Seattle Times was willing to give him a fifth. It's absolutely ridiculous.

If Evergreen State newspapers are willing to so freely give Tim all this op-ed space, they should allow opponents - including us - the same amount of space for a response. Most newspapers are known to pride themselves on allowing both sides of an issue to present their viewpoints and arguments.

If they won't do that, then the current state of Washington's newspapers is op-ed pages is very regrettable.
It is time that regional media outlets stopped giving Tim Eyman so much special attention. There is no good reason why he should be awarded with column after column after column. There is no good reason why the press needs to feel obligated to cover him every single time he wants to announce a new initiative effort.

Why not instead put a greater emphasis on giving more people, especially those active within their neighborhood communities, a chance to express their views? The Evergreen State is home to about six million people. There are surely many Washingtonians (and many issues) that are far more worthy of the attention than Tim Eyman. The media should be diversifying its political coverage instead of catering to him.
The release speaks for itself. We cannot sit by idly and continue to watch the media treat Eyman with such favoritism. We will continue to stand up and fight the ignorance that Eyman represents in 2006.

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