Offering daily news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Move King County Now: Vote Yes on Proposition 1!

Monthly Archives: October 2011

Poll Watch: Tim Eyman’s I-1125 and Costco’s I-1183 will be close, respected poll indicates

For the last several years, the University of Washington’s Center for Survey Research has taken the pulse of Washington’s electorate each autumn, in the weeks leading up to Election Day. The Center’s survey, known as the Washington Poll, has successfully predicted the outcome of many fiercely contested ballot measures, including the defeats of I-933 and I-1033 in 2006 and 2009.

This year’s Washington Poll has just been released as of late this evening, and it indicates that Tim Eyman’s I-1125 and Costco’s I-1183 are going to be close… possibly extremely close. The poll, which surveyed nine hundred and thirty eight registered voters across Washington between October 10th and today (October 30th), found support for I-1183 at 50.3% and support for I-1125 at 41.4%. Opposition stands at 42.8% and 40%, respectively.

The numbers break down as follows:

Support for I-1125

Yes – certain 25.1% Total Yes: 41.4%
Yes – could change 12.5%
Undecided – lean yes 3.8%

Opposition to I-1125

No – certain 30.2% Total No: 40.0%
No – could change 7.3%
Undecided – lean no 2.5%

The total number of undecided voters (those without a preference) is fairly high, at 18.7%. This figure indicates a lot of voters are not familiar with I-1125 yet.

It is certainly encouraging to see that the number of certain Nos is higher than the number of certain Yeses. This suggests that our efforts against I-1125 are starting to bear fruit. Keep Washington Rolling, the anti-1125 coalition that NPI belongs to, is presently running several television and radio ads against the measure with the help of Microsoft and Boeing, which have collectively put up close to a million dollars to get the message out. One spot features Doug MacDonald and Sid Morrison, the former Transportation Secretaries, explaining how 1125 would threaten our state’s ability to complete vital road projects.

NO on I-1125To beat I-1125, we need to convert the relatively low number of weak Nos into strong Nos, and move a little more than half of the undecided voters into the No column. Undecided voters tend to break against poorly thought out right wing ballot measures when the opposition does a good job explaining the consequences. We’ve clearly got much more that needs to be done in terms of outreach between now and November 8th.

Meanwhile, the numbers for I-1183 don’t look as encouraging. I-1183 has been in the news a lot, and Costco is spending a record $22.5 million this year alone to sell I-1183. Their ad blitz is having an impact; the Washington Poll shows support for I-1183 at just over 50%. But the Protect Our Communities coalition (of which NPI is a part) isn’t far behind. Take a look at the numbers:

Support for I-1183

Yes – certain 41.1% Total Yes: 50.3%
Yes – could change 6.7%
Undecided – lean yes 2.5%

Opposition to I-1183

No – certain 35.6% Total No: 42.8%
No – could change 4.9%
Undecided – lean no 2.2%

The Washington Poll puts the number of undecided voters at 6.9%. Clearly, more people have an idea of which way they’re going to vote on I-1183 than I-1125. To win, Protect Our Communities has to convince all of the undecided voters in this poll to vote no and convince some of those leaning yes to vote against.

When in doubt, people tend to vote no on ballot measures, so Protect Our Communities needs to refine its criticism of Costco’s ads, which make a lot of too-good-to-be-true promises. It won’t be enough for the campaign to simply point out that Costco is trying to buy the election (though it is good for voters to know who’s behind I-1183). Protect Our Communities has to debunk Costco’s false promises and paint a stronger picture of the hidden consequences of I-1183.

Costco’s media consultants are going all-out to sell I-1183, and the results of this poll reflect that. Costco is doing all it can to blunt the effectiveness of Protect Our Communities’ message – putting first responders into its own advertising, claiming that passage of the measure will increase state revenue, and so on. Protect Our Communities needs to respond to these countermeasures with its own.

Granted, the only truly definitive poll is the election itself, which is happening right now. All of the evidence we have suggests that I-1125 and I-1183 will be close. To cross the finish line first, Keep Washington Rolling and Protect Our Communities will need to campaign aggressively in the last week and try to reach as many voters who have not already voted as possible.

The Washington Poll also looked at how the 2012 gubernatorial and presidential races are shaping up, though those contests are a year away from being decided. The poll found Rob McKenna leading Jay Inslee, 44.9% to 38.4%, with 17.6% undecided. It also found Barack Obama leading both Rick Perry and Mitt Romney by a comfortable margin. Obama polled better against Romney (54% vs. 50.2%), though Romney himself didn’t poll any better than Perry (both men got 40.7%).

Not surprisingly, respondents told surveyors that the economy and the recession were the biggest issues on their minds.

High unemployment was specifically cited as a concern.

The poll also asked respondents how they would vote if there was a ballot measure concerning marriage equality next year. 47% said they would strongly support such a measure; 31% said they would strongly oppose. 8% said they were inclined to vote yes and 7% said they were inclined to vote no.

The remaining 7% were undecided.

These numbers suggest that a referendum to overturn a marriage equality bill would fail, which is very encouraging.

The Legislature ought to enact a marriage equality bill in the 2012 legislative session and advance the cause of civil rights in Washington. The right wing would undoubtedly try to force a referendum on the bill, but they’d be doing so in a presidential election year, with higher than usual turnout.

Moving forward next year would seem to be a risk worth taking. It certainly feels like the time has come. Washington should be in the vanguard of the marriage equality movement, not bringing up the rear. We’ve banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. We’ve done domestic partnerships… twice.

Now it’s time for the real thing: Full marriage equality.

Speaking of turnout, Secretary of State Sam Reed has forecast turnout for this year’s election at only 47%. If the prediction holds true, it’ll mean that less than half of Washington’s voters will be deciding the fate of I-1125 and I-1183.

POSTSCRIPT: Here’s a few fast facts about the Washington Poll.

  • First conducted in 2006
  • Has successfully predicted the outcome (success or failure) of every ballot measure that it has polled, with the exception of I-985 in 2008 (but the poll did show support for I-985 weakening).
  • Principally investigated by Dr. Matt Barreto, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Washington.
  • Administered over the phone by live callers, based on a randomly selected list of phone numbers using a publicly available list of registered voters.
  • Both landlines and cell phones were included in the list.
  • Average twenty-eight minutes in length.
  • Results have a 3.2% margin of error.

For more information, please see the Washington Poll website.

When is a public vote not a public vote? When it doesn’t go Tim Eyman’s way, that’s when

Yesterday, KING 5 aired a story on the provision of I-1125 that attempts to sabotage Sound Transit’s East Link project. The provision in question, Section 3, would  forbid WSDOT from transferring part of the Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge to the agency for light rail, which obviously would prevent light rail from reaching Bellevue and Redmond (NPI’s hometown) at all.

We first began alerting the traditional press to the existence of this provision back in May, shortly after Tim Eyman announced the I-1125 signature drive.

This week, Danny Westneat wrote a column on the topic (Tim Eyman’s secret war on light rail) and now KING 5 has done a story, which features some amusing lines from Tim Eyman. The story opens with a shot of a Sound Transit Express bus in Bellevue and a short voiceover by reporter Chris Daniels: ”Downtown Bellevue is slated to see the so-called East Link a decade from now…”

… and then immediately cuts to Tim Eyman saying, “I never voted for it.”

Maybe not, but a lot of other people did. The vote on Sound Transit 2 in 2008 wasn’t even close. 57.08% of voters in urban King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties voted in favor of Sound Transit Proposition 1 in 2008, with only 42.92% opposed.

Chris Daniels brought this up with Eyman, but Eyman conveniently found a way to dismiss the vote as irrelevant:

When asked, “Haven’t voters already approved light rail over I-90?” he replied, “A subset of [voters] have had a vote [on an light rail over I-90], not everyone in the state.”

What Eyman really meant to say was that, in his eyes, the vote didn’t count because it didn’t go his way. That would have been the honest answer – but of course, Tim Eyman isn’t known for his honesty.

Eyman will happily cite the outcome of a public vote that he agrees with, regardless of whether it happened at the local level, regional level, or state level. But he doesn’t talk about the public votes that he disagrees with. At least not without being prompted. And then he comes up with an excuse to disqualify the results.

East Link is a regional transportation project. Only people who live within Sound Transit’s taxing district are paying for East Link. No state money is being used to design or construct the project. And actually, because of a Sound Transit policy called subarea equity, only taxpayers who live in neighborhoods that East Link will serve are paying for it. That means Tim Eyman isn’t actually paying for East Link, even though he is a Sound Transit taxpayer.

Given that East Link is a regional transportation project being paid for with regional money, why should people who live in Aberdeen, Colville, Pasco, Yakima, or Walla Walla have a say on it? Why should they get to decide what kind of transportation system Puget Sound has? It’s not their decision. They justifiably wouldn’t be too happy if voters in Puget Sound made decisions for them.

We have a long tradition of home rule in Washington State. It’s why we have so many local governments. Unfortunately, Tim Eyman has a tradition of sponsoring initiatives that totally and carelessly stomp all over home rule.

It’s certainly true that East Link will run over a portion of what is presently Interstate 90, but Sound Transit is compensating the state for its use of the bridge.

Interstate 90, by the way, is a federal highway in addition to being a state highway. The federal government provided the lion’s share of the money to build it, on the condition that the corridor be able to support high-capacity transit in the future. A memorandum signed by the cities of Mercer Island, Seattle, King County, and the State of Washington made an explicit promise that this would happen:

Section 1. (b) The facility shall also contain provision for two lanes designed for and permanently committed to transit use. The eastern and western termini for these lanes shall be designed to facilitate uninterrupted transit and carpool access to downtown Seattle and to downtown Bellevue in accordance with paragraph 3 hereinbelow. The design shall be such as to accommodate the operation of the two transit lanes ill either a reversible or in a two-way directional mode.

The memorandum later goes on to say:

Section 2. The I-90 facility shall be designed and constructed so that conversion of all or part of the transit roadway to fixed guideway is possible.

“Fixed guideway” basically means train tracks. Here’s a more technical definition from the Federal Transit Administration: “A ‘fixed guideway’ refers to any transit service that uses exclusive or controlled rights-of-way or rails, entirely or in part.”

This memorandum I’ve just excerpted from was signed in 1976… when Tim Eyman was only ten years old. It has taken a very long time, but our region is finally ready to move forward and convert the I-90 transit lanes to a fixed guideway… more specifically, train tracks for East Link.

But Tim Eyman and his wealthy benefactor Kemper Freeman Jr. don’t want the terms of this agreement to be enforced. They don’t want the voter-approved East Link project built. Why? Because they are ideologically opposed to light rail. They are diehard road warriors who wrongly believe that traffic congestion would just go away if only we built bigger and wider highways.

To them, the automobile means freedom.

What they don’t get is that designing communities around cars instead of people actually inhibits freedom. True freedom of mobility means the ability to choose a mode of transportation. People who don’t want to drive, for whatever reason, shouldn’t be forced to. They should have options. If our region lacks a good transit system, that makes it hard to get around without a car.

Link light rail is all about providing a reliable commute for people through major transportation corridors that are presently highly congested today.

Voters first approved building a regional light rail system in 1996 with Sound Move. In 2002, Tim Eyman tried to override the will of the voters with Initiative 776, which passed narrowly statewide, but failed in Sound Transit’s taxing district. (I-776 was actually the first Eyman initiative I was involved in fighting; Permanent Defense was created to oppose I-776. PD will celebrate its tenth anniversary this February.)

I-776 tried to kill Central Link, the first Link light rail line, by eliminating one of Sound Transit’s sources of revenue – a motor vehicle excise tax (MVET). However, when Eyman wrote the initiative, he either didn’t understand or didn’t care that the tax he was trying to repeal had already been pledged to pay off bonds. Sound Transit argued that the tax needed to remain in place so it could fulfill its promises to bondholders. The Supreme Court agreed, and the tax continues to be collected.

With I-1125, Eyman is basically trying to do what he did with I-776 nine years ago: Try to kill a Sound Transit light rail line with a statewide vote.

Eyman prides himself on being undeterred when he loses. But he unreasonably demands that his opponents give up and regard an issue as settled when he wins. Pretty good double standard, huh?

To Tim Eyman, who I know eventually will read this post, we say: Sorry, Tim. You may be very determined to continue fighting to paralyze public services and wreck government in this state, but we are even more determined to stop you. Washington cannot afford your destructive, cynical, ill-conceived initiatives.

Readers, please join us in voting NO in I-1125 if you haven’t already. Keep Sound Transit’s East Link on track, and keep our roads safe.

Let’s defeat Tim Eyman… again!

Meet the hypocrites: Bank of America

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago Bank of America Bank of Greed instituted a $5 monthly penalty for customers who use a debit card that is tied to their checking account. All the while, modern-day Scrooge,  CEO Brian Moynihan was whining that the bank “has a right to make a profit” and  cited a need to institute the fees to make up for lost revenue which came as a result of consumer protection measures passed by Congress.

Well, the earning reports for the third quarter are in and Bank of Greed raked in a cool $6.2 billion. So much for that robber baron Moynihan needing to implement his $5 duty on banking services in order to keep his cash cow/golden parachute dispenser afloat.

It’s time to break out the tiny violin and play a sad song for Mr. Moynihan.  It must really be a struggle to earn $1.9 million a year, lead a company to billions in profit, and have to hear from customers who could really use the extra $5 monthly for their families. How dare Congress pass laws protecting consumers from banks!

Mr. Moynihan and Bank of Greed have made their profits (and we still get a lousy interest rate on our savings accounts). Consumers should now stand together and make a statement. As we’ve said here many times before, strongly consider removing your money from the big corporate banks and invest in your community owned credit unions.   While banks are subservient to shareholders and the Almighty Dollar, credit unions are locally owned and operated and won’t nickel and dime you into poverty.

 

Pacific NW Portal 5.0 (Newport) to launch in December after years of development

I have some exciting news to share this morning: In a couple of months, NPI’s Pacific NW Portal is finally going to be getting a much-needed overhaul with the launch of Version 5.0, codenamed Newport.

We’ve been working on this new version for a very long time, and I’m pleased to say we’re close to being done with it.

I want to stress that Newport is much more than an update or an upgrade… it truly is an unprecedented revamp. We’ve built it to completely replace the current incarnation of the Portal, which is outdated and falling apart.

Obviously, we haven’t completely neglected the Portal over the last few years – we’ve pushed out many minor updates to the site since we took Version 4.0 (Seaside) live in May of 2006. But Seaside is definitely showing its age.

I think longtime readers who remember the Portal’s earlier days will agree with us that it’s time for Seaside to go into retirement. It had a long run, but its days of service are appropriately coming to an end.

Every major version of Pacific NW Portal we’ve released since Version 3.0 has had a theme. Seaside’s theme was compatibility. Marine Green’s theme was coverage. And True Blue’s theme was stability.

Newport’s theme will be speed. This version has been engineered from the ground up for faster loading and quicker updating. We’ve been testing it on smartphones and tablets in addition to good old desktops and laptops, and it’s been performing well. In addition, we have tested all sorts of combinations of desktop operating systems and browsers to ensure the new Portal is rendering properly.

Since many browsers share what’s known as a rendering engine, or layout engine, we have been primarily testing Newport with different layout engines. The four major ones are Trident (used by Internet Explorer and derivatives), Gecko (used by Firefox, Camino, and SeaMonkey), WebKit (used by Chromium, Safari, and the BlackBerry browser) and Presto (used by Opera).

We’re pretty confident that no matter which browser and operating system you use, if it’s relatively modern, Pacific NW Portal 5.0 should render smoothly for you. (If you’re still living in the 1990s and using a horribly outdated browser, we can’t guarantee the Portal will look good. It’ll still load, but it’ll be ugly.

We haven’t finalized a launch date for Newport yet, but mid to late December is likely – after the election is over, but before Christmas.

We’ll keep you posted on our progress as we get closer. We think you’ll find the new Pacific NW Portal much more intuitive and powerful than the current version. We look forward to bringing it to you very soon!

A conversation with John Stokes, Part 3: The Belleuve community supports its schools by working together

This is the third and final segment of a series of posts covering my recent conversation with Bellevue City Council candidate John Stokes. John and I are connected through our education advocacy work and I know him to be a well-informed and dedicated advocate for children.

In part one of our conversation, posted last week, we discussed John’s civic background and vision. Part two continued the series with a discussion of light rail and city growth. Today, we will talk about education, an area that John has been significantly involved in since he moved to Bellevue twenty years ago, during which time Bellevue schools have become some of our nation’s best.

From John’s campaign website:

As an education advocate during the past 20 years, John has helped on countless school levy and bond campaigns, spent 9 years as a trustee on the Bellevue Schools Foundation, and served as chair of the Bridging the Achievement Gap Committee. He currently serves on the Bellevue School District’s fiscal advisory committee, and has been involved with schools as a site facilitator and a PTA leader. John was honored by the Washington State Parent Teacher Association as its “Outstanding Advocate” for 2009.

Here are some conversation highlights:

KATHLEEN: When I was online today, I noticed that three of Bellevue’s high schools were ranked by U.S. News and World Reports in the top 100 high schools in the country. Since you’ve been so involved in the school community, what do you attribute this success to, and what kind of role have you played in strengthening Bellevue’s school system?

JOHN: Well, I think that when we came here twenty years ago, it was a pretty good system. It was decentralized and there was a lot of variance from school to school about what was taught and what the achievements were, and I think that changed when Mike Riley came in as superintendent.

I met Mike right away and I worked with Mike all the time he was there, and the Bellevue School Foundation also worked very closely with him. Mike put in two concepts that were very important. One was that all kids can achieve at a high level.  And secondly, high standards were crucial to that achievement. In other words, if you believe that kids can achieve at a high level and put in high level programs, you have a formula that leads to high achievement. The motto for the Bellevue Schools Foundation has been “high expectations lead to high achievement.”

It also means you have to do a lot of analysis, and the foundation and the school district spent funds to get a better handle on the depth and breadth of the curriculum and program delivery.

Bellevue at this time had fairly high and uniform family expectations for its students.

KATHLEEN: Highly academic families?

JOHN: Right, and, the good thing is that even though Bellevue has changed and now has a minority-majority population, and the schools are larger and there are more English as a second language kids than in Seattle, plus a much higher percentage of free and reduced lunch recipients in a number of schools, it still has achieved, because at the same time, we were working at the foundation on the Bridging the Achievement Gap committee. We were working with schools in low income areas to help kids, particularly kids who come into school without being able to read, to be successful, and then we worked with the city.

The city’s involvement in the schools, with the wrap around program particularly…

KATHLEEN: So, the city’s been a crucial partner in maintaining the excellence?

JOHN: Yes, so that’s one of the reasons that I am very interested in this, because we’ve been working on this for some time. The city, with the wrap around program, has worked in a number of the schools to help within the community provide services for kids and families so that kids are ready to learn. And that has grown into a program called Eastside Pathways. It’s a collective impact group that Bill Henningsgaard and I, and Roxanne Shepard started, and it’s grown now to hundreds of people working with us. The school district has endorsed it. City staff is working on it. We have service providers like the United Way, Youth Eastside Services, Child Care Resources, and Kinder Care, different levels all working together. So, this is very supportive of the schools and of high academics.

But what has been interesting to see is that Sammamish High School, which is still not at the same level of scoring and academics as Bellevue High and Newport High School, has improved, and Interlake High School which was struggling, has come up dramatically, and again it’s because of providing a lot more incentives for teachers. The school district ended up with the highest percentage of National Board Certified teachers because of a direct policy by Mike Riley and the foundation.

Currently, Dr. Cudeiro [the Bellevue School District superintendent] has worked on differentiated instruction to bridge the achievement gap so that all kids will achieve, which ends up with a higher percentage of kids graduating from high school and scoring very highly on tests .

So I think it’s been a community effort and a very combined effort to try to provide the best for students and knowing that if you provide the best, they will rise to the challenge.

KATHLEEN: Thank you John.

JOHN: It was good talking with you Kathleen.

Poll Watch: Support for Eyman’s I-1125 sinks

Local pollster Stuart Elway, whose firm has been surveying public opinion in Washington State for many years, has another survey measuring support for I-1125 out today – the third in a series he has conducted for this election.

The survey found that support for I-1125 has sunk dramatically, from fifty-six percent in favor last month to forty-three percent in favor this month. Opposition, meanwhile, climbed from twenty-five percent to thirty-six percent. The number of undecided voters remains the same, at around twenty percent.

On ballot measures, undecided voters historically tend to break no when there are good reasons to vote against (as there are with I-1125).

The Seattle Times went and got Tim Eyman’s reaction, and described Eyman as trying “to put a positive spin on the poll”. No surprise there – that’s what Tim does, although in our view, spin is too charitable of a word.

While it’s true that more respondents of Elway’s poll were in favor than against, the gap is getting close to the margin of error.

If Tim Eyman puts any stock in polls, he should be worried. When a ballot measure is polling under fifty percent, that’s a sign that it’s not going to pass.

Of course, this is just one poll. And even if there were other polls backing it up, it would still just be opinion research, which isn’t always reliable.

The real poll – the only one that matters – is currently being conducted by county elections officials across Washington State.

Please join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-1125 between now and November 8th, if you haven’t already. Keep our roads safe, and keep Washington rolling.

A conversation with John Stokes, Part 2: Let’s bring light rail and smart growth to Bellevue

Last week, I met up with  Bellevue City Council candidate John Stokes in a Redmond coffee shop.   John and I are connected through our education advocacy work and I know him to be a deep thinker and a dedicated advocate for children.  I wanted to find out more about his decision to run for office and what he hopes to do for Bellevue.  In part one of our conversation, posted last week, we discussed John’s background and vision.  Part two continues the series with a discussion of light rail and city growth.

Here are some conversation highlights:

KATHLEEN: John, what do you think about Tim Eyman’s anti-transportation initiative, I-1125?

JOHN: I am absolutely, unalterably, unequivocally opposed to I-1125.

I just read the Seattle PI article this morning, and as much as I don’t agree with Slade Gorton on a lot of things, I think that he’s absolutely right that the prior decision to not put light rail in was stupid, and this is really not only stupid, but it’s a destructive effort to undermine transportation and, I think, progressive ideas.

At the worst, it’s going to cost us a lot in legal fees and even if the legislature ignores it in two years, we will have lost two years, and it will have cost us billions of dollars that could have been spent actually doing something for people.

So, I think the idea that Kemper Freeman and Tim Eyman have teamed up, I hope that it is so awful, so repulsive to people that maybe they will light up and finally start seeing Tim Eyman for what he is.

KATHLEEN: What distinguishes your light rail vision from your opponent, Aaron Laing’s?

JOHN: I think it’s really a stark contrast.  In the first place, Laing lives off of Bellevue Way and he’s been engaged in this for some time.  He’s made public comments against it coming down to his house and he’s threatened legal action, and he’s also said that if they want, they can buy him out.  See, he’s been inconsistent in terms of protecting the neighborhood.  He’s basically interested in how it affects him.  He’s a land use attorney who sues governments, so he’s threatened that.

I think they’re trying to pile on so many costs and so many problems that they hope that Sound Transit will just go away and I don’t think that’s going to happen.  I think that Sound Transit is going to bring it through on the current route and the issue is, do we do rational mitigation?  Do we alleviate traffic concerns as much as possible, and do we build a tunnel or not?  And if we want to do it, it’s not as complicated as people think it is.

On the tunnel there are land swaps, there are a number of things that would end up with us only having to pay a relatively small amount some years down the line.  So it’s not impossible at all.

But I think the difference is I have a vision and my whole approach on this is that Bellevue, for a long time, has had leaders with vision.  Regardless of their party, regardless of anything, when something needs to be done that benefits the city and helps it grow, we figure out how to do it and we make it happen.  What we have now is a group of people who, unless it directly benefits them, they act to protect certain personal interests and they don’t want to make changes, to pay more taxes, even though we have the lowest property taxes of any city in the area, including Seattle.  And they seem to have a “something for nothing” attitude.  Somehow by magic they can deliver all these services that people want, but not raise taxes.

KATHLEEN: And you’re talking about a group on the council?

JOHN: Yeah.  About the council majority and the people running against Claudia [Balducci] and John [Chelminiak].

KATHLEEN: And your opponent?

JOHN: Yes.  So, it’s clearly a division in that sense.  I mean, John Chelminiak, Claudia Balducci and Grant Degginger, who has stepped aside, have been a minority trying to keep pushing on what I think are these more progressive areas.  The other side really espouses an anti-tax, low cost, kind of protecting interests and they’re very vague in what they are trying to do.  They’re focused on building more sidewalks, as opposed to actually resolving traffic problems.

I truly believe that it’s time to step out of the current Bellevue model which has all major development focused on downtown.  It was a smart plan at the beginning and it kept Bellevue from just having big buildings here and there, but Belleuve downtown has reached its infrastructure capacity.  It’s gridlocked now, but it still has capacity to grow.  The figures are something like 50% growth in thirty years, but at the same time, we have two corridors, the Bel-Red corridor and the I-90 corridor, that also have great growth potential.

There are developers and people who want to see concentrated growth, smart growth, in those areas that would bring employment and housing, that would bring amenities, open space and parks to those areas.  And the Kemper interests simply want to keep that from happening.  Aaron Laing said at the last forum that the 50% capacity in thirty years was as a reason to not build anything outside of downtown until that’s finished.  Again, it won’t happen, because there isn’t the transportation capacity and if you kill light rail you could really mess it up.

If we develop those other corridors that really does more to one, protect single family neighborhoods and two, to provide better amenities for those neighborhoods, better shopping, better opportunities for employment and living close to employment, and better multi-use housing.  Is Bellevue going to be a progressive city in these next thirty years or is it going into decline?  Because other areas, like Redmond, Kirkland, north and south Renton, and Newcastle, are maturing and will capture a lot of Bellevue’s growth potential if it doesn’t move forward.

Please return later in the week for the conclusion of my visit with John Stokes when we discuss how Bellevue’s schools have gone from good to great.

Scott White: 1970-2011

Tragic news from Roslyn tonight: State Senator Scott White, who has capably represented Seattle’s 46th District in the state Legislature since the beginning of 2009, was found dead in his room at the Suncadia Resort after housekeeping staff noticed that he had failed to check out.

The cause of death is currently unknown, but it may have been a heart attack. We’ll have to wait until an autopsy is conducted to know more.

All of us at NPI are deeply grieved by this unexpected loss. Scott was a great friend, a loyal supporter of NPI, a knowledgeable and smart legislator, and a wonderful father. He was widely considered to have a bright future ahead of him.

Scott served for several years as the chair of the 46th District Democrats; along with Tina Orwall, he also co-chaired the King County Democrats’ Legislative Action Committee before becoming a state legislator. He was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2008, and to the state Senate last year.

The Senate Democratic caucus, recognizing his organizing skills, quickly tapped him for the post of majority whip, an important leadership position.

Scott White with colleagues

Scott White confers with colleagues on the floor of the state House during the 2010 legislative session (Photo: Washington State Legislature)

Scott worked tirelessly during the 2011 legislative session to find a way to empower King County’s elected leaders to raise more money for Metro, which was in danger of having routes eliminated and service reduced due to a revenue shortfall.

In the spring, he successfully got a bill through the House and Senate giving King County the authority to levy a vehicle fee for Metro, and then, during the summer, he worked with King County Executive Dow Constantine and Deputy Executive Fred Jarrett to line up the votes on the county council to enact the fee.

Undoubtedly, that legislative triumph will be part of his legacy. Every King County Metro rider owes Scott White a heartfelt thank-you. If it weren’t for Scott, Metro would have had to begun eviscerating itself.

For the past two years, Scott served on the host committee for our 2011 Spring Fundraising Gala, helping to organize and promote NPI’s most important event. Scott believed that building progressive infrastructure was important, and he believed that thinking long-term was crucial.

I’ve always been grateful for his encouragement. And his willingness to listen.

Our deepest condolences go out to Alison (Scott’s wife) and his family. Scott leaves behind two young children, ages three and five, who will have to grow up without the father they loved. They are certainly in our thoughts and prayers tonight.

“My heart goes out to the family of Senator Scott White tonight,” Governor Chris Gregoire said in a statement. “Scott was a dedicated public servant and champion of important issues in Olympia. He was never afraid to tackle the difficult problems — and did so with a positive attitude, which I always appreciated.”

“I am stunned to learn the awful news of Scott’s unexpected death,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine. “Scott was a colleague and a friend, a rising star in the Legislature, and a champion for his district and for King County.”

“Scott’s sense of purpose led to his election first to the State House of Representatives and then to the State Senate, where I came to rely upon his leadership to provide the means for us to save bus service in King County.”

“Scott had a vision, and he delivered.”

“Today Seattle lost one of its promising leaders,” agreed Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “A man of intelligence, humor and compassion, State Senator Scott White was a devoted public servant, father and husband. Seattle, King County and Washington are a better place as a result of Scott’s service and he will be dearly missed.”

“I am deeply saddened by the shocking news that Senator Scott White has passed away,” said King County Councilmember Bob Ferguson, the likely Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2012.

“He was a hardworking, tenacious advocate for our shared constituents in the 46th District as he fought for education, the environment and transit. His family, especially his wife and young children, are in my prayers.”

“I’m so sad that my dear friend Scott White has passed away,” added State Representative Tina Orwall. “He was so clever, ambitious and kind. He was always there to give me good advice during our time c0-chairing the LAC and as we entered the legislature together.”

“I will miss you, my friend,” she concluded. “My thoughts and prayers are with your family.”

Scott’s Democratic colleagues in the state Senate have posted a number of remembrances, which can be viewed here.

FROM STEVE ZEMKE: Democrats lost a true friend with the death of State Senator Scott White. At forty-one, his life seemed full of promise and hope and it is sad and tragic that someone so active, caring and concerned passed away. Our prayers go out to his wife Alison and their two children. Scott cared about people and our state and was someone we all looked to for leadership and direction in these trying times. We will all miss him.

FROM GAEL TARLETON: Jump to comment…

America’s occupation of Iraq will end with the close of 2011, President Obama confirms

America’s occupation of Iraq will come to a close as originally promised, President Obama said at the White House on Friday, confirming that all American forces – with the exception of a token force left to guard the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad – will be pulling out of Iraq by year’s end.

“Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home,” the President said.

The U.S. and Iraq had been negotiating to keep some American troops in Iraq into 2012 and possibly beyond, but the negotiations apparently failed after the U.S. insisted on immunity for its soldiers – and the Iraqis refused to grant it.

Keeping U.S. forces in Iraq past the withdrawal date would have been a very bad idea. We never should have invaded Iraq in the first place, and our costly occupation has lasted far too long. It is time for our troops to come home to safety and to their families, and it is time for us to stop spending billions of dollars policing another country halfway around the world.

According to the National Priorities Project, the occupation of Iraq has cost U.S. taxpayers $818,492,948,702 since 2003. That’s $818 billion – with a b.

The cost to Washington taxpayers alone is currently estimated at $16,523,298,009.

If we had that $16 billion available to invest here in the Evergreen State, we could have avoided devastating cuts to vital public services following the onset of the Great Recession. We would not have had to slash funding for education, healthcare, or human services. We’d have been able to use what was left over to meet our infrastructure needs, which are great. Sadly, that $16 billion – our state’s share – was wasted overseas rather than being invested here at home.

“A complete drawdown from Iraq was the only move the President could make, given the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by President Bush, and the fact that insurgents promised increased attacks on Americans if we had stayed. We’re extremely pleased that the President will honor that agreement,” said Richard Allen Smith of VoteVets.org in a statement. (VoteVets was formed in 2006 to oppose the occupation of Iraq; it is now America’s largest network of progressive veterans).

A conversation with John Stokes, Part 1: A progressive vision for Bellevue

Earlier this week, I met up with  Bellevue City Council candidate John Stokes in a Redmond coffee shop.  John and I are connected through our education advocacy work and I know him to be a deep thinker and a dedicated advocate for children.  I wanted to find out more about his decision to run for office and what he hopes to do for Bellevue.  It turns out that John’s school advocacy has led to him to greater involvement in city activities where he’s discovered that Bellevue’s leaders are deficient in progressive values.

http://johnstokes.org/

Here are some highlights from our conversation:

KATHLEEN: Hi John. So tell me, why are you running for Bellevue City Council?

JOHN: It was a culmination of work done in the past with education and parks—I’m on the parks and community services board—and I’m very interested in seeing light rail come through Bellevue.

I’ve been in Bellevue for twenty years and really want to see Bellevue continue with smart growth and do things in a more progressive way so that we continue to have a livable city that is also economically vital.

We have changing demographics.  We have a much more diverse city and I’m concerned that a lot of the current policies are not directed towards the whole city but are more focused on certain parts of downtown.

KATHLEEN: What areas of the city do you feel are being neglected?

JOHN: There’s a downtown-centric view by some developers and some people.  There are other developers looking at growth areas in the Bel-Red corridor and the I-90/Eastgate corridor.  Crossroads and some neighborhood centers are in decline.  A lot of leaders don’t think about the fact that Bellevue is a large city and most of it lies east of Interstate 405, and a lot of things need to be done to that part of the city as well as downtown.

KATHLEEN: What skills or experiences will you bring to the city council that make you better suited to represent Bellevue citizens than your opponent Aaron Laing?

JOHN: First, I bring 20 years of direct involvement in the community, working in the schools.  I’ve been a leader in every [school] bond and levy campaign, active as a PTA leader, and in the Bellevue Schools Foundation for nine years, and as head of the Bellevue Bridging the Achievement Gap committee.   I’ve been on the school district fiscal advisory and instructional materials committees and on the Parks and Community Services Board.  I’ve been involved in the planning and implementation of park lands.

The other difference is I’m not supported by Kemper Freeman and certain narrow interests downtown.  I have a broad range of support.  And I’m part of and supported by Move Bellevue Forward, a group that is very interested in seeing light rail come to downtown, through the city and not bypass the city.

KATHLEEN: What values will you use to guide your decision-making on the council?

JOHN: I think the overall value is what is best to keep Bellevue a vibrant, growing city that encompasses all the diversity in Bellevue and that works to see that all of our citizens have opportunity and access to services, and that we promote job growth without sacrificing environmental concerns or just building more roads and big piles of concrete.

KATHLEEN: What are the citizens of Bellevue concerned about?

JOHN: They’re concerned about specific things in their neighborhood and light rail.  But what has been overarching, has been a desire for solid, strong leadership with a vision for moving forward and not wanting to just keep status quo.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised with that.

KATHLEEN: So, John, because of the recession, the most recently passed city budget, for 2011-2012, deviated from Bellevue’s typical long-term planning approach.  Would you have allocated funds differently in this budget?

JOHN: I can’t specifically say that I would have reallocated funds unless I was involved in the process, but I do think that it is a mistake to not keep planning for the future.  I believe that there is a future and that we are going to get out of the recession and that to me, people are using the recession as an excuse for a different agenda of lowering taxes and cutting back people’s expectations of services, so that in the end it benefits people who don’t want to pay impact fees. We have a real problem of property owners and developers who don’t want to pay their share of growth that will ultimately benefit them enormously.

It’s a real negative that people are using the current financial situation to project out very decreased government activity over a long time.  I think that is wrong.  I think we can be frugal.  We have to always try to use our resources the best way possible, but if it takes going out to the citizens and asking for resources then I think that we ought to be able to do that.  We’ve done it with bonds and levies for schools. We did a half a billion bond for school construction.  That took vision, and that took guts.  We did a parks levy that people voted 67% for.

So I believe that if we talked to people about what’s at stake, and we have a good track record, that people will do it. I think that it’s part of the compact between people and their government.  That it’s just a way to make things happen for people.  It’s not government grabbing taxes, taking from people, it’s people contributing to their benefit.

Please return next week for part two of my visit with John Stokes and find out what John is “absolutely, unalterably, unequivocally opposed to” as we look at transportation and planning for growth in Bellevue. (Hint: NPI doesn’t like it either.)

Bank of America joins Keep Washington Rolling, donates $10,000 to beat I-1125

A year and a half after donating $10,000 to help Tim Eyman get I-1053 on the November 2010 ballot, Bank of America (which we like to call Bank of Greed) has donated an identical amount to beat Eyman’s I-1125, new PDC data shows.

Keep Washington Rolling has been bolstered by some $1 million in fresh contributions received over the last week and a half, including Bank of America’s donation. Other recent wealthy and corporate contributors to KWR include:

  • Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who chipped in $100,000;
  • Craig Mundie, chief research officer at Microsoft, who donated $10,000;
  • CenturyLink, which gave $15,000;
  • HTNB Corp., which gave $25,000;
  • Alaska Airlines, which gave $5,000;
  • Premera Blue Cross, which put in another $10,000;
  • Nintendo of America, which put up $25,000;
  • AT&T, which gave $10,000;
  • Russell Investment Group, which gave $10,000;
  • T-Mobile, which gave $7,500;
  • The Seattle Mariners, who donated another $25,000;
  • The Washington Realtors, who gave $25,000.

Boeing, meanwhile, donated $200,000 worth of advertising yesterday, joining Microsoft as one of the largest contributors to Keep Washington Rolling.

Please note, this isn’t a complete list.

In total, Keep Washington Rolling has now raised $2,267,157.76 and spent $1,293,846.9. It still has about a million dollars in cash to burn … and it likely isn’t done taking in contributions, either.

The only major Washington corporations that don’t seem to have put money into the NO on I-1125 campaign yet are Amazon and Starbucks.

We previously reported that several of the corporations and companies that backed Eyman last year had donated money to beat him last year. We’ve dubbed this group, which now includes Bank of America, Tim Eyman’s fair-weather friends.

Jay Inslee releases positions on Washington’s 2011 statewide initiatives

Jay Inslee, Washington’s likely Democratic nominee for governor in 2012, released his positions on all three of Washington’s 2011 statewide initiatives this afternoon, after earlier taking a strong stand on one of them (Tim Eyman’s I-1125) at the Washington Conservation Voters’ Breakfast of Champions earlier this month.

Inslee opposes I-1125 and Costco’s I-1183, and supports SEIU’s I-1163.

His rationale on I-1183:

As a former prosecutor of many drunk drivers who has personally seen the carnage they cause, I cannot in good conscious support a large expansion of hard liquor availability in our state. So while we must look for efficiencies in the delivery of all services, I cannot support this measure.

We agree and strongly urge a NO vote on I-1183 this autumn.

On I-1163:

Given the importance of protecting the least among us, I will be voting in support of this measure. Initiatives with budgetary impacts pose unique problems, and the Legislature will still have to balance funding this with other priorities.

We are also supporting I-1163, with the same reservations.

On I-1125:

I will be joining the many business owners, workers, transit riders and farmers across the state voting against I-1125 this November for one simple reason: it will damage our ability to grow our economy and create jobs.

I-1125 is more than just a jobs-killer. It’s a gridlock creator. If the old Evergreen Point Floating Bridge is damaged by an earthquake or a windstorm because our plans to replace it were sabotaged by I-1125, we’ll be in a world of hurt.

The loss of either one of our floating bridges would have devastating impacts on cross-lake commerce. It is vital we replace the aging span built during Governor Rosellini’s time in office half a century ago.

I-1125 also jeopardizes the Columbia River Crossing and East Link. If we don’t get those projects built, traffic congestion will only become worse.

We thank Jay Inslee for taking a strong, courageous stand against I-1125, and for joining us in opposing I-1183 and I-1163 as well.

Bellevue City Council deadlocks as to whether to take a position on Tim Eyman’s I-1125

Last night, the Bellevue City Council had an opportunity to take a position against Tim Eyman’s I-1125, which places important transportation projects that would improve mobility in and out of Bellevue at risk. The city council scheduled a hearing, as required by Washington State law, providing proponents and opponents with an equal amount of time to speak to the initiative.

Arguing in favor of I-1125 was, to nobody’s surprise, Tim Eyman, who used up practically all of his allotted time. State Representative Ross Hunter and the Bellevue Downtown Association’s Patrick Bannon then spoke on behalf of Keep Washington Rolling, the broad coalition opposing I-1125, which includes NPI.

Following the specchifying, councilmembers had a few questions for Eyman and Hunter. Councilmember Grant Degginger, who is retiring, wanted to know why Eyman had included a provision in I-1125 (Section 3) that takes aim at Sound Transit’s East Link without specifically saying anything about light rail. (The provision vaguely says that no part of gas tax or toll-funded projects can be transferred for “non-highway purposes”).

Eyman did not provide much in the way of an answer. Degginger concluded, correctly, that Eyman’s intention with Section 3 of I-1125 is to stop East Link without actually saying so, which he later called “sneaky” and “un-American”.

The council then began debating whether it should take a position on I-1125.

Councilmembers Don Davidson and Conrad Lee, who currently serve as mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, made it clear pretty quickly that they didn’t want to take a position on I-1125, arguing it was not the city council’s place to tell voters how they should vote. Councilmember Claudia Balducci sharply disagreed, pointing out the council takes positions all the time on state and federal legislation. She noted that opposition to I-1125 is widespread and growing, and observed that Bellevue businesses and workers want the city council to oppose I-1125.

How can we be leaders, Balducci asked, if we punt on issues like this?

Councilmembers John Chelminak and Grant Degginger weighed in next, each agreeing with Balducci. Degginger had strong words for I-1125. He justifiably called it a “job-killing initiative”, and, as I previously mentioned, excoriated the provision of I-1125 that seeks to underhandedly block East Link.

Last to speak was Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who not only agreed with Lee and Davidson, but implied that he was going to vote in favor of I-1125.

Because Councilmember Jennifer Robertson was absent, that left the council deadlocked – unable to agree on any motion concerning I-1125. During the debate, Lee and Davidson had moved and seconded a nonsensical motion to take no position on I-1125 (nonsensical because, as it stands, the council already has no position); this motion ended up being left on the floor.

The council meeting ended very abruptly at 11 PM when, to Davidson’s surprise, a motion to extend the meeting for another few minutes failed. (The meeting had previously been extended from 10 PM to 10:30, and then from 10:30 PM to 10:45, and then from 10:45 to 11 PM). The meeting broke up immediately after 11, leaving the question of what to do about I-1125 unresolved.

Readers not familiar with Bellevue politics may be wondering why Lee, Davidson, and Wallace would be so uncomfortable with putting Bellevue on record against 1125. After all, several other Eastside cities (Redmond, Kirkland, Renton) and the Port of Seattle have already done just that.

The reason is that each of them answers to Kemper Freeman, Jr., who bankrolled Tim Eyman’s I-1125.

In 2009, the last time Davidson, Lee, and Wallace were on the ballot, they all got money from Kemper. Conrad Lee received $1,000 from Kemper on July 8th, 2009. Davidson received two checks, for $800 and $200, respectively (totaling $1,000) from Kemper Holdings on July 16th, 2009.

And Kevin Wallace? He received a $500 check from Kemper Holdings on April 30th, 2009.

As for Jennifer Robertson, who was missing from the dais last night and is unopposed for reelection this year, she also appears to be in the Kemper club. Big time. Take a look at this contribution history:

  • $1,600 from Betty Freeman (Kemper’s spouse) on April 29th, 2011 (two checks for $800 each)
  • $1,600 from Kemper Freeman himself on April 29th, 2011 (two checks for $800 each)
  • $800 from Kemper Holdings on November 19th, 2010

I’d be very surprised if she votes to take a position opposing I-1125.

Because Kemper has four out of seven councilmembers in his corner, he basically controls the Bellevue City Council. That’s pretty sad. Bellevue’s legislators should be accountable to all of their constituents, not just one of them.

Both the Bellevue Downtown Association and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce have taken positions against I-1125. Both have urged the council to follow suit.

Strangely enough, Kemper doesn’t control those organizations (in fact, he quit the BDA earlier this year) but he apparently controls enough votes on the Bellevue City Council to prevent adoption of a resolution opposing I-1125.

Bellevue businesses, workers, and residents who want to see their city council take a position on I-1125 should start lobbying Jennifer Robertson, who was missing from last night’s meeting. She’s in the Kemper Club, but maybe she can be convinced that opposing I-1125 is the smart and sensible thing to do.

If you’d like to reach out to her and urge her to vote to oppose I-1125 at the next council meeting, here is her official contact information:

Councilmember Jennifer Robertson
450 110th Ave. NE
P.O. Box 90012
Bellevue, WA 98009
Phone: 425-452-7810
Fax: 425-452-7919
E-mail: j.robertson@bellevuewa.gov

Washington has always trusted an expert commission to set tolls – why change that?

Having been in the business of selling initiatives for more than a decade (and possessing a gift for media manipulation) Tim Eyman has become a master snake oil salesman. Every year, he develops a remarkably slick (yet shallow) sales pitch for his latest initiative. This year’s sales pitch has stressed a comforting theme – continuity. Eyman has been claiming right out of the gate in debates and public forums that I-1125 just keeps things the way they’ve always been.

The longer version of his talking point goes something like this:

I-1125 ensures that tolls are set and collected just the way they’ve always been, keeping one hundred-year old protections in place that keep project costs from getting out of control.

These aren’t Eyman’s exact words, but the above paragraph comes pretty close to what we’ve seen in Eyman’s frequent emails to supporters and the press.

What’s disingenuous about Eyman’s claim is that I-1125, if implemented, would actually require the state to abandon an important tradition, rather than keep it. See, for decades and decades, we’ve always trusted an expert commission to set toll rates. These days, it’s the Washington State Transportation Commission.

But it used to be the Washington Toll Bridge Authority.

According to the Washington State Department of Transportation, which took over WTAB’s responsibilities when the Authority was dissolved in 1977, WTAB “maintained full authority to set the toll rates from their inception until it disbanded.” Thereafter, the Washington State Transportation Commission gained the power to set tolls and ferry fares.

The Toll Bridge Authority existed for nearly half a century. It was created by House Bill 506, an act of the Legislature in the 1937 legislative session. H.B. 506 was introduced on February 12th, 1937, and passed by the Senate on March 9th, 1937. It was signed by Governor Clarence Martin shortly thereafter.

H.B. 506 was part of the Legislature’s effort to establish a uniform highway code. Up until that time, laws governing highways had been passed as needed; there was no coordinated or consistent set of regulations governing highways.

The Toll Bridge Authority’s initial members were:

  • Governor Clarence Martin
  • Lacey V. Murrow, then the state’s Director of the Department of Highways. (One of the I-90 spans across Lake Washington is named for Murrow).
  • Olaf L. Olsen, Director of the Department of Finance
  • Ferd J. Schaaf, Director of the Department of Public Service

The Authority’s powers actually went far beyond setting toll rates – it was in charge of financing, designing, and constructing bridges as well. A United Press article on the passage of H.B. 506 was appropriately headlined, “State goes into bridge business.” The authority’s first major projects were the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the first floating bridge over Lake Washington.

In 1951, the Legislature created another body, the Highway Commission, consisting of five members, all appointed by the governor (but subject to Senate confirmation). The Highway Commission, the Department of Highways, and the Toll Bridge Authority coexisted with each other for some twenty-five years, until 1977, when the Department of Highways morphed into the Department of Transportation and the Highway Commission became the Transportation Commission.

A few years later, in 1984, the Legislature transferred the Toll Bridge Authority’s powers and responsibilities to WSDOT and the Transportation Commission, and the Authority was disbanded.

Why is this history relevant? Well, again, it shows that Washington has always trusted an expert commission to set toll rates.

Here is what Tim Eyman doesn’t want you to know: The modern Transportation Commission is actually comprised of knowledgeable citizens, not “unelected bureaucrats”, as he has claimed. Most of the commissioners have experience in both the public and private sectors – they were appointed to serve on the commission because they know something about transportation.

Eyman likes to portray them as a faceless, nameless group so he can put them down more easily. He acts as if he knows more about transportation planning than they do, when in fact, the truth is just the opposite.

The seven members of Washington’s Transportation Commission are as follows:

  • Dick Ford, Chair. From King County. Currently senior counsel at the law firm K&L Gates. Previously served as executive director of the Port of Seattle. Has served on many local and regional transportation boards.
  • Philip Parker, Vice Chair. From Clark County. He is a retired Journeyman Electrician. Has represented Greater Vancouver on many local boards tasked with looking at workforce development and transportation issues.
  • Tom Cowan. From San Jan County. He is a public policy consultant. Previously ran the Northwest Straits Commission and served as San Juan County Commissioner for twelve years. During his tenure, he also served as President of the Washington Association of Counties.
  • Dan O’Neal. From Mason County. Serves on the board of Greenbrier Companies, a publicly traded company that leases and manufactures railroad cars. Previously served as Chairman of the Interstate Commerce Commission and Transportation Counsel to the U.S. Senate’s Commerce Committee.
  • Anne Haley. From Walla Walla County. Has three decades’ worth of experience in managing public libraries. Has also served on a variety of boards and commissions, both at the state and local levels.
  • Jerry Litt. From Douglas County. The past president of the Washington County and Regional Planning Directors’ Association. Served the City of Lacey as its Director of Planning for thirteen years before moving to eastern Washington. Helped develop the Apple Capital Loop Trail.
  • Joe Tortorelli. From Spokane County. A lifelong resident of the Lilac City who loves to cycle and ski. He is an economic development consultant. Previously served on the Spokane Regional Transportation Council’s Advisory Committee and on the board of the Spokane Area Good Roads Association.

The biographies above are shortened versions the ones on the commission’s site.

The Transportation Commission takes its obligations seriously. Its members do a lot of traveling around the state so they can hear from communities in every corner of Washington; they don’t just hold meetings in Olympia. Gathering public input is one of the commission’s top priorities (for instance, it sponsors the Ferry Riders’ Opinion Group). Just because the commissioners don’t have to run for reelection doesn’t mean they’re not accountable or accessible.

Several readers and reporters have asked us why Eyman keeps picking on the Transportation Commission. Since he despises the Legislature so much, why does he want the Legislature setting tolls? What’s wrong with lawmakers delegating their toll-setting authority to independent commission comprised of experts?

We think the answer to that question is that Eyman wants to politicize tolling decisions. Eyman has never been interested in good public policy. What he is interested in is destroying public services and wrecking government. Attacking elected officials is his favorite pastime. If lawmakers have to take a vote every time a toll needs adjusting, that potentially gives Eyman fodder for future initiatives – and it gives Republican operatives more fodder for attack ads during campaign season.

The last thing our state needs is another self-serving Eyman initiative.

The people of Washington State have consistently voted over the years to entrust important responsibilities to expert commissions. Examples include the Public Disclosure Commission (responsible for enforcing campaign finance laws) and the Redistricting Commission (charged with redrawing the boundaries of legislative and congressional districts every ten years).

Eyman has tried to make it sound like people are clamoring for the Transportation Commission’s authority to be taken away.

But that’s not the case. When the Legislature voted during the 2011 legislative session to re-empower the Commission to set tolls, there was no public outcry. There was only an Eyman nastygram.

I-1125 wouldn’t even be on our ballots except for Kemper Freeman Jr.’s money. Even the Yes on 1125 website, written by Kemper’s operatives, admits that Kemper paid for the I-1125 signature drive.

If I-1125 goes into effect, it will needlessly end our long tradition of having an expert commission set tolls, which will affect Washington State’s borrowing costs. (The state has long been planning to sell bonds secured by toll revenue to finance critical highway projects, as other states routinely do).

As long as the Transportation Commission is in charge of toll-setting, borrowing costs stay low. But if I-1125 goes through, it would raise our borrowing costs, jeopardizing plans for the new SR 520 span and the Columbia River Crossing.

By rejecting I-1125, we can keep critical projects on track and assure bondholders that future adjustments to toll rates won’t be made in a politically charged environment. Join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-1125 starting next week. Keep our roads safe, and keep Washington rolling.