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.
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!