Today, we at NPI celebrate a milestone like no other in our history to date: the ten year anniversary of the founding of Permanent Defense, NPI’s oldest project.
For a decade, Permanent Defense has stood as a bulwark against Tim Eyman’s initiative factory, responding to anti-government propaganda, reframing the debate around taxes, pushing for direct democracy reform, and helping mobilize campaigns against harmful right wing ballot measures. At times, the work has seemed thankless and tiring.
But it has been worth it.
Before Permanent Defense was founded, Tim Eyman was getting an initiative past the voters every single year. Most of those initiatives (I‑695, I‑722, I‑747) were later declared to be unconstitutional by the courts.
Sadly, those rulings unfortunately didn’t put Eyman’s initiative factory out of business. He seemed unstoppable. Even strategists who had worked against Eyman came to think of his duplicitous initiatives as unbeatable.
However, I never saw it that way.
If that had been my mindset, I would have stayed a passivist… someone who sits and watches from the sidelines. Instead, I became an activist. After an eye-opening conversation with two friends, I realized I had to do something. I founded Permanent Defense because it was evident to me that Tim Eyman needed opposition that was as determined to protect Washington as he was to wreck it.
I believe that determination counts for a lot. What the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve. I consider myself extremely fortunate to be able to work with people who share that can-do spirit: Rick, Kathleen, Ken, Patrick, Steve, Eve, Grace, Gael, Ralph, Rob, Steve, and Robert, plus NPI’s dozens of alumni.
And our thousands of donors and supporters — you know who you are!
Since Permanent Defense started providing Tim Eyman with much-needed opposition back in 2002, Eyman has had no consecutive victories. Think about that for a moment. For several years running, Eyman had been enjoying success at the ballot. Even after he admitted pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own supporters’ money, he still managed to qualify I‑776 (which was supposed to kill Sound Transit’s Central Link light rail), and it passed narrowly, despite our efforts to defeat it. But that was the end of Eyman’s winning streak.
Perhaps the most important thing we’ve accomplished these past ten years is to prove that Tim Eyman can be stopped. We believe that an overwhelming majority of Washingtonians want government to be made better and more effective at every level…state, county, city, port, school district.… not broken. When we help Washingtonians understand the cost and consequences of a right wing initiative, most will vote no. But that takes work. And no one is going to do that work for us. Those of us who care about Washington’s future have to do it.
Of course, Eyman has not ceased to be a threat, even after his winning streak was broken. He has kept his initiative factory going.
But we have kept Permanent Defense going, too. Permanent Defense truly is a permanent defense. It’s also Washington’s first line of defense against Tim Eyman’s initiative factory, providing the only active, visible opposition to Eyman year-round. Permanent Defense doesn’t have an off-season; it’s not a campaign.
Permanent Defense has opposed each and every one of the initiatives Tim Eyman has sponsored since its founding, including I‑776, I‑267, I‑807, I‑684, I‑892, I‑900, I‑917, I‑960, I‑985, I‑1033, I‑1053, and I‑1125. (That’s a pretty long list!)
Permanent Defense also opposed Referendum 65, Eyman’s unsuccessful attempt to force a vote on the law that banned discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and has fought several other destructive right wing initiatives not sponsored by Eyman, including I‑920, I‑933, I‑1082, I‑1100, I‑1105, and I‑1107.
Unfortunately, Tim Eyman only needs to be successful every once in a while to remain relevant. In recent years, his initiatives have shifted more towards undermining our plan of government and attacking our common wealth at its foundations. In other words, Eyman’s initiatives have become more dangerous — the harm they cause can’t be summarized on a price tag.
That makes our task harder, but not any less important. Washington is a presently at a crossroads. For years, elected leaders at every level of government have managed to spare many of our vital public services from evisceration by tapping reserves, raising fares and fees, rolling back hours, imposing furlough days, freezing public workers’ pay, and employing accounting tricks.
But the days when we could backfill our way out of a budget hole are at an end. Now we must decide what kind of state we want to live in.
Do we want to live in a state that abides by its Constitution, which requires that our Legislature operate democratically? Do we want to live in a state that provides a safety net for its most vulnerable citizens?
Do we want to live in a state that cares for its youth, providing them with a good education — including a college education?
Do we want to live in a state that protects its forests, farmlands, watersheds, estuaries, rivers, lakes, and coast for future generations to enjoy? Do we want to live in a state that supports and encourages people to start businesses here?
If the answer to those questions is yes, then we have to take a stand. We can’t slash and burn our way to prosperity. Further austerity measures — Tim Eyman’s prescription for Washington — will only weaken our state, not strengthen it.
As Permanent Defense begins its eleventh year, we rededicate ourselves to our mission: building a strong first line of defense against threats to Washington’s common wealth. In our second decade, we will work to ensure that Tim Eyman’s I‑1053 is overturned, and organize early to build opposition against any copycat measures that Eyman tries to get past the voters. We will improve our citizen intelligence network so we can better track right wing signature drives. And we will step up our efforts to research and document the harm that has been caused by the passage and implementation of right wing initiatives during the 2000s.
Here’s to another decade of protecting Washington!