NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Keep Washington Rolling goes up in Spokane; Washington Fairness Coalition unveils first ad

Today was an important day for each of the coalitions working for progressive outcomes on the two statewide initiatives currently before Washington voters.

Keep Washington Rolling, which is working to secure the defeat of Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976, went up on the air in Spokane with an ad that concisely summarizes what the Inland Northwest stands to lose if the measure is implemented. The spot, created by Kully Struble, notes that Spokane could lose funding for the North-South Expressway as well as for street maintenance.

Watch it:

This is the campaign’s fourth ad overall. Its previous spots, which launched last month, are “Engineer”, “Trooper”, and “Less Reliable”.

Of all the NO on I-976 ads, this one might just be my favorite. It is well put together and uses different perspectives to communicate our coalition’s message. It mixes aerial scenes together with shots taken from the vantage point of a neighbor on the street. It also ends with a cheeky flourish.

Meanwhile, the Washington Fairness Coalition, which is working to defend I-1000 (Washington’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Act), launched its first television ad, starring our very own President Rick Hegdahl, a veteran of the conflict in Iraq.

Watch the ad here:

Rick has been a valued staff and board member of NPI since 2006. He’s extremely articulate and we’re thrilled that the coalition asked him to participate in this spot, which will help Washington voters understand why it’s essential that we approve I-1000. The ad also features Washington State Labor Council Secretary-Treasurer April Sims (one of our favorite people!) and Uwajimaya’s Denise Moriguchi.

The Northwest Progressive Institute belongs to both the Keep Washington Rolling and Washington Fairness coalitions, and we support each in their efforts to win these crucial ballot battles in November. Uniting Washingtonians against right wing attempts to take Washington State backwards is we’ve been doing for nearly eighteen years through our Permanent Defense project.

We will continue to enthusiastically provide support to each of these fine coalitions during the final three weeks of this campaign season.

When you get your ballot, please join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-976 and APPROVED on Initiative 1000. We have a longer list of ballot measure recommendations here if you’re looking for additional guidance on how to vote.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

We’re watching the fourth 2020 Democratic presidential debate. Join us!

Good evening, and welcome to NPI’s live coverage of the fourth Democratic presidential debate of the 2020 cycle.

NPI staff are watching and sharing impressions of the debate as it progresses.

CNN and The New York Times are the media partners for this DNC-sanctioned debate, which is expected to run three hours.

Tonight’s lineup of twelve candidates is as follows:

  • Massachusetts U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • Vermont U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders
  • New Jersey U.S. Senator Cory Booker
  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • California U.S. Senator Kamala Harris
  • Minnesota U.S. Senator Amy Klobouchar
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer
  • Hawaii U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard

Our live coverage begins below.

Read More »

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Mainstream Republicans of Washington declare opposition to Tim Eyman’s I-976

Every day, the coalition working to defeat Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive I-976 just gets bigger, stronger, and more diverse.

The latest evidence of the coalition’s growing strength came yesterday, when the Mainstream Republicans of Washington announced that they have taken a position opposing the measure, one of two initiatives on this year’s statewide ballot.

I-976 is “a misdirected attack on locally approved and critically needed funds to address traffic congestion and safety around Washington State,” the organization stated in a press release outlining its position.

I-976 would repeal $4.2 billion in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments over the next six years. Already approved funding for transit expansion, bridge replacement, the State Patrol, Amtrak Cascades, freight mobility projects, and road maintenance in over sixty cities would be wiped out.

Mainstream Republicans Chair Mike Vaska, an attorney who helped lead the campaign opposing Tim Eyman’s I-695 twenty years ago, emphasized that I-976 would overturn decisions made at the local level by voters and city officials.

“It’s pretty obvious that we need to improve our transportation system to address gridlock and unsafe roads and bridges,” said Vaska. “Some sixty communities around our state, from Anacortes to Zillah, have agreed to tax themselves to fix their transportation challenges. The State should not be allowed to override their local decisions, many of which were by direct votes of the people.”

Those local decisions were made possible by a state statute that authorizes city and county governments to form what are known as transportation benefit districts, or TBDs. Tim Eyman is seeking to repeal that statute and take away the authority of city-created TBDs to raise revenue for local roads and better bus service with I-976.

Unlike Eyman, Vaska believes home rule should be respected.

“Mainstream Republicans believe that local and state government should be fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ money,” Vaska’s statement adds. “Investing to repair roads, to make sure that bridges are safe, and to address traffic congestion is something that has bipartisan support, including from Republican legislators around the state, because it is a wise investment in our future.”

Vaska concluded by observing: “While there may be legitimate questions about the accountability of how some transportation funds are spent in some areas, the rest of the state should not be punished for those concerns. We don’t want to throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.”

NPI congratulates and thanks the Mainstream Republicans of Washington for taking a stand against I-976 and demonstrating that this ill-conceived measure has strong bipartisan opposition.

It’s not the first time, either: Mainstream actually has a much appreciated track record of opposing Eyman initiatives that would hurt Washington’s future.

Ten years ago, MRW helped defeat Eyman’s I-1033 and four years ago, it was part of the coalition that fought Eyman’s hostage-taking I-1366.

MRW has played a constructive role in Washington State politics for nearly half a century. Its Cascade Conference is one of the oldest continuously held political gatherings anywhere in the country. MRW will celebrate Cascade’s fiftieth anniversary on October 30th with a gala at the SeaTac Hilton.

In addition to Vaska, MRW’s board includes former Secretary of State Sam Reed, former County Councilmember Louise Miller, and former State Representative Sid Morrison, all of whom are greatly respected by our team at NPI for their contributions to Washington State’s well-being.

When it comes to Republican politics, the Mainstream Republicans are like a light in the darkness. They believe they can be a positive influence on their party at a time when many Washingtonians have given up on it for understandable reasons.

We admire their persistence.

The Washington State Republican Party used to be the party of Dan Evans and the late John Spellman. Sadly, today, it’s turned into the party of Donald Trump and Tim Eyman. The Evans/Spellman legacy does live on, though, through the work of the Mainstream Republicans of Washington. Perhaps one day, the Grand Old Party will reclaim that noble legacy. Until then, Mainstream will have to safeguard it.

By opposing Tim Eyman’s I-976, MRW is demonstrating that there is still a pragmatic wing of the Washington State Republican Party, even if it’s not in charge. Nice going, Mainstream Republicans! Let’s get I-976 defeated.

Tuesday, October 15th, 2019

Watch the fourth 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate tonight!

Tonight, Otterbein University, located in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, will be the scene of the fourth Democratic presidential debate in just a few hours.

Touted as “the biggest presidential primary debate in history,” by The New York Times and CNN, the debate will feature twelve Democrats on stage (technically not the biggest debate in history, even in this primary cycle, since the June and July debates each featured twenty candidates over two nights).

The candidates will appear on stage in this order:

  • Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard
  • California billionaire and activist Tom Steyer
  • New Jersey Senator Cory Booker
  • California Senator Kamala Harris
  • Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders
  • Former-Vice President Joe Biden
  • Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • New York Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
  • Former-Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke
  • Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar
  • Former-H.U.D. Secretary Julián Castro

Tonight’s debate is expected to differ from the previous three, and not only because there are two more candidates on stage.

Firstly, there are the three leading candidates – all have seen their situations change dramatically in different ways since the last debate, which will likely affect the way the other candidates react to them.

The frontrunner, Vice President Biden, has found himself in the center of the biggest news story in the world, the impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump. Trump’s attempts to undermine Biden’s campaign could encourage Democratic solidarity behind him, but he could also face tricky questions from the moderators and other candidates concerning his son Hunter’s business operations.

Elizabeth Warren has gone from strength to strength to the point where she is now clearly challenging Biden for the top spot in the polls.

However, being in the top spot might expose her to more attacks from her rivals than she has previously had to weather in debates.

Most dramatically of all, Bernie Sanders recently suffered a heart attack, a fact that will undoubtedly come up in the debate.

The question of age has repeatedly come up in the Democratic debates, and the apparent decline in the seventy-eight year-old senator’s health will make it harder for him to convince the public that he should be the one to take the fight to Donald Trump, let alone take on the grueling job of president.

Age is an issue that is sure to arise in this debate, as it has before. All three leading candidates are in their seventies, and candidates such as Pete Buttigieg (at thirty-eight, the only millennial candidate running) have argued that the Democratic candidate should be representative of the increasingly youth-driven party.

However, ageist attacks have not worked to date in the debates.

Eric Swalwell, who directly called on Joe Biden to “pass the torch” in the June debate dropped out of the race shortly afterwards. More recently, Julián Castro suffered a slump in his popularity after he made a dig at Biden’s poor memory. The candidates on stage tonight will likely tread carefully around the issue.

An issue where the candidates are unlikely to be so circumspect is the issue of impeachment. Impeachment is now such a big news story that the moderators are highly likely to deal with the issue first – mercifully sparing the audience from having to start the debate with an hour-long dissection of the candidates’ differing approaches to expanding Americans’ healthcare coverage.

Many of the candidates have already called for the House of Representatives to impeach President Trump and none have been shy about attacking the character and political record of the President in previous debates.

Calling for impeachment is unlikely to move the needle for any individual candidate, but the candidates agreeing on-stage on the issue may help to push public opinion further in favor of impeachment.

When impeachment comes up, it could give Tom Steyer a chance to make some headway – the billionaire (and newcomer to the Democratic debate stage) made his name in politics by funding and being the face of the Need to Impeach campaign. Steyer’s message feels increasingly prophetic as impeachment becomes increasingly likely. He would be wise to capitalize on it.

And then there’s Tulsi Gabbard.

The military veteran from Hawaii may prove to be something of a wild card; her campaign has become increasingly frustrated by what they see as “rigging” by the Democratic National Committee against “outsider” candidates, and Gabbard earlier threatened to boycott the debate before backing down.

Gabbard also has an unconventional history as a lawmaker, having personally met the murderous Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and supported right-wing Hindu nationalist groups. The other candidates know this record, and may feel tempted to bring it up if Gabbard attacks them.

Of course, all this is pure speculation.

To find out what actually happens, watch the debate on nytimes.com, the New York Times app, CNN and CNN.com. The debate begins at 5 PM Pacific Time (8 PM Eastern) and you can follow our live coverage here on the Cascadia Advocate.

Monday, October 14th, 2019

It’s a two-for-one holiday: Happy Canadian Thanksgiving and Indigenous Peoples Day!

Today, our team at NPI is observing two holidays: Canadian Thanksgiving and Indigenous Peoples Day, both of which fall on the second Monday in October.

Thanksgiving, which is a quintessial North American holiday, has been celebrated in October in Canada for more than half a century. In 1957, Governor General Vincent Massey proclaimed that Thanksgiving ought to be observed on the second Monday of the tenth month of the year, and the date stuck.

Canadian Thanksgiving celebrates the autumn harvest and affords Canadians an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings they have enjoyed during the year.

“Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate the abundance of the fall harvest with family and friends, and in our communities,” noted British Columbia Premier John Horgan in a statement provided to the Northwest Progressive Institute.

“It’s when we come together and are thankful for the many blessings in our lives. It is also a time to reflect on, and help, those in need.”

“Our government is putting people first and working hard to make sure no one gets left behind. From delivering affordable housing and child care, to expanding access to education and training, we are working every day to provide opportunities for all British Columbians.

“British Columbians are generous by nature. It’s a part of who we are. Thank you to every person around B.C. who has volunteered at a community kitchen or made a donation to their local food bank this weekend. You’ve helped make your community a stronger and more welcoming place.

“To everyone celebrating throughout the province, have a happy Thanksgiving!”

Canadian Thanksgiving

A Canadian Thanksgiving centerpiece (Photo: Christopher Porter, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Canadian Thanksgiving is not a holiday recognized by the United States government, but that doesn’t mean Americans can’t keep it. If you ask us, the only thing better than Thanksgiving is two Thanksgivings! Every day is a good day to give thanks and enjoy a good meal in the company of family and friends.

Today, we are also celebrating Indigenous Peoples Day, which is recognized by many jurisdictions in the United States in place of Columbus Day.

“Washingtonians do not support the genocidal legacy of Christopher Columbus,” noted Evergreen State Democratic Party Chair Tina Podlodowski in a message to Democratic activists. She elaborated: “Our state has a rich history of indigenous cultures, and to observe today’s holiday is disrespectful to the Native lives that were lost after Columbus’ arrival in North America.”

“We should remain constant allies to our state’s indigenous people — which, to me, means being intentional about condemning Columbus for ruthlessly destroying indigenous populations in the south.”

“That’s why I hope that you will join me and our state party in celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day. We need to honor Native Americans, both here in Washington and across the country, today and every day.”

Commissioner of Public Lands Hilary Franz agreed with that sentiment.

“In commemoration of this sacred day, let us honor the tribes that call Washington home and recognize their immeasurable contributions to our state,” Franz said in a statement. “As the leader of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, I am proud to work alongside our state’s First Peoples to strengthen our forests and waters and protect precious species.”

“By taking care of our landscapes and waterways, we help ensure that First Peoples are able to continue cultural customs and traditions that have been passed down through generations.”

Today is a great day to learn about the history of Washington’s first peoples. Did you know there are a dozen tribal museums in Washington? Find the closest one to you by visiting the website of Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.

And, at the Washington Tribes website, you can learn more about each of the federally recognized tribal communities that have called this region home since time immemorial. There are more than two dozen:

Washington state is home to twenty-nine federally-recognized Indian tribes. Tribal governments are improving people’s lives, Indian and non-Indian alike, in communities from Neah Bay to Usk.

Revenue from gaming and other tribal enterprises is tax revenue for tribal governments. The money is used to create jobs and business opportunities for all Washingtonians.

It helps pay for housing, health care, public safety, environmental/natural resource programs and transportation.

As tribal gaming money flows through the Washington economy, it generates hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenues for local and state government. Tribal governments and their enterprises are a major factor in Washington’s economy today – generating more than 30,000 jobs and investing billions of dollars in goods and services, and on capital projects.

View a map of Washington’s federally recognized tribes:

Washington's federally recognized tribes

Each marker on the map above shows the location of a federally recognized tribal community in Washington State (Courtesy of Washington Tribes)

Again, Happy Thanksgiving and Indigenous Peoples Day!

Sunday, October 13th, 2019

As impeachment coverage takes over the news, can Democratic candidates benefit?

Anyone following the news in the United States might be forgiven for thinking the 2020 presidential campaign has been put on hold: almost every headline, opinion piece and podcast for the past two weeks has become laser-focused on the unfolding impeachment inquiry taking place on Capitol Hill.

However, despite appearances, the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination is still going strong. The next televised debate is about to happen, and candidates are scrambling to qualify for next month’s debate.

It is a tricky thing to campaign for president when all of the media oxygen has been sucked from the room by the opening rounds of an impeachment battle. (Bernie Sanders might actually be grateful for the timing of the impeachment inquiry – it has likely negated critical coverage of his serious health scare.)

Trump’s impeachment could, however, prove to be a benefit for some of the Democratic presidential candidates. The story might be utterly dominating the mass media’s political coverage, but if any candidate can become involved in the story, they will be putting themselves under the biggest spotlight in the nation.

To some extent, this has already happened for one candidate.

The House’s impeachment inquiry was launched to investigate Trump’s blatant and criminal attempts to undermine the political career of the man he sees as his biggest threat in 2020: former Vice President Joe Biden.

Joe Biden campaigning

Joe Biden is at the center of Trump’s Ukraine blunders (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Trump’s attempts to undermine Biden and the subsequent investigations are a boon to the Biden campaign. His lead of the Democratic primary has looked increasingly shaky in recent weeks, as Senator Elizabeth Warren has crept up on him in both national polling and polls in significant early states such as Iowa.

Now though, Biden’s most powerful argument – that he is the most “electable” candidate to take on Donald Trump in 2020 – has been reinforced by Trump’s attempts to get the Ukrainian government to target him.

Of almost twenty Democrats running for President, Biden was apparently the one that has Trump worried enough to drive him to commit impeachable offenses. An increasingly angry Biden recently called for Trump to be impeached.

Trump and his supporters have been desperate to paint the call to Ukraine’s President Zelenskiy that sparked the impeachment inquiry as a noble attempt to root out corruption linked to Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Their accusations – that Biden used his influence as Obama’s Vice President to pressure Ukraine in 2015 and help his son’s business interests – have been repeatedly proven false (“a bunch of malarkey,” as Biden might put it).

However, while Joe Biden navigated his son’s interests with legal propriety as Vice President, it is undeniable that Hunter has used his family name to profit his business interests. This behavior may smack of nepotism to dedicated Democratic activists, most of whom are already sickened by the (far more extreme) nepotism displayed by the Trump family. An increased spotlight on the Biden family will mean the former Vice President’s team will have to tread carefully.

The House of Representatives has previously impeached just two presidents (Johnson, Clinton) and come close to impeaching a third (Nixon).

The Nixon impeachment inquiry, which was cut off by Nixon’s resignation, offers a template that Democrats are utilizing to guide their work.

The inquiry is currently in the investigatory phase. The committees of the House of Representatives are in charge of this stage of the proceedings, with Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff (now a frequent foil of Trump) serving as point. Once evidence has been secured, the House Judiciary Committee will decide whether to draw up articles of impeachment, and the whole House will vote on the articles.

The fact that impeachment begins in the House might have been a great opportunity for the U.S. Representatives who are currently running for President. Unfortunately for Tulsi Gabbard, Tim Ryan and John Delaney, none of them are on the major committees investigating Trump’s conduct.

That means that they won’t benefit from the extensive airtime that the committee investigators get from big media outlets like CNN or MSNBC.

California’s Eric Swalwell, incidentally, was the first Democratic candidate to drop out of the race, but now he finds himself front and center in the inquiry, as a member of both the House Judiciary and the House Intelligence Committees.

Julián and Joaquin Castro at the LBJ Library

Joaquin Castro, right, sits on key House Committees (Photo: Lauren Gerson, reproduced under Creative Commons license)

One Democratic candidate who might be able to increase their name recognition (in a roundabout way) through the House impeachment process is former H.U.D. Secretary Julián Castro. Castro does not currently hold elected office, but his identical twin brother Joaquin represents Texas’ 20th District, and sits on committees for both Foreign Affairs and Intelligence.

As Joaquin is also Julián’s campaign chairman, he may try to use the spotlight of impeachment to advance his brother’s presidential campaign.

Tom Steyer addresses 2019 California Democratic Party state convention

Tom Steyer achieved national fame through the Need to Impeach campaign (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under Creative Commons license)

Another potential beneficiary from the impeachment inquiry is California billionaire Tom Steyer. Steyer rose to national prominence in late 2017, when he fronted (and poured millions of his personal fortune into) the ‘Need to Impeach’ campaign, an online petition designed to pressure lawmakers into impeaching Donald Trump. Steyer (who Trump has attacked personally on Twitter) can now make the argument that his political ideas have been vindicated, and that Democratic leaders like Nancy Pelosi are following his lead on the issue of impeachment.

If Donald Trump is impeached by the House of Representatives, the next step would be a trial in the Senate. Several of the candidates currently running for President are sitting U.S. senators: Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar and Michael Bennet.

Although these candidates will be present at the trial as senators, there will be little opportunity for them to grab the spotlight; the Senate sits as a jury, while appointed members of the House of Representatives prosecute the case against the President. The situation is quite unlike the Senate committee hearings that we are familiar with, where Senators are allowed to verbally grill witnesses.

According to legal scholar Frank Bowman of the University of Missouri, in a Senate trial senators are allowed to submit questions to the legal teams through the Chief Justice, but “direct oral questions…would be unusual.” This robs the presidential candidates in the Senate (five of whom are experienced lawyers) of the chance to show off their intelligence and verbal toughness to the American people.

However, the Senators would still get to be in the room.

Several of the Democratic candidates have no way of participating directly in the impeachment inquiry – either because they are not in Congress despite serving in elected office (for example, Mayor Pete Buttigieg) or they do not currently hold elected office (Andrew Yang or Beto O’Rourke). These candidates have a hard road ahead of them – with no sign of the impeachment coverage dying down, shifting the national spotlight onto their presidential ambitions will be difficult indeed.

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Auburn, Tacoma and Olympia join a growing list of cities that oppose Tim Eyman’s I-976

Here at the Northwest Progressive Institute, we have been working for eighteen consecutive months to sound the alarm about Tim Eyman’s incredibly destructive Initiative 976, a measure that would shred bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels.

As the ballot drop date rapidly approaches, city councils around the state are taking action and responsibly sounding their own alarms.

Under state law (specifically RCW 42.17A.555), cities are legally allowed to take positions on ballot measures. And they’re taking advantage of that authority.

This week, in addition to Seattle, three more cities have declared their opposition to the initiative: Auburn, Tacoma, and Olympia.

Auburn was the first of the three to act, at its meeting Monday night, where councilmembers voted six to one to pass Resolution 5460 rejecting I-976.

Councilmember Larry Brown, who is also President of the Washington State Labor Council and a member of the NO on I-976 steering committee along with NPI’s founder, voiced his support for the resolution first, citing the example of the Fife curve along I-5 during rush hour as proof that our gridlocked highways are at a breaking point. If I-976 is not defeated, traffic will get much worse and jobs will be lost. “Our economy will screen to a halt as well,” he added.

Auburn Deputy Mayor Bill Peloza had a very philosophical take on the resolution and the need to oppose the initiative. Here are some of his remarks:

You know, I had a hard time with our $20 car tabs in the City of Auburn, but since that time our infrastructure – not only transportation infrastructure, but look at water, look at sewer sewer… look at all the people that are alive in this council chambers!

We’re in here – we’re alive because we’re paying taxes for quality of life! And, nobody likes taxes, but look at the old Roman days, when they used to tax the heck out of those Romans.

And they didn’t like it either!

They protested, and all this other stuff, but hey, look at the infrastructure that they built!

Those underground watersheds that they put in. I mean engineering feats that they did! How did they do it? Taxes! So, I support this because we need the infrastructure for future. I don’t like the taxes any more than anyone else, but it’s a mandatory evil. Thank you.

Good for Peloza.

At NPI, we view taxes as just necessary. There’s nothing evil about them. Taxes are us pooling our resources to get things done for each other. None of us can build a highway or a railway with our own money, but by joining forces, we can do it.

Councilmember Largo Wales was the lone voice of opposition to the resolution.

Wales is retiring from the Auburn City Council at the end of this year; Chris Stearns is running unopposed to replace her this November.

Wales called Eyman’s methods “unethical” in remarks from the dais, but said she could not join her colleagues in taking a position against Initiative 976.

“I just don’t believe this is the way to collect the needed revenue,” Wales said.

Nevertheless, the resolution passed with the support of Auburn’s other six councilmembers, putting the South King County stronghold on record as opposed to I-976 and the devastation that it would cause.

On Tuesday, the City of Tacoma became the next city to act. Its council adopted Resolution No. 40442 with a unanimous vote of nine to zero. Some of the noteworthy WHEREAS clauses in Tacoma’s resolution are as follows:

WHEREAS the Public Works Department of the City estimates the impact of repealing local authority to impose TBD [Transportation Benefit District] fees would constitute a loss of approximately $2.9 million per year, or $5.8 million per biennium, which would negatively impact the City’s ability to perform necessary work to improve transportation infrastructure

WHEREAS I-976’s impact to Washington State’s transportation revenues will result in decreased funding to the Transportation Improvement and Multimodal Accounts, for which the City has utilized grant dollars for streetscape improvements, pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, and Safe Routes to School projects (editor’s note: impacted by reduction to State Multimodal Account)

WHEREAS, if adopted, this Resolution would express the City Council’s opposition to I-976 for its repeal of the City’s authority to impose TBD fees, and the adverse impact the loss of revenue would have on the City’s ability to complete transportation improvement projects

Anita Gallagher, Assistant to the City Manager, shared some of the preliminary impact analysis for Tacoma. Vehicle fees at the city level would be repealed, causing a loss of $2.9 million in Tacoma — which roughly equates to eighty residential blocks worth of basic street maintenance or one hundred Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant curb ramps.

Loss of revenue to the State’s Transportation Improvement Account would also hurt Tacoma. Improvements to the Lincoln District’s Yakima Avenue Festival Street, the Port of Tacoma Road, and the E 64th St skate project.

Pierce Transit would also lose $60 million for their Bus Rapid Transit line, currently being planned along a 14.4-mile corridor between Tacoma and Spanaway.

That’s half their funding.

Tim Eyman speaking to the Tacoma City Council

Before voting to oppose Tim Eyman’s I-976, the Tacoma City Council heard from Eyman himself. The Council then unanimously voted to oppose I-976. (Photo: Sherry Bockwinkel for NPI).

Mayor Victoria Woodards observed that it’s imperative for Tacoma that Sound Transit’s revenue not be impaired. If funding is slashed, there might not be enough money to get Link light rail to Tacoma. The terminus might end up in Federal Way or Fife instead. That would leave Sound Transit’s second largest constituent city bereft of the light rail expansion that it voted for three years ago.

Mayor Woodwards also railed against Washington’s upside down tax code, which requires those with the least to contribute the most.

Councilmember Chris Beale remarked that Eyman’s slogans make for a “nice bumper sticker” but that I-976 would cause grave harm, including interfering with our regional strategy to stop and reverse climate damage.

Councilmember Anders Ibsen offered the sharpest criticism of all. He assailed Tim Eyman as a “literal convicted thief and embezzler”, which is entirely accurate. Ibsen also correctly stated that Washington voters are adults, and society at-large should understand that it costs money to build things that we need.

Tacoma’s vote was followed by a vote by the Olympia City Council.

Olympia is not inside Sound Transit’s jurisdiction and voters there do not pay the motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) that Tim Eyman loves to grouse about.

Olympia voters do, however, support state-level transportation investments and city-level transportation investments through their tax dollars.

On Tuesday, Olympia’s Council discussed I-976 and declared its opposition with a resolution. Olympia, like Tacoma, has its own Transportation Benefit District, and the city cited the loss of street maintenance funding in its resolution:

WHEREAS, if passed by the voters in the November 2019 General Election, l-976 would eliminate the Olympia TBD’s authority to impose vehicle license fees and repeal the vehicle license fees already imposed by the Olympia TBD of $40.00 per year, resulting in a funding loss of at least $1.5 million annually.

Olympia is currently working on revamping four downtown streets, with Legion Way to be revamped in 2020 and Franklin Street in 2021. As a part of Olympia’s Downtown Strategy generated in 2016, these improvements to multimodality will make downtown Olympia a much more pleasant urban environment to walk in.

These projects draw funds from the transportation benefit district.

Councilmember Lisa Parshley moved to adopt the resolution. Her motion was seconded and then swiftly approved by the Council, adding Olympia to the list of cities that have taken a stand for Washington’s future by opposing I-976.

By week’s end, Lake Forest Park is expected to join the parade of cities speaking out against Initiative 976. Its council will consider a resolution similar to those discussed above at a meeting on Thursday evening.

It’s heartening to see so many of our local elected representatives doing their part to ensure voters know what the cost and consequences of this measure are before they vote. Ballots will be mailed next week and must be returned by November 5th. NPI strongly urges a NO vote on Tim Eyman’s I-976.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign fires top organizer for inappropriate behavior

This past weekend, Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign announced that Rich McDaniel, the campaign’s National Organizing Director, had been fired for behavior towards fellow staffers that was “inconsistent with the values of the campaign.”

Over the past two weeks, campaign management had received a number of complaints from workers about McDaniel’s behavior and decided to hire outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation.

The results of the investigation led to McDaniel’s firing.

Due to confidentiality policies, no details of McDaniel’s behavior have been released, but one source familiar with the investigation assured Politico that there were no allegations of sexual assault.

McDaniel is a highly experienced political campaigner: he was Hilary Clinton’s 2016 Primary States Regional Director, worked on Doug Jones’ improbable 2017 senatorial campaign in Alabama, and advised Randall Woodfin’s successful 2017 mayoral campaign in Birmingham.

In a statement provided to CNN, McDaniel said that “departing at this time is in the best interest of both parties.”

He claimed that he did not intentionally behave inappropriately, but that he understands “it is important to listen, even when you disagree.”

Rich McDaniel’s departure from the Warren campaign is one of the strongest examples yet of the changes that the #MeToo movement (which began in 2017) has brought to political campaigning.

In the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, internal harassment policies consisted of a few basic box-ticking exercises that largely left the problem of rampant sexual misconduct in campaign politics unaddressed.

Things are different in the 2020 race.

Democratic candidates have instituted a variety of internal policies to try to root out the problem: mandatory training sessions, employee surveys, specialized employee handbooks, and multiple reporting mechanisms have all been used.

Bernie Sanders – whose 2020 campaign faced an early hurdle in the fact that his 2016 team mishandled sexual harassment complaints – has even gone so far as to allow union representatives to investigate harassment complaints.

This way, the investigators have the workers’ interests, not the campaign’s, as their core motivator.

The Warren campaign’s move shows that they too are taking misconduct seriously. Beyond being just a matter of proper procedure, McDaniel’s firing could also help Senator Warren in the Democratic primary.

Senator Elizabeth Warren at Netroots Nation 2019

Senator Elizabeth Warren participates in the Netroots Nation 2019 presidential forum (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

The firing could allow Warren to draw comparisons between her campaign’s ethics and those of her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden.

Much like Rich McDaniel, Joe Biden has been accused of inappropriate behavior (usually overly familiar touching of one kind or another) by a number of women. Also like McDaniel, Biden has claimed that he never intended to behave in an inappropriate way. What Biden (and likely McDaniel, too) fails to understand is that his personal motivations or perception of the behavior is not the problem: it is the behavior itself and the way his actions affect others.

Joe Biden campaigning

Joe Biden has often been accused of inappropriate behavior towards others (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

While the accusations against Biden’s behavior don’t hold a candle to the accusations against the man currently occupying the White House (who has at least seventeen serious sexual assault allegations against him), they may cause him trouble in the primary. Middle income, white women – who are often all-too familiar with the behavior Biden has been criticized for – are abandoning the Republican Party and becoming a rapidly growing facet of the Democratic base.

The move by the Warren campaign could form part of a powerful narrative.

Warren represents the long-suffering women who are an increasingly important part of both the Democratic and the national electorate, while Biden is just another old white guy who cannot connect with their needs. There are signs of this slide already happening – Warren has long been a favorite with very liberal voters, but her appeal is increasingly breaking through to so-called “moderates,” many of whom are white women moving away from supporting the GOP.

Regardless of whether or not Warren wins the nomination, the firing of Rich McDaniel is an important moment in political history.

That someone in such an important position in a campaign could be dismissed after an investigation into accusations of inappropriate behavior shows that the systems put in place to deal with such behaviors can work, which could lead to a significant change for the better in political workplaces.

Tuesday, October 8th, 2019

Who made the debate over Initiative 976 about Tim Eyman? Tim Eyman did, that’s who!

This autumn, statewide voters must decide what to do with Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976, a measure designed to wreck bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments at the state, regional, and local levels in Washington State.

I-976 is the latest in a decades-long series of initiatives conceived by Eyman that are intended to defund the Evergreen State’s essential public services, collectively robbing us as Washingtonians of the resources we need to support each other, build prosperous businesses, and lead healthy lives.

If implemented, I-976 would eliminate $4.2 billion in transportation investments over the next six years, according to the Office of Financial Management. The impacts are even greater over a ten-year timeframe. Sound Transit has estimated that I-976 could jeopardize up to $20 billion in transit expansion funding that voters in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties approved three years ago.

At the Northwest Progressive Institute, we’ve been working to defeat I-976 for almost a year and a half. Our efforts to defeat I-976 began the same day that Eyman announced his intention to qualify the measure: April 16th, 2018.

On that day, through our Permanent Defense project, we published a statement saying we were ready to go to bat to defend the multimodal transportation infrastructure that we had repeatedly voted for. Several weeks later, we launched no976.org and began recruiting other organizations to join us in opposing I-976.

In January, when Eyman turned in the remainder of his signatures, we were there. We pledged that there would be a vigorous campaign against I-976. And there is.

As we enter the homestretch of the battle against I-976, our team at NPI is gratified to see so many people and organizations stepping up to join the campaign — which, like past campaigns against similarly destructive measures, is being waged by the Keep Washington Rolling coalition, of which NPI is a member.

Keep Washington Rolling has won many fights in its almost fifteen year history.

In 2005, the coalition defeated John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur’s Initiative 912, which Eyman had confidently predicted would pass in a landslide.

Six years later, the coalition reformed to defeat Eyman’s I-1125, a measure that Eyman qualified eight years ago in the hopes of thwarting Sound Transit’s East Link light rail project and banning variable tolling on SR 520.

And the coalition worked with legislators and Governor Jay Inslee to secure passage of the 2015 Connecting Washington transportation package.

Four years later, Keep Washington Rolling is committed to waging the best possible campaign against Eyman’s I-976 that its coalition partners can put together.

Eyman, meanwhile, seems locked in a destructive spiral. His initiative factory is collapsing and his legal woes are mounting. He’s trapped in Chapter 11 bankruptcy after having unsuccessfully tried to stall the campaign finance enforcement lawsuit brought against him and his associates by Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

At the same time, Eyman’s behavior has become more and more erratic, as we memorably saw in February when Eyman stole a chair from the Lacey Office Depot.

To pitch Initiative 976, Eyman has deployed what could be called his greatest hits — a collection of catchphrases, insults, attacks, and rejoinders that he developed during his early years, primarily 1999-2002. Eyman even has a prop to go with his greatest hits: for months, he has been bringing an old thirty dollar car tabs sign around with him to meetings and speaking engagements.

One of Eyman’s greatest hits is his ridiculous claim that his opponents (that would be us) “don’t have a single meritorious argument” against initiatives like I-976. As Eyman put it in an email to his followers on January 4th, 2019:

So all we’re gonna hear from them are stories about me. Just me. Only me. Tim’s bankrupt. Tim’s divorced. Tim’s awful. […] For twenty years, politicians and the press have been trying the vote-no-on-Tim’s-initiative-because-Tim’s-a-bad-guy message. It’s never worked.

Take a moment to appreciate the absurdity of what you just read.

Every time Eyman makes this stupid and false claim, it gives him another chance to talk about himself and shake his electronic tin cup.

Eyman talks about himself and his personal circumstances in public on an extremely frequent basis, whether it’s through email missives or Facebook posts. He doesn’t limit himself to talking about the initiatives he is trying to sell or commenting on state politics. He has an insatiable need for attention.

If you look at the NO on I-976 website, you can see for yourself that Eyman is a liar. Our website is full of meritorious arguments against Initiative 976. It would worsen traffic, it would make our tax code even more regressive, and it would imperil projects all over the state that are intended to make our commutes safer and give us more choices for getting around so that driving isn’t our only option.

Editorial boards like The Seattle Times and The Walla Walla Union Bulletin have cited these meritorious arguments in justifying their opposition to I-976.

Nonetheless, Eyman continues to assert that his opposition has no good arguments and so is clinging to a desperate strategy of make Tim Eyman the bad guy to win. Eyman’s pals on right wing talk radio, especially Dori Monson, have echoed this argument, including as recently as last week.

As usual, though, Tim Eyman is wrong. Eyman’s the one who has made himself inseparable from the debate over Initiative 976.

It was Eyman who decided, at the outset, that the Initiative 976 campaign would be him, and he would be the campaign. They are one and the same.

We didn’t make that choice — he did.

If there is a better example of a one-man show in the history of Washington State politics, I’m hard pressed to think of it, and I know more Washington State political history than most.

Consider the evidence.

Tim Eyman is the primary sponsor and author of Initiative 976, the principal donor to I-976 (if the campaign finance reports his treasurer filed are accurate) its main spokesman and promoter, and its chief strategist.

Tim wrote the statement in favor of I-976 that appears in the voter’s pamphlet and recorded the video equivalent for TVW, the state’s public affairs cable television network. He’s the one appearing in front of editorial boards to push I-976 in his orange t-shirt with his tab-shaped stickers.

And of course, he fields the media inquiries.

In fact, he has instructed journalists and columnists to reach out to him before writing anything about I-976. Repeatedly. Like on January 22nd, 2019, when he sent out an email saying: “Media: plz contact me when reporting on initiative.” He sent a similar email on August 1st with a one page propaganda piece attached.

Eyman has always relished the spotlight. He loves being in the arena, and I’ve heard him say it many times. He’s also said in it writing many times.

Glory is arguably just as important to Tim as making money. He absolutely loves being the center of attention. He has dressed up as Darth Vader, Buzz Lightyear, a prisoner, and a gorilla in various ploys for attention over the years.

Perhaps the best fresh evidence that Tim Eyman is synonymous with the initiatives he’s pitching (like I-976) is his most recent C1-PC (political committee) registration filed in June 2019. If you look at it, you’ll see that Tim Eyman is the committee’s one and only named officer aside from his Treasurer, Thurston County’s Sarah Eckert, who Eyman pays to keep the books.

Eyman is prohibited under the terms of a 2002 settlement with the state from serving as a campaign treasurer, so he’s obligated to have someone like Eckert as his Treasurer. Aside from Eckert, though, there’s nobody else listed.

And that’s because there are no other decision makers. Eyman isn’t even pretending otherwise anymore. His longtime sidekicks — Mike and Jack Fagan of Spokane — have parted ways with him, which is why they don’t appear on the committee’s latest registration as they have in the past. The younger Fagan confirmed this to The Spokesman-Review in an article that ran yesterday.

Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan and his father, Jack, have worked with Eyman since 1999. Fagan, too, is a sponsor of the initiative and largely agreed with Eyman’s assessment. However, he said he parted ways with Eyman and dissolved any businesses and committees related to his initiative work with Eyman.

Fagan said his father’s old age was the main cause, but Eyman has troubles that may spell the end of his crusading career.

Aside from an embarrassing episode in February when he allegedly stole a $70 chair from an Office Depot store in Lacey, Washington, he continues to fight a campaign-finance lawsuit, in which Attorney General Bob Ferguson has accused Eyman of using the initiative process to get rich, according to the Seattle Times.

He has been found in contempt twice and faces a lifetime ban on directing the finances of political action committees.

Even when the Fagans were named officers of Eyman’s committees, they did not share equal ownership in the strategic decision-making with Eyman.

That is abundantly clear from the thousands of pages of depositions I’ve read in the State of Washington’s campaign finance enforcement lawsuit against Eyman, which includes depositions of both of the Fagans as well as Eyman’s wife.

Eyman has long been — and remains — a solo act. It’s how he likes it.

What Eyman can’t do himself that he requires in order to keep his initiative factory running, he procures… like petition signatures, website hosting, or accounting services. Even a one-man show can have stagehands, and Tim’s does.

Let’s be clear, though: the people Eyman says he runs with — his benefactors, his Facebook friends, sympathetic state Republican legislators, the subscribers on his email list — those folks are not Eyman’s costars. They are the people in the audience that Eyman is performing for. They’re the ones who keep buying the tickets to the show. The show itself is Eyman’s alone.

When Eyman accuses his opposition of making our campaigns against his initiatives all about him instead of the issues, he’s projecting. It was Eyman who gleefully made himself into a household name and a lightning rod. It is Eyman who chooses to exercise tight control over the initiative factory he created. There isn’t room in his act for anyone else. The money and the glory must go to him.

Our campaign is different. Keep Washington Rolling is a strong and diverse coalition that includes businesses large and small, labor unions, environmental organizations, civic groups, elected leaders, and community activists. We have joined forces to protect the state that we love from I-976. We are working together – cooperatively – to wage this campaign to the best of our ability.

Usually, statewide ballot measure campaigns have a lot of people involved. They have a steering committee of some kind, a campaign manager, field organizers, consultants who help with strategy, messaging, fundraising, and communications, speakers who participate in a speaker’s bureau, and so on. Having lots of people involved is advantageous, as there is no one single point of failure.

As I’ve explained, Tim Eyman’s operation doesn’t look like that.

But our coalition does. Look at its membership.

We are building an inclusive coalition that seeks to unite Washingtonians around the values and principles our state was founded upon. Everyone who shares our objective of expanding freedom of mobility is welcome to join us.

Together, we believe we can say no to the politics of malice and division. Together, we can build a transportation system that is safer and empowers people to get where they want to go without polluting the Earth, our common home. Join us and get engaged as we work to secure our state’s future by defeating I-976.

Monday, October 7th, 2019

Seattle City Council votes to oppose I-976 as Tim Eyman serves up his usual insults

With a little less than a month to go until General Election Day 2019, the Seattle City Council took a decisive stand against Eyman’s I-976 Monday by passing a resolution denouncing the measure and its devastating consequences.

The vote was 7-0 in favor of adoption. Councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Lorena González were not present in person at the meeting.

The resolution reads:

A RESOLUTION opposing Washington Initiative Measure 976 (“I-976”) and urging Seattle voters to vote “No” on I-976 on the November 5, 2019, general election ballot.

WHEREAS Washington Initiative Measure 976 (hereinafter, “I-976”) would undermine progress made by The City of Seattle, Sound Transit, and the State of Washington in building a more equitable and sustainable transportation system that responds to the challenges posed by the region’s extraordinary growth, an ongoing climate crisis, and past failures to build a mass transit system that could efficiently and cost effectively serve the needs of Seattle in the twenty-first century, by eliminating major funding sources for light rail expansion, bus service in Seattle, and the primary sources of non-highway spending at the state level; and

WHEREAS I-976 would repeal funding authority for all or substantial portions of transportation benefit districts in Seattle and 61 other cities across Washington State, a sum of $60 million per year that is largely dedicated to improving safety and maintaining infrastructure and, as in Seattle, to reducing crowding and expanding access to bus service; and

WHEREAS I-976 is intended to eliminate $24 million per year in Seattle Transportation Benefit District funding primarily dedicated to additional bus service for Seattle riders that helps alleviate overcrowding; adds more speed and reliability; and provides more all-day, evening, and weekend bus service accessible to more Seattle neighborhoods; and

WHEREAS Seattle Transit Benefit District-funded expansion of bus service has allowed Seattle to absorb much of its growth via transit rather than additional cars, providing 350,000 new annual service hours -the equivalent of 8,000 weekly bus trips or 79 buses running 12 hours per day 365 days a year – capacity for 106,032 additional bus rides per day on bus routes serving Seattle, providing ten-minute or better all-day bus service within a ten-minute walk to 70 percent of Seattle households (up from 25 percent in 2015); and

WHEREAS I-976 would also eliminate or reduce funding now dedicated to low-income transit access and ORCA passes to all Seattle public high school students, Seattle Promise Scholars, and income-eligible middle school students; and

WHEREAS I-976 would also eliminate nearly $8 million per year in funding dedicated to City transportation programs that include pothole repair and neighborhood street maintenance, protected bike lanes, safer pedestrian crossings, frequent transit corridor improvements, and the Seattle Department of Transportation’s program to improve accessibility for people with disabilities; and

WHEREAS I-976 is intended to eliminate $20 billion in funding for expansion of light rail to West Seattle and Ballard, along with other elements of the 2016 voter-approved Sound Transit 3 measure; and

WHEREAS I-976 would eliminate the primary sources of state funding for safety improvements and nonhighway modes of transportation, including passenger rail service connecting Seattle with Portland and Vancouver; $1.3 billion in ferry vessel improvements; $15 million per year in Washington State Patrol safety programs; $50 million per year in regional transit mobility grants; a multitude of freight mobility and highway safety projects; state funding for Safe Routes to Schools and other bike and pedestrian safety investments; and state funding for special needs transit that serves seniors, veterans, and people
with disabilities; and

WHEREAS, passage of I-976, even if it might eventually be repealed by the courts, could tie up funding for local bus service, light rail expansion, and state programs for several years, grinding to a halt progress on addressing Washington’s growth, safety, equity, climate, and traffic needs, delaying projects and potentially creating financial turmoil for Sound Transit with bond markets; and

WHEREAS, Puget Sound residents have voted to tax themselves to address their own transportation needs by building light rail for traffic relief, improving safety and maintenance of the existing right-of-way, and expanding bus access; and

WHEREAS, after notice in accordance with RCW 42.17A.555 and Seattle Municipal Code Section 2.04.300, persons in favor of I-976 and those opposed to it have been given an equal opportunity to share their views in an open public meeting;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF SEATTLE, THE MAYOR CONCURRING, THAT:

Section 1. The Mayor and Seattle City Council urge Seattle voters to vote “No” on Washington Initiative Measure 976 in the November 2019 general election.

Prior to passing the resolution, each councilmember offered a few comments in support. Councilmember Debora Juarez remarked that, in addition to the arguments stated in the WHEREAS clauses, “statewide transportation improvements have been hard-fought and are the result of great and partisan work in the State and here in our tri-county region: Pierce, King, and Snohomish.”

I-976 would “reverse the will of the people” for better transit and badly needed alternatives to gridlocked highways like Interstate 5.

Councilmember Lisa Herbold noted that Seattle has been one of the few cities in the nation where transit use has been on the upswing recently, spurned by Sound Transit and King County Metro service expansion and improvement.

Yet, under I-976, Seattle will lose approximately 175,000 hours of bus service in 2020. That’s half of the service funded by the voter-approved Seattle Transportation Benefit District. One-third of water taxi service is funded through the transportation benefit district, so that will be in jeopardy too.

Councilmember Kshama Sawant argued that “it would make existing measures more regressive.” She called for the passage of a high-earners income tax at the city level to fund Seattle’s public services more equitably.

Councilmember Sally Bagshaw thanked the Legislature for passing transportation funding bills that have raised money for needed projects. Specifically, she mentioned working with State Senator Curtis King of Eastern Washington to secure progress for communities on both sides of the Cascades.

Councilmember Abel Pacheco emphasized the need for transportation funding to comply with Vision 2050. He also humorously called I-976 “malarkey”.

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda noted that that the public services we rely on to make sure our economy functions have to be funded somehow. Businesses can’t get their goods to market and people can’t get where they need to go if our transportation system is in disrepair.

Then the fun part came: Tim Eyman spoke in defense of Initiative 976, rambling in front of City Council for several minutes while lambasting councilmembers for having the audacity to offer people guidance on how to vote. Many activists held up NO on I-976 signs behind Tim as he spoke, creating a theatrical atmosphere.

Tim Eyman surrounded by NO on I-976 signs

Tim Eyman speaks as opponents of Initiative 976 hold up signs opposing his scheme to wipe out billions in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments (Seattle Channel)

Matthew Lang of the Transit Riders Union — who testified in opposition to I-976 alongside our founder earlier this winter — delivered a rejoinder for the NO camp.

He re-emphasized the thousands of good paying, family wage jobs in the building trades could be lost with the delay or cancellation of essential projects.

He also stressed the bus service in rural counties that could be completely gutted.

And he pointed out that vehicle fees help ensure that Seattle, King County, and other jurisdictions can offer low fare programs like ORCA LIFT to people on low or limited incomes. People with disabilities, high school students, and the elderly would all be affected by the discontinuation of ORCA LIFT.

Access to transportation is one of the biggest markers of privilege in this country, Lang told the council. If you don’t have transportation, you can’t get to work or around the city. He’s absolutely correct. All Washingtonians deserve freedom of mobility. That’s why NPI is working hard to defeat this destructive measure.

Join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s I-976 by November 5th, 2019.

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

Washington State Supreme Court Chief Justice Mary Fairhurst to retire mid-term

Mary Fairhurst, the distinguished Chief Justice of the Washington State Supreme Court, will retire in January to focus on her health, the Court announced today.

“It is with a clear head and a sad heart that I have made the decision that it is time for me to leave the Court,” Fairhurst said in a statement. “It has been my honor and privilege to serve as a justice of this court since 2003, particularly as the Chief Justice for the past three years. I am so proud of the work we’ve done as a branch during this time and feel the time is right to focus on my health.”

Fairhurst is battling cancer in multiple organs (lungs, liver, thyroid and spleen) and has been given a diagnosis of between nine months and two years to live.

State Supreme Justice Mary Fairhurst

Washington State Supreme Court Justice Mary Fairhurst listens to oral argument in the McCleary case (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/Northwest Progressive Institute)

Fairhurst was part of the majority that bravely took a stand for majority rule in Washington State by striking down Tim Eyman’s initiatives to unconstitutionally require a two-thirds vote to pass revenue bills.

Fairhurst also wrote the unanimous majority opinion striking down Washington State’s death penalty statute last year, a landmark victory for human rights.

And, in 2005, Fairhurst authored an exceptional dissent disagreeing that the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was constitutional.

What a legacy she leaves.

“I thank Chief Justice Fairhurst for her commitment to serving justice for all Washingtonians,” said Governor Jay Inslee, the state’s chief executive.

“She has led on access to justice for low-income individuals and families, enhancing opportunities for women and minorities in the legal profession and working to increase public legal education for children and youth.”

“Mary’s remarkable leadership and tireless community engagement will continue to have a positive impact on our state long after she’s left the bench. I wish her the very best in a well-deserved retirement.”

Because Fairhurst is retiring prior to completing her term, Inslee will appoint her successor. Inslee previously appointed Mary Yu to take the place of Jim Johnson, and Yu remains in office today, having been retained by the voters.

Whoever is appointed will serve through November of 2020 and possibly beyond. The seat will be contested during next year’s presidential election, along with the seats held by Debra Stephens and Charles Johnson. Fairhurst’s current term was scheduled to end in January 2021, so she will be exiting about one year early.

In Washington State, Supreme Court justices are elected for six-year terms and are chosen by the voters. The nine statewide positions are all nonpartisan. The Court’s oral arguments are televised, unlike those of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vacancies, as alluded to above, are filled by appointment.

Fairhurst’s colleagues will choose a new Chief Justice to preside over the Court beginning in January. The new Chief Justice will be announced next month on the day after the November general election concludes (November 6th).

Inslee’s office will draw up a list of potential candidates to take Fairhurst’s place and carefully vet them. Inslee will then select a new Justice.

The last three justices to be appointed to the Court have all been retained by the voters and remain on the Court today. Aside from Justice Mary Yu, the list includes Justices Debra Stephens and Steven Gonzalez, both appointed by Inslee’s predecessor, Governor Chris Gregoire, in office from 2005-2013.

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2019

Tim Eyman loses again in court as Judge James Dixon declines to reconsider sanctions

Disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman has lost another court battle.

Thurston County Superior Court Judge James Dixon today denied Eyman’s motion to reconsider his previous ruling imposing new sanctions and denied Eyman’s request for a further stay in the proceedings.

The motion was Eyman’s latest attempt to postpone his day of reckoning through a stonewalling in the extreme legal strategy. He is being sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson for egregious violations of Washington’s public disclosure laws.

Eyman’s associates have already been found guilty in the case (No. 17-2-01546-34) and fined more than $1 million for their role in covertly funneling money back into Eyman’s pockets in the form of kickbacks.

Eyman, meanwhile, has been in contempt of court for more than a year because he refuses to turn over records the State is seeking to prove that he broke the law. Eyman’s blatant disregard of the Court’s lawful discovery orders has infuriated the attorneys working to hold Eyman accountable as well as the case’s Special Master, retired Thurston Superior Court Judge Gary Tabor.

Because Eyman is in contempt, he’s racking up daily monetary fines.

But those fines have not motivated him to comply.

So Ferguson sought the imposition of additional, non-monetary sanctions.

Last month, state attorneys convinced Dixon to reclassify seven years of “gifts” and other income that went into Eyman’s pockets as reportable campaign contributions as an additional sanction upon Eyman. As a consequence of that decision, Eyman is now faced with having to break his promises to his wealthy benefactors, whom he assured could remain anonymous if they gave money to him personally, as opposed to donating to one of his initiative factory’s committees.

The prospect of having to report who has been writing checks to his personal purse has frightened Eyman. That’s why he asked Dixon to reconsider his decision ordering that Eyman’s “gifts” be reported as campaign contributions.

Eyman also requested a stay in the case, as mentioned, to buy himself more time.

Eyman is petitioning U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Marc Barreca to allow former State Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders (who always voted against striking down Eyman initiatives that were clearly unconstitutional) to represent him as his new legal counsel, after having spent months as a pro se defendant.

State attorneys Eric S. Newman, S. Todd Sipe, and Paul M. Crisalli wrote a powerful brief shredding Eyman’s request for a reconsideration.

“The State has waited a long time for justice in this matter because of Defendant Eyman’s antics,” their brief notes. “The State is still awaiting that justice. There is nothing unjust about a discovery sanction against a defendant who defied this Court’s orders and his discovery obligations for two years, especially when the discovery violations continue even after the sanction. The Court’s order is only the first step toward the State’s finally having the issues in this case resolved. Defendant Eyman’s hollow gesture does not change anything.”

With respect to Eyman’s efforts to bring Richard Sanders on board to represent him, the state’s attorneys observed:

“Defendant Eyman chose to proceed without an attorney for eight months. He
intentionally avoided hiring an attorney so that he could falsely tell this Court and the Special Discovery Master that his failure to respond to discovery was out of ignorance, not defiance. He repeatedly claimed that it was the State that was preventing him from getting a lawyer, despite that assertion being patently false.”

Not only did Ferguson’s office not prevent Eyman from getting a lawyer, it repeatedly advised him in writing to obtain a new attorney, and objected to the withdrawal of Eyman’s previous counsel, Joel Ard.

You can read their brief in its entirety here:

State of Washington's opposition to motion to reconsider non-monetary sanctions

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

NPI to Kirkland City Council: Protect freedom of mobility by opposing Tim Eyman’s I-976

Editor’s Note: The following is the text of NPI founder Andrew Villeneuve’s remarks to the Kirkland City Council opposing I-976, as prepared for delivery. The Council considered, and adopted, a resolution opposing I-976, sponsored by Tim Eyman, at its October 1st, 2019 meeting. Prior to that vote, the Council heard presentations from speakers representing both sides, pro and con. 

Good evening, Councilmembers.

For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve.

I’m a cybersecurity strategist, facilitator, and nonprofit leader, and I’m here tonight on behalf of the Northwest Progressive Institute and Keep Washington Rolling to make the case against Tim Eyman’s I-976.

In my nearly eighteen years in politics, I’ve organized opposition to some pretty destructive initiatives. This is easily one of the worst. According to the state Office of Financial Management, I-976 would wipe out $4.2 billion – that’s billion, with a b – in bipartisan, voter-approved transportation investments over the next six years. The numbers are even worse when you consider the impacts over ten years.

Sound Transit has estimated that I-976 could jeopardize as much as $20 billion in essential transit expansion funding that the voters approved – which includes not only motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) revenue, but financing for Sound Transit 3 projects t supported by that revenue.

The list of affected services is long. Because I-976 would end vehicle fees at the state level, Amtrak Cascades would be gutted. Freight mobility projects would be imperiled. Overpasses and bridges in “poor” condition wouldn’t be retrofitted or replaced. The Washington State Patrol would lose money. New ferryboats would be delayed or not built. Transit grants to rural communities would end.

Because I-976 seeks to take away a major revenue source from Sound Transit, the light rail line planned to connect South Kirkland to Issaquah could be delayed, shortened, or possibly not even built at all.

The new Stride bus rapid transit service planned for the I-405 corridor would similarly be threatened. At the local level, here in King County, Seattle would lose voter-approved funding for hundreds of thousands of Metro bus hours, which would negatively impact the entire Metro system, hurting Kirkland, Bellevue, Redmond, and surrounding communities. Other neighboring cities like Mercer Island would lose funding for road maintenance, street repairs, and traffic calming.

These transportation projects support a significant number of good paying, family-wage jobs, which is why the Washington State Labor Council, the Laborers, the Building & Construction Trades, and other unions fiercely oppose this measure.

Tim Eyman says that I-976 is about fair taxation. That’s a fiction.

There is nothing fair about letting somebody who owns a Ferrari or a Lamborghini pay the same amount as someone who owns a Corolla or a Civic to renew their vehicle registration every year.

The simple truth is that this measure exists because Tim Eyman found money to make his vendetta against Sound Transit an issue on the November 2019 ballot.

For three years, he tried to get this same scheme onto the ballot and failed three times. His first attempt was in 2016 with I-1421. It never got off the ground.

He tried again with I-869. Same result.

Undeterred, he started over a third time with I-947 in 2017.

That imploded too.

Finally, he decided to raid his retirement fund – or at least that is where he claims the money came from – to finance a signature drive for his fourth attempt, I-976.

While Tim was working on Attempt Number One back in 2016, he went to a meeting of the Eastside Republican Club to make a pitch for people to give him money. On March 1st, he stood before the club and made it abundantly clear that his overriding objective with this initiative was to wound Sound Transit as deeply as possible. Cheap vehicle fees are just a welcome side effect.

Here is what he said – these are his own words, which we have on tape:

“I love the idea of every voter in the state being able to register their vehicle for a flat-rate, easy to understand $30, but what gets me giddy is the idea of ripping the heart out of Sound Transit.”

He added:

“This is our one chance to be able to gut them like a pig, and that’s what I really love about this initiative.”

Gut ’em like a pig. This is what Tim Eyman is really after. Destroy Sound Transit; sabotage the multimodal transportation infrastructure that we have repeatedly voted for because he inexplicably believes that everyone should get around by automobile only.

Councilmembers, I believe you’re all familiar with the concept of multimodal infrastructure, but for those in the audience or watching the livestream, allow me to offer a definition. Multimodal infrastructure allows people to get where they want to go using the mode of their choice. That could mean walking, bicycling, or taking transit (bus, vanpool, or rail) as opposed to only driving.

Sound Transit’s mission is to make our heavily used corridors truly multimodal.

Just a few weeks ago, the agency officially broke ground on Lynnwood Link.

When that project is done, it will be possible to hop on a train in Snohomish County and enjoy a one seat ride into downtown Seattle. There will finally be a reliable way to bypass the terrible traffic in that area on Interstate 5. The highway will no longer be the only key facility supporting movement through that corridor.

Our State Department of Transportation has also embraced the idea that our future is multimodal. When we rebuilt State Route 520, we added modes to it.

We constructed HOV lanes that buses and vanpools can use to bypass crummy traffic and we created a pedestrian and bike path next to the automobile lanes, linking Seattle and Medina by trail. This created more choices for everybody.

I have crossed the lake on the new bridge using each mode.

It’s wonderful to have the freedom to choose.

Sadly and strangely, Tim Eyman doesn’t want people to have that freedom.

How do we know? Because Eyman has a twenty year track record in politics as a “road warrior” – somebody who holds the position that only highways, and a much lesser extent local roads, deserve to be funded.

Eyman’s contempt for rail transit is well established.

He’s repeatedly characterized light rail as a “choo choo train”, for example.

Never mind the fact that Sound Transit’s popular trains are ultramodern vehicles running on electricity, not steam created from the burning of climate-destroying fossil fuels. Trains, like automobiles, have evolved significantly since they were each invented in the 1700s and 1800s.

Nonetheless, Eyman sees rail transit as antiquated and obsolete.

The people of our region disagree.

As Dow Constantine has observed, they vote with their feet and their ORCA cards, and they are choosing Link light rail. Ridership is booming.

Then there are Eyman’s many unsuccessful attempts to change state transportation policy, which you didn’t hear him talk about in his presentation because the voters defeated them.

  • There was I-745, in 2000, which sought to require almost all transportation funding be spent on roads and highways.
  • There was I-985 in 2008, which would have opened our HOV lanes to solo drivers at almost all hours of the day.
  • There was I-1125 in 2011, which sought to ban variable tolling on corridors like State Route 520 and prohibit Sound Transit from using the I-90 Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge for East Link light rail.

All of those measures were defeated by statewide voters.

During the same twenty-five year timespan, voters in Puget Sound voted for Sound Move in 1996, Sound Transit 2 in 2008, and Sound Transit 3 in 2016. Three major, high profile plans to significantly expand transit in our state’s urban core. All approved by voters.

Washingtonians have been clear: we want multimodal transportation infrastructure. That is our will.

Tim Eyman has been equally clear: he doesn’t care.

He keeps coming back with new schemes to sabotage our work to build a better transportation system that provides people with freedom of mobility as often as he possibly can. He wants Sound Transit abolished and he wants the Department of Transportation to go back to essentially being the Department of Highways.

I find this stance truly puzzling. I’ve traveled widely throughout our country and I’ve also been overseas. In every major urban area I have traveled to, I have reveled in the opportunity to walk, bike, or take the train to get to where I wanted to go. Not being forced to drive is a great blessing.

If I-976 is implemented, we will see more traffic on our roads and highways because more Washingtonians will be forced to drive due to devastating cuts in transit service. The projects we are currently counting on to help us accommodate expected population growth and new development will be delayed or terminated. Traffic is already awful; the last thing we want to do is make it worse.

But that’s what we get with I-976.

And if that weren’t bad enough, that traffic will in many places continue to rely on bridges and overpasses that are in bad shape.

Safety should matter to us. It should be our top priority. 

The Skagit River Bridge collapse in 2013 was a huge wake-up call for our state. In that incident, a portion of the structure that carries I-5 over the Skagit River collapsed because a commercial vehicle crossed the bridge in the wrong lane, resulting in the bridge being struck by the vehicle’s trailer. At the time of the incident, the bridge was on the state’s list of functionally obsolete structures.

We have more than one hundred and sixty bridges and overpasses in “poor” condition. That means they’re even more at risk of failure than the Skagit River Bridge was. We need to fix or replace them.

I-976 will interfere with plans to do that.

For those Washingtonians who do not own a car or cannot drive, I-976 represents an even more terrifying threat to their freedom and their future.

What are people who don’t have a license supposed to do if services they rely on are ripped away? What about those who can’t drive due to a disability?

What about those too young to hold a license? What about our seniors who can’t drive anymore? What about those who find driving challenging, stressful, or difficult? And what about those who have deliberately chosen not to own a car because they want to save money, save the planet, or both?

Too bad for them, because according to Tim Eyman, auto travel – and especially solo driving – is the only mode of transportation that our tax dollars ought to support, and never mind the consequences of that choice, which are catastrophic for our climate, health, and well being.

People who can’t drive should just suck it up and subsidize pavement for those who can as they struggle to get around.

I completely reject this kind of thinking, and I urge you to as well by adopting a resolution opposing I-976.

I bet you’ve heard the saying if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. It’s a great African proverb.

At Keep Washington Rolling, and at NPI, the organization I’m honored to lead, we believe Washingtonians deserve freedom of mobility.

We know that building a great multimodal transportation system can’t be done in a day or even a year. It requires decades of sustained work.

It’s a long journey to get there. We are best served by undertaking that journey together. Pooling our resources to get things done is something we’ve been doing ever since this country was founded.

Ours is a strong and diverse coalition that includes businesses large and small, labor unions, environmental organizations, civic groups, elected leaders, and community activists. Unlike the other side, we’re not a one man show with a few supporting stagehands in the background.

We have joined forces to protect the state that we love from I-976. We are working together – cooperatively – to wage this campaign to the best of our ability. We invite you and all listening to join us in voting NO on Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 this autumn. Thank you very much for your attention, and Happy October.

Tuesday, October 1st, 2019

JUSTICE! Tim Eyman’s pals fined $1 million for their role in illegal kickback scheme

Associates of disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman have been ordered to pay the State of Washington more than a million dollars in penalties and court costs for their role in an illegal kickback scheme that funneled money into to Tim Eyman’s pockets, a Thurston County Superior Court judge decided yesterday.

Judge James Dixon signed off on an order penalizing Eyman’s co-defendants after having entered a default judgment against them earlier this year.

The co-defendants include William Agazarm of Bristol, Connecticut (the son in law of Eddie Agazarm, one of Eyman’s pals) and Citizen Solutions, LLC (the firm controlled by William Agazarm and Roy Ruffino, also one of Eyman’s pals.)

“This judgment reflects the serious and intentional violations of Washington’s campaign finance laws committed by Mr. Agazarm and Citizen Solutions,” said Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a statement.

“Mr. Agazarm and Citizen Solutions knowingly participated in a scheme to hide how contributions to Tim Eyman’s campaigns were really being used.”

The scheme — which was suspected by NPI and other Eyman opponents to exist long before it was proven in court by Ferguson — worked like this:

  • Disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman would cook up an initiative for wrecking government in some way in Washington State, then find wealthy benefactors to pitch the scheme to, like the Association of Washington Business (AWB) and its affiliated trade organizations.
  • Eyman would tell the benefactors that he needed a certain sum to qualify the scheme for the ballot. For example, he might claim to need $1 million, when in reality, he’d only need around half that for a signature drive.
  • Upon receiving cash and/or commitments in support of the scheme, Eyman would hire his buddies at “Citizen Solutions” to conduct the signature drive.
  • Eyman would then have Citizen Solutions secretly funnel funds back to him that weren’t actually needed to pay petitioners, in violation of the law.

Anyone looking at Eyman’s public disclosure reports would see that he was paying himself a salary out of campaign funds — a practice that began after Eyman was caught lying about taking money from his donors in 2002 — but not that he was double dipping by arranging for kickbacks from his chief vendor.

Eyman and his pals went to great lengths to conceal their kickback scheme.

For example:

“Eyman had Citizen Solutions’ owners divide his kickbacks among his wife, Karen, and their minor children, so none of the checks would be more than $13,000,” the Attorney General’s office noted in its news release detailing Judge Dixon’s finding. “According to Karen Eyman’s deposition, she and the children were unaware of the payments, even though the checks were made out to them.”

“Eyman wrote to one of the owners [Roy Ruffino]: ‘You generously gave me $9900 on September 22nd (and a nice bottle of champagne!!) so that leaves $35,100 for the rest of 2012 and still $39,000 for 2013. … I ask that you please schedule a few more lunches from now until December 31st so you can ‘max gift’ by the end of the year. You’re making great progress on this and I continue to be extremely grateful for your continued help on it.'”

“The Court finds that the Citizen Solutions Defendants not only knew the extent of Defendant Eyman’s scheme, but actively assisted with his violations, helping him mislead contributors into believing their contributions would go to support ballot initiatives, when in fact, they were benefiting Defendant Eyman personally,” Judge James Dixon wrote in his order approving $1 million in penalties.

“Crucially, the Citizen Solutions Defendants assisted Defendant Eyman in laundering payments purportedly for signature gathering, which were made after the signature gathering was completed and accepted by the Citizen Solutions Defendants solely to conceal that they were being funneled to Defendant Eyman.”

Judgment against Citizen Solutions in State of Washington v. Tim Eyman

Here’s a breakdown of all the penalties approved by the court:

  • Agazarm to pay $150,000 in civil penalties;
  • Citizen Solutions, LLC to pay $150,000 in civil penalties;
  • Agazarm and Citizen Solutions jointly to pay $117,500 in unpaid contempt sanctions; and
  • Agazarm and Citzen Solutions to pay $622,255.67 in costs and fees.

Altogether, Tim Eyman’s co-defendants owe a total of $1,039,755 67.

Eyman has yet to be penalized for his role in the scheme.

This judgment has been a long time in coming.

Finally, justice is being served upon the people who enabled Tim Eyman to line his pockets at the expense of his donors, who were duped into overpaying for signatures to qualify destructive schemes to the Washington State ballot.

Now it’s time for Tim Eyman to face the music himself.