NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Thursday, May 19th, 2011

Mercenary petitioners hawking Tim Eyman’s l‑1125 target Bellevue College students

Though it’s not appar­ent from look­ing at Vot­ers Want More Choic­es’ most recent reports to the Pub­lic Dis­clo­sure Com­mis­sion (PDC), NPI can today con­firm what we have sus­pect­ed since the begin­ning of the month: Tim Eyman has found a new wealthy bene­fac­tor to put up the mon­ey for his lat­est scheme, Ini­tia­tive 1125, which he announced he was run­ning only eigh­teen days ago.

We won’t know who is bankrolling I‑1125 until June 10th at the ear­li­est (which is when Eyman is required to file his May reports).

But we do know the mon­ey spig­ot has been turned on and that it’s being used to deploy mer­ce­nary peti­tion­ers across Wash­ing­ton State.

Yes­ter­day, we received mul­ti­ple reports from activists who had sight­ed sig­na­ture gath­er­ers oper­at­ing at big box store, includ­ing Wal-Mart. One activist told us that peti­tions for mul­ti­ple mea­sures were being carried.

And this morn­ing, I found myself being asked to sign Tim Eyman’s I‑1125 on my way to class as I walked through cam­pus. Pret­ty iron­ic, huh?

Petitions for I-1125

Three peti­tions for Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 1125 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

It seems that two mer­ce­nar­ies decid­ed that a good place to col­lect sig­na­tures would be at the heart of the main cam­pus at Belle­vue Col­lege, which has been neg­a­tive­ly impact­ed by past Tim Eyman ini­tia­tives and stands to lose even more if Eyman’s unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic I‑1053 remains in effect.

With an annu­al stu­dent pop­u­la­tion of 38,000, Belle­vue Col­lege is the sec­ond largest pub­lic insti­tu­tion of high­er learn­ing in the state, behind the UW and ahead of WSU.

Most of its pro­grams are two-year, owing to the fact that it began as a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege, but it now offers some four-year pro­grams as well.

Tuition at BC is rea­son­ably low, espe­cial­ly com­pared to pri­vate col­leges, thanks to Wash­ing­ton’s com­mon wealth. And there are many options for tak­ing class­es — cours­es are offered online, in the evening, in hybrid mode (online + in the class­room), and at a satel­lite cam­pus. There are also “late start” class­es to accom­mo­date stu­dents who have con­flicts at the begin­ning of a quarter.

These are two key rea­sons why BC is so pop­u­lar. But BC may have to raise tuition and cut class offer­ings if Ini­tia­tive 1053 is not soon repealed or strick­en as uncon­sti­tu­tion­al. It is no exag­ger­a­tion to say that suc­cess for Tim Eyman means hard­ship for Belle­vue Col­lege and its students.

That’s why it was so dis­com­fort­ing to see mer­ce­nary peti­tion­ers hawk­ing Tim Eyman’s lat­est scheme this morn­ing, less than a stone’s throw from my class­room. My fel­low stu­dents and I stand more to lose from Tim Eyman’s harm­ful mea­sures than pret­ty much any oth­er group of Washingtonians.

And yet, here were these two guys, stand­ing in front of our stu­dent union build­ing, try­ing to pull Belle­vue Col­lege stu­dents and fac­ul­ty aside and get them to sign anoth­er destruc­tive Tim Eyman initiative.

Petitioners smoking

Two peti­tion­ers light up cig­a­rattes in front of the stu­dent union at Belle­vue Col­lege, in vio­la­tion of cam­pus pol­i­cy. (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

I declined to sign, but I stuck around to wit­ness the peti­tion­ers in action, and take pic­tures. I explained that I’d be fil­ing a post about the effort to get I‑1125 on the bal­lot. One of them invit­ed me to take close­up pho­tos of him col­lect­ing sig­na­tures… and so I did.

As I watched, the peti­tion­ers cor­ralled any­one who crossed their path who answered “yes” to the ques­tion, “Are you reg­is­tered to vote?” (some­times, “… in Wash­ing­ton”?). Then, they’d pitch I‑1125.

Here’s an exam­ple of what the peti­tion­er would say (this par­tic­u­lar encounter was with a mid­dle-aged voter):

Peti­tion­er: “They’re tak­ing our toll mon­ey and they’re spend­ing it… [putting it] in the gen­er­al fund. We would like that mon­ey to be spent on the roads. We’d like that toll­booth mon­ey to be spent on the roads the way that they told us it was for when they set up the tolls, right? Now, years down the line, they’re tak­ing mon­ey out of it, and now they’re using that to raise the gas tax.”

“Who’s behind it?” asked the vot­er, scan­ning the petition.

“I don’t know who’s all behind the issue,” the peti­tion­er lied. “I don’t know who…”

At that point, I inter­rupt­ed and qui­et­ly point­ed out that Tim Eyman is the spon­sor of I‑1125. (I did­n’t say any­thing else because I want­ed to see what he’d say next).

“Eyman’s usu­al­ly behind the tax issues,” the peti­tion­er imme­di­ate­ly agreed. “But I can’t say for sure. I haven’t been told, yes or no, by my supe­ri­ors. So I don’t know. I… I can’t lie to you, you know what I mean?” the peti­tion­er said.

“I can’t sign it unless I know more about it,” the vot­er insisted.

“Oh, that’s fine. This will just put it on the bal­lot, you know what I mean?” replied the peti­tion­er, coun­ter­ing smooth­ly. “You can vote how­ev­er you’d like on it.”

“I have to study stuff,” the vot­er insist­ed. And then, like an informed cit­i­zen and an intel­li­gent per­son, he turned and walked away.

If more Wash­ing­to­ni­ans sim­ply exer­cised the good judg­ment that this vot­er did, mer­ce­nary peti­tion­ers would­n’t be able to rapid­ly fill up peti­tion sheets with sig­na­tures. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, for every vot­er who refus­es to put down their name and address, there are a dozen who will suc­cumb to the pres­sure and take a few moments to sign a mea­sure that they haven’t scru­ti­nized — let alone read.

These peti­tion­ers could­n’t care less whether they are accu­rate­ly rep­re­sent­ing what the mea­sures would do. Reread the ini­tial sales pitch from the con­ver­sa­tion I quot­ed above. The peti­tion­er is spout­ing nonsense.

What toll mon­ey is he talk­ing about? At present, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion col­lects tolls only on the Taco­ma Nar­rows Bridge and for solo dri­vers who use the high occu­pan­cy vehi­cle lanes on State Route 167. That’s it. We don’t have a region­wide con­ges­tion pric­ing sys­tem. We don’t have any turn­pikes, either.

Yes, tolls have been pro­posed for SR-520, I‑90, and SR 99. But they’re not being col­lect­ed yet. How is it pos­si­ble for the gov­ern­ment to mis­use nonex­is­tent “toll­booth mon­ey”, as the peti­tion­er alleged?

He was also wrong to sug­gest that “they” (pre­sum­ably “they” means the Leg­is­la­ture) are rais­ing the gas tax. The tolls the Leg­is­la­ture has autho­rized are a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent fund­ing mech­a­nism which isn’t con­nect­ed to the gas tax.

Gas tax­es are paid when­ev­er a motorist fills up his or her car with fuel at the gas sta­tion. Tolls, on the oth­er hand, are a sur­charge paid for use of a road­way or facil­i­ty. They are more com­mon on the east coast, but they’ve been used here in the past too, usu­al­ly to pay for bridges.

All motorists who dri­ve con­ven­tion­al auto­mo­biles pay the gas tax, but only motorists who make use of a tolled facil­i­ty pay a toll. In the case of SR 520, the rea­son the Ever­green Point Float­ing Bridge is being tolled again is so that the state can afford the replace­ment bridge it is start­ing to build. The toll mon­ey is going to be used for the new bridge. It won’t be used for oth­er purposes.

Notice how this peti­tion­er did­n’t both­er to present any specifics to back up his claims. He just ram­bled on with one casu­al­ly-stat­ed base­less accu­sa­tion after anoth­er, try­ing to con the skep­ti­cal vot­er in front of him into sign­ing I‑1125.

And then, when he was asked who the spon­sor was, he would­n’t answer. He pre­tend­ed to be igno­rant. I had to inter­rupt and tell the vot­er what he want­ed to know. And even then, after the truth had been revealed, this peti­tion­er con­tin­ued to lie, in the hopes of get­ting a signature.

I say lie because I had asked the peti­tion­er, min­utes ear­li­er, how to get in touch with the peo­ple behind the mea­sure — when nobody else was in the imme­di­ate vicin­i­ty and he was­n’t dis­tract­ed. He flipped the peti­tion over and showed me the con­tact infor­ma­tion at the bot­tom, iden­ti­fy­ing Vot­ers Want More Choic­es as the peo­ple respon­si­ble. So I knew he was fib­bing when he was talk­ing to this voter.

(Also, when a sales­man utters a phrase like, “I can’t lie to you, you know?”, it’s a dead give­away that the sales­man is, in fact, lying… and he or she knows it).

I sus­pect what I saw is very typ­i­cal of an extend­ed exchange. Peo­ple who are skep­ti­cal scan what’s on the clip­board, ask ques­tions… and get lied to.

A petitioner stands amidst voters

A peti­tion­er hawks Tim Eyman’s Ini­tia­tive 1125 to unsus­pect­ing vot­ers (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

This is pre­cise­ly why we track right wing sig­na­ture drives.

Tim Eyman sym­pa­thiz­ers have angri­ly accused us in the past of try­ing to intim­i­date sig­na­ture gath­er­ers, which is iron­ic, because what we’re try­ing to do is hold peo­ple account­able who are try­ing to do just that to vot­ers. We are not seek­ing to emu­late their shifty behav­ior. We’re try­ing to put a spot­light on it.

Tim Eyman and his fol­low­ers for­get that the First Amend­ment is for every­body, not just them. They cer­tain­ly have the free­dom to peti­tion our gov­ern­ment for a redress of griev­ances (legit­i­mate or not).

As pro­gres­sives, we have the same free­dom, and we also have free­dom of speech, mean­ing we can ask peo­ple not to sign right wing initiatives.

Read­ers, if you’ve run into a peti­tion­er hawk­ing I‑1125 or anoth­er right wing ini­tia­tive, please tell us about your encounter using Per­ma­nent Defense’s report­ing tool. Your feed­back will help us doc­u­ment what peti­tion­ers are doing and telling vot­ers, so we have a bet­ter idea of how to orga­nize and mobi­lize against threats to our com­mon wealth and qual­i­ty of life.

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  1. Yeah, I was walk­ing thru the mid­dle of cam­pus this morn­ing at 10am, too, when these guys were there. A young lady who had just signed danced away hap­pi­ly singing out loud to any­one with­in ear range, “sign this!” I looked at the head­line and imme­di­ate­ly respond­ed, “STOP the gas tax? They should tax the @#$% out of gas!”

    # by Keith Rowley :: May 19th, 2011 at 8:41 PM
  2. I’m not sure I under­stand why you DON’T want to see that issue on the bal­lot, you did­n’t real­ly go into that part. I can tell you have a per­son­al issue with Tim Eyman, maybe that’s why? Then again, you said some­thing about many dif­fer­ent peti­tions being car­ried, are they all Eyman’s? God for­bid he try to change the world all at once lol
    I’m sor­ry, but my per­son­al opin­ion is that this guy was just try­ing to get the vot­ers sig­na­tures and have the issue placed on the bal­lot which, lets be hon­est, is what our coun­try is all about. I real­ly would­n’t want to have to go through hun­dreds of ques­tions on the bal­lot to find the ONE that affects me and the rest of WA.
    It’s a pret­ty biased arti­cle you’ve writ­ten here, with real­ly no facts to speak of so I’m going to have to go see if I can find out more about this I‑1125 on Google before I can speak for or against it here. It can’t be that bad; looks like the peti­tion­ers have plen­ty of sign­ers who feel it should be at least placed before the voters. 🙂

    “Peo­ple who jump to con­clu­sions rarely alight on them” — Phillip Guedalla

    # by Amanda T. :: May 20th, 2011 at 6:03 AM
    • Aman­da, *every­thing* we write is “biased”. The Advo­cate is a sub­jec­tive pub­li­ca­tion… we don’t try to hide our point of view. It’s clear where we stand and what we believe in. 

      Peti­tions were only being car­ried for one or two mea­sures oth­er than I‑1125. I focused on I‑1125 in this post because we oppose it, and it’s because it’s what the peti­tion­ers were ask­ing peo­ple to sign first.

      A few things you should be aware of:

      Although the First Amend­ment gives Amer­i­cans the right to peti­tion for a redress of griev­ances, there is no ini­tia­tive or ref­er­en­dum process at the fed­er­al lev­el. It isn’t in the Unit­ed States Con­sti­tu­tion. Read the Con­sti­tu­tion for your­self. So it’s not accu­rate to say that direct democ­ra­cy (the ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum) “is what our coun­try is all about”. The found­ing fathers intend­ed for the Unit­ed States to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy, not a direct democ­ra­cy. And although our state has the ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum, those were added by amend­ment to the State Con­sti­tu­tion. They did­n’t exist at state­hood.I’m not sure what you mean when you say, “I real­ly wouldn’t want to have to go through hun­dreds of ques­tions on the bal­lot to find the ONE that affects me and the rest of WA.” There are nev­er hun­dreds of ques­tions on the bal­lot. At most, there are approx­i­mate­ly half a dozen mea­sures on the statewide bal­lot in any giv­en year, and some­times a few local propo­si­tions as well. There’s nev­er been “hun­dreds”, let alone a frac­tion of that number.
      What I wrote about gas tax­es and tolls is indeed fac­tu­al. You’re wel­come to look up the text of Ini­tia­tive 1125 if you’d like to read that, and talk to the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion about how tolling works.
      Sug­gest­ing that an ini­tia­tive can’t be bad because there’s a pic­ture of four peo­ple sign­ing the ini­tia­tive peti­tion is a non­sen­si­cal argu­ment. With half a mil­lion dol­lars, I could pay peo­ple to col­lect sig­na­tures for an ini­tia­tive that bans fish from swim­ming in the sea. Or an ini­tia­tive call­ing for a ban on that dead­ly chem­i­cal sub­stance H20 (more com­mon­ly known as water). Some peo­ple will sign any­thing if you hand them a clip­board and tell them it’s impor­tant. That’s the point I’m try­ing to make here, a point which obvi­ous­ly escapes you.

      # by Andrew :: May 20th, 2011 at 11:16 AM
  3. If you do not believe in direct democ­ra­cy, does that mean you don’t even vote???

    I remarked on the bias­ness of this arti­cle since one of your clos­ing lines was “We are not seek­ing to emu­late their shifty behav­ior. We’re try­ing to put a spot­light on it.” Point­ing out true ille­gal behav­ior is all fine and good, it’s just inter­est­ing how you auto­mat­i­cal­ly assumed the peti­tion­er was lying. 

    First of all, you have no proof of that that I can see. You also did noth­ing to con­vince peo­ple NOT to sign the peti­tion oth­er than it was backed by the All-Evil Tim Eyman. This jump­ing to con­clu­sions and keep­ing focused on fear-mon­ger­ing against a spe­cif­ic per­son is some­thing I’d def­i­nite­ly call ‘shifty behavior’.

    Your com­ments about try­ing to ban fish from swim­ming or ban­ning water is kind of sil­ly, espe­cial­ly in sup­port of your ‘point’. This, you say, is that peo­ple will just sign any­thing put in front of them (I real­ly don’t believe there are THAT many peo­ple THAT dumb in WA…). After read­ing your arti­cle again, I don’t see this point at all, so yes, your log­ic must escape me. What I did read is about a vot­er act­ing “like an informed cit­i­zen and an intel­li­gent per­son, he turned and walked away”. Kind of seems to be in oppo­si­tion to your point, does­n’t it?

    If I had to pull a spe­cif­ic ‘point’ I see being made in this arti­cle I’d sum­ma­rize it thus­ly: “Tim Eyman is using pri­vate fund­ing to pay for peo­ple to col­lect sig­na­tures in order to place an issue which he and his group of face­less cronies deems (and which the Attor­ney Gen­er­al must agree or it would­n’t be in cir­cu­la­tion, btw) legit­i­mate but which may take away mon­ey from some of the stu­dents of a com­mu­ni­ty col­lege by cut­ting gas tax­es to the rest of the res­i­dents of the state.” If that was­n’t your point, you did a poor job of mak­ing it…

    Here’s the thing you don’t seem to under­stand: every­body and their broth­er would have a ques­tion on the bal­lot if not for this peti­tion­ing process where they have to get hun­dreds of thou­sands, maybe mil­lions, of sig­na­tures from reg­is­tered vot­ers to make it qual­i­fy even for a chance of being vot­ed into place. If a group of peo­ple come togeth­er to put up the mon­ey so these pro­fes­sion­als can come in and make it more like­ly to be placed on the bal­lot, what exact­ly is wrong with that???

    After read­ing this arti­cle, I fol­lowed through to your web­site and I read that your group likes to block peo­ple who want to sign the peti­tions you dis­agree with. That’s pret­ty low, I think. While I com­mend you for mak­ing a point to be involved in pol­i­tics, I think you are being extreme­ly dis­hon­est with voters. 

    I’m also sick of hear­ing BS about peti­tion­ers, who are the only ones I see out there active­ly mak­ing a change instead of push­ing pen­cils or typ­ing out their nar­row-mind­ed­ness for all the world to read. I’ve met them and talked to them and I real­ly think that if it weren’t for them, this whole coun­try would be run by old men in black suits that don’t show their Depends under­neath. Your ‘rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­ra­cy’ in oth­er words.

    Any­way, I was­n’t try­ing to get into a polit­i­cal debate here; hon­est­ly the whole us-vs-them thing about pol­i­tics sick­ens me. But I want­ed to make MY point that when I go to walk into the booth with my under­stand­ing of the issues, my vote WONT be swayed by whose clique is back­ing the issue.

    # by Amanda T. :: May 21st, 2011 at 8:51 AM
  4. One edit to my pre­vi­ous post.
    I see now that this mea­sure real­ly has very lit­tle to do with cut­ting gas tax­es as it does with HOW the mon­ey is being used. So, to pro­vide lack­ing infor­ma­tion and to keep us ‘on the issue’, lets take a look at what exact­ly this mea­sure is for:

    Bal­lot Mea­sure Summary
    This mea­sure would pro­hib­it motor vehi­cle fund rev­enue and vehi­cle toll rev­enue from being used for non-trans­porta­tion pur­pos­es. It would pro­hib­it non-high­way use of state high­way lanes fund­ed by gas tax­es or vehi­cle tolls. It would require the leg­is­la­ture to set tolls, and would pro­vide that a toll on a par­tic­u­lar road or bridge, includ­ing the Inter­state 90 float­ing bridge, could be used only for con­struc­tion, oper­a­tion, or main­te­nance of that par­tic­u­lar road or bridge.

    Well, yeah. To be hon­est I ful­ly expect that if I pay tax­es and fees for using a road that those monies go into mak­ing the road I’m using bet­ter. You should real­ly be ashamed of tak­ing that mon­ey for your col­lege. If you need more mon­ey there, have a fundrais­er like any oth­er stu­dent body.

    # by Amanda T. :: May 21st, 2011 at 9:02 AM
    • You should real­ly be ashamed of tak­ing that mon­ey for your col­lege. If you need more mon­ey there, have a fundrais­er like any oth­er stu­dent body.

      Aman­da, you’re clear­ly con­fused. I sug­gest you reread my post… care­ful­ly. I‑1053 and I‑1125 are not the same initiative.

      # by Andrew :: May 22nd, 2011 at 11:12 AM
  5. These mer­ce­nar­ies are also lying about where toll rev­enue is going when they say “They’re tak­ing our toll mon­ey and they’re spend­ing it… [putting it] in the gen­er­al fund.”

    Tolls on the Taco­ma Nar­rows Bridge go into a ded­i­cat­ed account to pay off the bonds that financed the con­struc­tion of the TNB and to cov­er its ongo­ing oper­at­ing costs (main­te­nance, toll col­lec­tion). There is no trans­fer of tolls to the larg­er Trans­porta­tion bud­get, let along the state Gen­er­al Fund.

    Regard­ing them “not know­ing” who is spon­sor­ing the ini­tia­tive that they’re gath­er­ing sig­na­tures for, that’s just laughable!


    A) they’re lying because they know that they’d have a hard­er time get­ting sig­na­tures (and thus, get­ting paid) for an “Eyman Initiative”


    B) they are lit­er­al­ly igno­rant of the basic facts of the ini­tia­tive they’re push­ing, and there­fore every­thing they say is sus­pect. How can you believe what they tell you about the guts of the ini­tia­tive if they can’t cor­rect­ly tell you who’s spon­sor­ing it?

    Of course, all of this is par for the course for most ini­tia­tives, and for every Eyman ini­tia­tive — those pro­mot­ing them have an agen­da and are only going to put for­ward the facts (and some­times, lies) that sup­port their cause.

    It’s only made worse by mer­ce­nar­ies who don’t even have an ide­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tion to the issue — all they care about is some­one, any­one, sign­ing the ini­tia­tive so they can get paid.

    # by Steve Breaux :: May 22nd, 2011 at 9:35 AM
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