Edi­tor’s Note: What fol­lows are the remarks I pre­pared for tonight’s city coun­cil meet­ing in Red­mond, NPI’s home­town. Red­mond has been in a leader in oppos­ing Tim Eyman’s harm­ful ini­tia­tives — the city was among the juris­dic­tions that adopt­ed a res­o­lu­tion oppos­ing I‑695, Tim Eyman’s first destruc­tive anti-tax mea­sure, which sought to wipe out the state’s motor vehi­cle excise tax. City coun­cils are per­mit­ted by law to adopt res­o­lu­tions sup­port­ing or oppos­ing statewide bal­lot measures. 

May­or Mar­chione, mem­bers of the City Council:

Good evening. For the record, my name is Andrew Vil­leneuve. I am a life­long res­i­dent of the City of Red­mond, the founder of the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and a colum­nist for Reporter News­pa­pers. I am here tonight on behalf of NPI’s staff and board to urge that the City adopt a res­o­lu­tion with­in the next few weeks oppos­ing Ini­tia­tive 1125, which will be on the Novem­ber ballot.

As many of you know, I became active in pol­i­tics almost a decade ago because I want­ed to help pro­tect our city, our region, and our state from harm­ful ini­tia­tives specif­i­cal­ly writ­ten to par­a­lyze pub­lic ser­vices and wreck government.

I was moti­vat­ed in part to step off the side­lines and become an activist because I was con­cerned that Red­mond’s future was threatened.

Red­mond’s well-being means a lot to me. Red­mond is my home. It has always been my home. It will prob­a­bly always be my home, because I can’t imag­ine liv­ing any­place else. Peo­ple who know me well know that I love to trav­el and see new places. But I also love being able to come home to Redmond.

I think I speak for many of my neigh­bors when I say this is a spe­cial place. Red­mond has great pub­lic ser­vices, vibrant com­mu­ni­ty fes­ti­vals like Der­by Days and Red­mond­Lights, a trail­blaz­ing envi­ron­men­tal eth­ic, and a city gov­ern­ment that wel­comes cit­i­zen input.

I have been to many forums and work­shops over the years here at city hall, and they have all been good experiences.

City employ­ees have always treat­ed me with cour­tesy and respect, and gone out of their way to make sure my ques­tions get answered.

Much of my work as an activist con­cerns issues that are statewide and region­al, not just local. And like many res­i­dents of Red­mond, I trav­el out­side the city on an almost dai­ly basis. So I appre­ci­ate the impor­tance of the trans­porta­tion sys­tem that we as a region and a state have invest­ed in, through our com­mon wealth.

Ini­tia­tive 1125 threat­ens two key facil­i­ties that con­nect, or will con­nect, Red­mond with oth­er com­mu­ni­ties in Puget Sound, espe­cial­ly Belle­vue and Seat­tle. The first facil­i­ty is Sound Tran­sit’s East Link light rail, which the peo­ple over­whelm­ing­ly approved in 2008 dur­ing an elec­tion that saw record turnout.

There is a pro­vi­sion in Ini­tia­tive 1125 – Sec­tion 3 – that pro­hibits the state from trans­fer­ring part of the Homer M. Hadley Memo­r­i­al Bridge to Sound Tran­sit for light rail. Present­ly, that part of the bridge is the express lanes.

The spon­sor of I‑1125, Tim Eyman (who we heard from ear­li­er tonight), and the per­son who pro­vid­ed more than 80% of the fund­ing for this ini­tia­tive, Kem­per Free­man, Jr. — have acknowl­edged that this pro­vi­sion is intend­ed to stop light rail from ever being put on I‑90. My inter­pre­ta­tion is that it would also block any future light rail across the new 520 bridge, as well.

I worked very hard to help ensure that Sound Tran­sit got its first light rail line, Cen­tral Link, built. Because we got that done, we are now in a posi­tion where we can expand the sys­tem, and bring it to Red­mond, so we have a reli­able, depend­able way of get­ting to Belle­vue and Seat­tle no mat­ter how bad the traf­fic is.

I believe East Link is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to our city’s future. We need to make sure that it stays on track and gets built. That means reject­ing I‑1125.

The oth­er facil­i­ty I‑1125 threat­ens is State Route 520. I use 520 just about every week­day, whether I’m dri­ving or rid­ing Metro or a Sound Tran­sit Express bus, and I know that I am hard­ly alone.

State Route 520 is our con­nec­tion to Seat­tle. It is one of the most heav­i­ly trav­eled high­ways in the state. The aging Ever­green Point float­ing bridge car­ries 520 over Lake Wash­ing­ton, as you all know. Engi­neers have inspect­ed the bridge and found that it is vul­ner­a­ble to earth­quakes and windstorms.

It is imper­a­tive that we replace it.

After years of dis­cus­sion and debate, we are final­ly mov­ing for­ward with the con­struc­tion of a replace­ment span. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I‑1125 would, as State Trea­sur­er Jim McIn­tire put it, blow a hole in the financ­ing plan for the project.

The state has long been plan­ning to sell bonds to cov­er the cost of rebuild­ing 520, secured by toll rev­enues. But I‑1125 would take away the Wash­ing­ton State Trans­porta­tion Com­mis­sion’s author­i­ty to set toll rates, which would imper­il bond sales and thus the entire project.

The Office of Finan­cial Man­age­ment also warns we may have to repay sev­er­al fed­er­al grants if I‑1125 pass­es. That’s because I‑1125 would out­law vari­able tolling. Vari­able tolls have already been set for SR 520, but If I‑1125 goes into effect, we would not be able to mod­i­fy or adjust the rates. Nor would vari­able tolling be an option for oth­er projects impor­tant to our region and to Redmond.

The fis­cal impact state­ment goes into greater depth about the con­se­quences of I‑1125, so I would encour­age you all to read that if you have not already.

I want to close by thank­ing you all for your ser­vice to Red­mond as elect­ed offi­cials. I know you put in many hours every week on behalf of the peo­ple of this city. That’s a sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment. I hon­or you for that com­mit­ment, and hope you real­ize that your con­stituents are grate­ful for your ser­vice. I thank you for hear­ing my con­cerns and look for­ward to see­ing you around town this autumn.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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