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.