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.

Friday, October 28th, 2011

When is a public vote not a public vote? When it doesn’t go Tim Eyman’s way, that’s when

Yes­ter­day, KING 5 aired a sto­ry on the pro­vi­sion of I‑1125 that attempts to sab­o­tage Sound Tran­sit’s East Link project. The pro­vi­sion in ques­tion, Sec­tion 3, would  for­bid WSDOT from trans­fer­ring part of the Homer M. Hadley Memo­r­i­al Bridge to the agency for light rail, which obvi­ous­ly would pre­vent light rail from reach­ing Belle­vue and Red­mond (NPI’s home­town) at all.

We first began alert­ing the tra­di­tion­al press to the exis­tence of this pro­vi­sion back in May, short­ly after Tim Eyman announced the I‑1125 sig­na­ture dri­ve.

This week, Dan­ny West­neat wrote a col­umn on the top­ic (Tim Eyman’s secret war on light rail) and now KING 5 has done a sto­ry, which fea­tures some amus­ing lines from Tim Eyman. The sto­ry opens with a shot of a Sound Tran­sit Express bus in Belle­vue and a short voiceover by reporter Chris Daniels: “Down­town Belle­vue is slat­ed to see the so-called East Link a decade from now…”

… and then imme­di­ate­ly cuts to Tim Eyman say­ing, “I nev­er vot­ed for it.”

Maybe not, but a lot of oth­er peo­ple did. The vote on Sound Tran­sit 2 in 2008 was­n’t even close. 57.08% of vot­ers in urban King, Pierce, and Sno­homish coun­ties vot­ed in favor of Sound Tran­sit Propo­si­tion 1 in 2008, with only 42.92% opposed.

Chris Daniels brought this up with Eyman, but Eyman con­ve­nient­ly found a way to dis­miss the vote as irrel­e­vant:

When asked, “Haven’t vot­ers already approved light rail over I‑90?” he replied, “A sub­set of [vot­ers] have had a vote [on an light rail over I‑90], not every­one in the state.”

What Eyman real­ly meant to say was that, in his eyes, the vote did­n’t count because it did­n’t go his way. That would have been the hon­est answer — but of course, Tim Eyman isn’t known for his hon­esty.

Eyman will hap­pi­ly cite the out­come of a pub­lic vote that he agrees with, regard­less of whether it hap­pened at the local lev­el, region­al lev­el, or state lev­el. But he does­n’t talk about the pub­lic votes that he dis­agrees with. At least not with­out being prompt­ed. And then he comes up with an excuse to dis­qual­i­fy the results.

East Link is a region­al trans­porta­tion project. Only peo­ple who live with­in Sound Tran­sit’s tax­ing dis­trict are pay­ing for East Link. No state mon­ey is being used to design or con­struct the project. And actu­al­ly, because of a Sound Tran­sit pol­i­cy called sub­area equi­ty, only tax­pay­ers who live in neigh­bor­hoods that East Link will serve are pay­ing for it. That means Tim Eyman isn’t actu­al­ly pay­ing for East Link, even though he is a Sound Tran­sit tax­pay­er.

Giv­en that East Link is a region­al trans­porta­tion project being paid for with region­al mon­ey, why should peo­ple who live in Aberdeen, Colville, Pas­co, Yaki­ma, or Wal­la Wal­la have a say on it? Why should they get to decide what kind of trans­porta­tion sys­tem Puget Sound has? It’s not their deci­sion. They jus­ti­fi­ably would­n’t be too hap­py if vot­ers in Puget Sound made deci­sions for them.

We have a long tra­di­tion of home rule in Wash­ing­ton State. It’s why we have so many local gov­ern­ments. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Tim Eyman has a tra­di­tion of spon­sor­ing ini­tia­tives that total­ly and care­less­ly stomp all over home rule.

It’s cer­tain­ly true that East Link will run over a por­tion of what is present­ly Inter­state 90, but Sound Tran­sit is com­pen­sat­ing the state for its use of the bridge.

Inter­state 90, by the way, is a fed­er­al high­way in addi­tion to being a state high­way. The fed­er­al gov­ern­ment pro­vid­ed the lion’s share of the mon­ey to build it, on the con­di­tion that the cor­ri­dor be able to sup­port high-capac­i­ty tran­sit in the future. A mem­o­ran­dum signed by the cities of Mer­cer Island, Seat­tle, King Coun­ty, and the State of Wash­ing­ton made an explic­it promise that this would hap­pen:

Sec­tion 1. (b) The facil­i­ty shall also con­tain pro­vi­sion for two lanes designed for and per­ma­nent­ly com­mit­ted to tran­sit use. The east­ern and west­ern ter­mi­ni for these lanes shall be designed to facil­i­tate unin­ter­rupt­ed tran­sit and car­pool access to down­town Seat­tle and to down­town Belle­vue in accor­dance with para­graph 3 here­in­be­low. The design shall be such as to accom­mo­date the oper­a­tion of the two tran­sit lanes ill either a reversible or in a two-way direc­tion­al mode.

The mem­o­ran­dum lat­er goes on to say:

Sec­tion 2. The I‑90 facil­i­ty shall be designed and con­struct­ed so that con­ver­sion of all or part of the tran­sit road­way to fixed guide­way is pos­si­ble.

“Fixed guide­way” basi­cal­ly means train tracks. Here’s a more tech­ni­cal def­i­n­i­tion from the Fed­er­al Tran­sit Admin­is­tra­tion: “A ‘fixed guide­way’ refers to any tran­sit ser­vice that uses exclu­sive or con­trolled rights-of-way or rails, entire­ly or in part.”

This mem­o­ran­dum I’ve just excerpt­ed from was signed in 1976… when Tim Eyman was only ten years old. It has tak­en a very long time, but our region is final­ly ready to move for­ward and con­vert the I‑90 tran­sit lanes to a fixed guide­way… more specif­i­cal­ly, train tracks for East Link.

But Tim Eyman and his wealthy bene­fac­tor Kem­per Free­man Jr. don’t want the terms of this agree­ment to be enforced. They don’t want the vot­er-approved East Link project built. Why? Because they are ide­o­log­i­cal­ly opposed to light rail. They are diehard road war­riors who wrong­ly believe that traf­fic con­ges­tion would just go away if only we built big­ger and wider high­ways.

To them, the auto­mo­bile means free­dom.

What they don’t get is that design­ing com­mu­ni­ties around cars instead of peo­ple actu­al­ly inhibits free­dom. True free­dom of mobil­i­ty means the abil­i­ty to choose a mode of trans­porta­tion. Peo­ple who don’t want to dri­ve, for what­ev­er rea­son, should­n’t be forced to. They should have options. If our region lacks a good tran­sit sys­tem, that makes it hard to get around with­out a car.

Link light rail is all about pro­vid­ing a reli­able com­mute for peo­ple through major trans­porta­tion cor­ri­dors that are present­ly high­ly con­gest­ed today.

Vot­ers first approved build­ing a region­al light rail sys­tem in 1996 with Sound Move. In 2002, Tim Eyman tried to over­ride the will of the vot­ers with Ini­tia­tive 776, which passed nar­row­ly statewide, but failed in Sound Tran­sit’s tax­ing dis­trict. (I‑776 was actu­al­ly the first Eyman ini­tia­tive I was involved in fight­ing; Per­ma­nent Defense was cre­at­ed to oppose I‑776. PD will cel­e­brate its tenth anniver­sary this Feb­ru­ary.)

I‑776 tried to kill Cen­tral Link, the first Link light rail line, by elim­i­nat­ing one of Sound Tran­sit’s sources of rev­enue — a motor vehi­cle excise tax (MVET). How­ev­er, when Eyman wrote the ini­tia­tive, he either did­n’t under­stand or did­n’t care that the tax he was try­ing to repeal had already been pledged to pay off bonds. Sound Tran­sit argued that the tax need­ed to remain in place so it could ful­fill its promis­es to bond­hold­ers. The Supreme Court agreed, and the tax con­tin­ues to be col­lect­ed.

With I‑1125, Eyman is basi­cal­ly try­ing to do what he did with I‑776 nine years ago: Try to kill a Sound Tran­sit light rail line with a statewide vote.

Eyman prides him­self on being unde­terred when he los­es. But he unrea­son­ably demands that his oppo­nents give up and regard an issue as set­tled when he wins. Pret­ty good dou­ble stan­dard, huh?

To Tim Eyman, who I know even­tu­al­ly will read this post, we say: Sor­ry, Tim. You may be very deter­mined to con­tin­ue fight­ing to par­a­lyze pub­lic ser­vices and wreck gov­ern­ment in this state, but we are even more deter­mined to stop you. Wash­ing­ton can­not afford your destruc­tive, cyn­i­cal, ill-con­ceived ini­tia­tives.

Read­ers, please join us in vot­ing NO in I‑1125 if you haven’t already. Keep Sound Tran­sit’s East Link on track, and keep our roads safe.

Let’s defeat Tim Eyman… again!

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9 Comments

  1. The peo­ple that want to mis­use our tax dol­lars always cry foul, when Tim Eyman expos­es them to the tax pay­ers. When the work­ing folks cross the 520 bridge ear­ly in the morn­ing to go to work, they will dis­cov­er how dis­pro­por­tion­ate the tolls will be. They will be charged approx­i­mate­ly 57% more than the busi­ness per­son that goes across the bridge at a lat­er time. Not to men­tion that the gov­ern­ment will use all of this new mon­ey as a ‘cash cow’ to do any­thing they want, includ­ing fund­ing light rail.

    Note: This com­menter’s screen name was cho­sen by NPI.

    # by Lamprey :: November 6th, 2011 at 12:30 PM
    • So, Lam­prey, you think it’s fair to force every­one to pay the same toll regard­less of how bad traf­fic is? Why should some­one cross­ing in the dead of night have to pay the same as some­one cross­ing at rush hour?

      Vari­able tolling does­n’t mean charg­ing dif­fer­ent peo­ple dif­fer­ent rates. It means charg­ing every­one the same rate, but vary­ing it depend­ing on how strong the demand is at the time. Vari­able tolling is fair.

      Your claim that “the gov­ern­ment will use all of this new mon­ey as a ‘cash cow’ to do any­thing they want, includ­ing fund­ing light rail” is false. State law spells out plain­ly how toll rev­enue may be used. The Leg­is­la­ture might change the law in the future, but the pub­lic would have an oppor­tu­ni­ty to weigh in on any pro­posed changes. WSDOT can­not sim­ply decide to do what­ev­er it wants with the toll rev­enue it col­lects, as you imply.

      Sound Tran­sit’s Link light rail sys­tem is a region­al project, fund­ed by vot­er-approved region­al tax­es and fed­er­al grants. No state mon­ey is being used to con­struct ST’s light rail lines.

      Toll rev­enue col­lect­ed from SR 520 will be used to pay for the new Ever­green Point Float­ing Bridge (which is a high­way), just as Nar­rows tolls are being used to pay off debt incurred while build­ing the new Taco­ma Nar­rows Bridge.

      # by Andrew :: November 6th, 2011 at 12:43 PM
  2. Andrew.……You should read the 18th amend­ment to the Wash­ing­ton State con­sti­tu­tion, it may help you under­stand why fees/tolls/taxes paid by motorists shall only be used for high­way pur­pos­es. I‑1125 is just a reminder of what our state con­sti­tu­tion is already says.

    # by Lamprey :: November 6th, 2011 at 1:21 PM
    • I’m famil­iar with the 18th Amend­ment. But you don’t seem to be.

      The 18th Amend­ment is con­cerned with requir­ing fuel tax­es to be spent on high­way pur­pos­es, which are then spelled out. The amend­ment does not say any­thing about tolls. And I‑1125 is about tolls — not fuel tax­es.

      Read the text of the amend­ment for your­self (it’s Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 40). Search for the word “toll”. You won’t find it.

      Tim Eyman has been claim­ing that I‑1125 restates the 18th Amend­ment. In real­i­ty, I‑1125 does­n’t have any­thing to do with the 18th Amend­ment. Tim Eyman just says that to make his ini­tia­tive sound more appeal­ing.

      # by Andrew :: November 6th, 2011 at 1:54 PM
  3. Andrew,

    Like gas tax­es, tolls are paid by dri­vers, so in fair­ness should be lim­it­ed to high­way pur­pos­es.

    Are you say­ing that if I‑1125 fails, ALL of the monies received from tolls will be spent on high­ways? That I am mis­tak­en?

    # by Lamprey :: November 6th, 2011 at 4:12 PM
    • All of the tolls the state cur­rent­ly col­lects are already being used for high­way improve­ments. To date, the Leg­is­la­ture has autho­rized the col­lec­tion of tolls on three high­ways in Wash­ing­ton State:

      • State Route 167 (for usage of the HOV lanes by dri­vers who do not have any pas­sen­gers)
      • State Route 520 (for usage of the Ever­green Point Float­ing Bridge, begin­ning next month)
      • State Route 16 (for usage of the Taco­ma Nar­rows Bridge)

      Each toll ben­e­fits the facil­i­ty where it was col­lect­ed.

      In the future, as gas tax rev­enues decline, the state may find it nec­es­sary to impose addi­tion­al tolls and use toll mon­ey to improve the high­way sys­tem in gen­er­al, rather than sim­ply the spe­cif­ic facil­i­ty where it was raised.

      In each case, the Leg­is­la­ture must give its approval. RCW 47.56.031 states:

      No tolls may be imposed on new or exist­ing high­ways or bridges with­out spe­cif­ic leg­isla­tive autho­riza­tion, or upon a major­i­ty vote of the peo­ple with­in the bound­aries of the unit of gov­ern­ment empow­ered to impose tolls.

      I‑1125 inter­feres with our abil­i­ty to even­tu­al­ly replace the gas tax with tolls. It says toll mon­ey can only be spent where it’s raised, in addi­tion to say­ing tolls should be treat­ed like fuel tax­es.

      I‑1125 does not guar­an­tee that toll mon­ey will always be spent on high­ways. It can’t. I‑1125 is sim­ply a pro­posed state law. And state law is not iron­clad. Even if it passed, sur­vived a court chal­lenge, and went into effect, it could be mod­i­fied or repealed at some point in the future, just like any oth­er state law.

      How­ev­er, as it cur­rent­ly stands, the state has no plans to spend the tolls it is col­lect­ing on any­thing but high­ways. 1125’s fail­ure won’t change this.

      # by Andrew :: November 6th, 2011 at 5:31 PM
  4. If you tru­ly want light rail, add rails back to the Burke Gilman trail sys­tem — the bicy­cles do not add one pen­ny to our infra­struc­ture.

    # by Lamprey :: November 6th, 2011 at 7:07 PM
    • By “the bicy­cles”, do you mean bicy­clists?

      The Burke-Gilman Trail — and oth­er trails like it — are not just for bicy­clists. They’re also for pedes­tri­ans, rollerbladers, and skate­board­ers. Com­pared to roads, trails are very inex­pen­sive to build and main­tain, and they help pro­vide peo­ple with trans­porta­tion choic­es.

      Sound Tran­sit does run pas­sen­ger trains on some of our exist­ing rail­roads — this ser­vice is called Sounder com­muter rail. North Sounder serves Seat­tle, Edmonds, Muk­il­teo, and Everett. South Sounder serves Seat­tle, Tuk­wila, Kent, Auburn, and Taco­ma. Next year, South Sounder will begin serv­ing Lake­wood as well.

      Light rail is not the same thing as heavy rail. Light rail trains are usu­al­ly elec­tri­fied (rather than pulled by diesel loco­mo­tives) and the rolling stock has a small­er foot­print. Light rail lines also have more sta­tions, and they stop clos­er to where peo­ple live and work. Sound Tran­sit has gen­er­al­ly been build­ing light rail in cor­ri­dors where there aren’t any tracks. For instance, Uni­ver­si­ty Link is present­ly under con­struc­tion. There is no exist­ing rail bed that goes from down­town to the UW. Sound Tran­sit is tun­nel­ing under Capi­tol Hill to the UW to cre­ate right-of-way for the train. It’s an expen­sive under­tak­ing, but when it is com­plete in 2016, it will help peo­ple get from down­town to the UW in just a few min­utes no mat­ter how bad the weath­er or the traf­fic is. It’s a wor­thy invest­ment.

      # by Andrew :: November 6th, 2011 at 8:10 PM
  5. Thank You Andrew.…..I appre­ci­ate your com­ments

    # by Lamprey :: November 6th, 2011 at 11:30 PM