Editor’s Note: Tonight, Northwest Progressive Institute Advisory Council member Kathleen Reynolds and I attended a special meeting of the Redmond City Council to urge Redmond’s seven elected lawmakers to take a position opposing Tim Eyman’s I‑1366. The following is a revised and extended copy of my remarks.
Good evening, Mayor Machione and members of the Redmond City Council. For the record, my name is Andrew Villeneuve. I am a lifelong resident of Redmond, and the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, based here in the Bicycle Capital of the Northwest. The purpose of my testimony tonight is to urge you to adopt a resolution opposing Initiative 1366, the most dangerous and destructive initiative that Tim Eyman has ever sponsored.
I‑1366 is a hostage-taking initiative that attempts to coerce the Legislature into invoking its power to propose constitutional amendments. The initiative demands that the Legislature sabotage our Constitution’s majority vote requirement to permanently require a two-thirds vote to pass any bill that raises revenue. If legislators do not do so by April 15th, 2016, the initiative would cut the state sales tax by about fifteen percent, resulting in the loss of $8 billion over six years.
I have been organizing opposition to Tim Eyman’s initiative factory for over thirteen years, and this is without a doubt the most dangerous, mean-spirited Eyman initiative I have seen yet. It needs and deserves the opposition of our city.
I want Redmond to have a great future. I care deeply about this community and its well-being. It’s what prompted me to become an activist back in 2002. I felt I could no longer stand by and watch as Tim Eyman sponsored initiative after initiative to undermine our Constitution and destroy public trust in our government, which belongs to all of us. I was disgusted when Eyman made it his mission to destroy Sound Transit and prevent it from constructing the light rail system I knew our region desperately needed. So I went into politics.
Thirteen years later, I’m still fighting to protect Redmond’s future and defend Washington’s values. I’m here to ask you to join me in the noble and important cause of bringing Washington together to defeat this terrible initiative.
The stakes could not be higher. But not many people appear to be aware of what’s on the line. Voter turnout in election so far has been abysmal – fewer than 10% of registered voters in King County have returned ballots. We have 28,168 registered voters in Redmond, according to King County Elections, but only 2,542 have returned ballots. That’s 9% turnout. And the voting period is halfway over.
To put it another way: 91% of Redmond residents have yet to vote in this election.
It is vital that the City of Redmond declare its opposition to Eyman’s I‑1366. Councilmember Kim Allen’s substitute resolution would accomplish just that, and I urge you to adopt it. Your courageous vote tonight can make a difference.
I’ve heard it said that resolutions like these are tantamount to telling voters how to vote. Not so. By passing this resolution, you are providing guidance and counsel to the voters while they consider I‑1366, as expressly permitted by state law. By passing this resolution, you demonstrate that you are more than just elected representatives – you are leaders who value good governance.
The voters will decide the fate of this initiative, but you can help them cast an informed vote by adopting this resolution and putting our city on record as opposed to the destructive, militant politics of hostage-taking.
It’s clear from the way Tim Eyman is campaigning that he is attempting to get voters to endorse the politics of hostage-taking through deception. He does not want to have a discussion about the costs and the consequences of his blackmail scheme. Those of us who believe in responsible governance must insist on having that conversation and ensuring the voters know what Eyman is really up to.
As Redmond’s legislators, each of you are regularly called upon to help neighbors and constituents make sense of complex issues. It’s part of your job.
Collectively, you have the opportunity tonight to help the people of our city understand the grave harm Tim Eyman’s I‑1366 would inflict on Redmond.
All voters see when they go to vote on I‑1366 — unless they look at the voter’s pamphlet, go online to do research, or happen to read about it in the news — is a one paragraph description that is utterly lacking in context.
I‑1366’s ballot title does not discuss the grave ramifications that would result from its enactment. It does not caution that passage of this initiative would set a horrible precedent, inviting all sorts of mischief from others in future years.
The ballot title does not explain that the people’s initiative power was intended to be a tool that the citizens could use to bypass a gridlocked Legislature and make Washington a better state, but that Tim Eyman is trying to turn it into a weapon.
The ballot title does not point out that the demanded constitutional change is in deep conflict with Washington’s values, and would permanently sabotage the majority vote provision of our Constitution that dates back to statehood.
It does not warn that requiring a two-thirds vote gives one faction of one party in one house veto power over important budgeting decisions, which is contrary to the principles that Madison, Hamilton, and our Founding Fathers fervently believed in.
Nor does the ballot title detail the enormous cuts that would result from the loss of $8 billion in sales tax revenue over six years.
There will be destructive ramifications felt at the local level in addition to the state level if the sales tax is slashed. As you all know, when the Legislature has a budget shortfall to fill, its favorite moves are accounting gimmicks and fund transfers.
Public safety grants to cities like Redmond will be among the first items on the chopping block under Scenario 1 of I‑1366.
This is all information that the voters ought to know. The cities of Seattle, Spokane, and Kirkland have adopted resolutions urging the rejection of Tim Eyman’s I‑1366. Now it’s time for Redmond to lead.
Please vote yes on this resolution and recommit our city to the cause of building a better region and a better state. Thank you.