Tim Eyman is losing in court and under investigation by Attorney General Bob Ferguson for substantive violations of Washington public disclosure law, but that’s not stopping him from swinging for the fences in 2016. Today, Eyman announced that he plans to qualify not one, but two initiatives to the ballot this year.
The second, gleefully revealed by Eyman in front of a bevy of television cameras today, is Initiative 1421. I‑1421 would eviscerate funding for rail transit and road improvements by rolling back existing statewide and local vehicle fees.
Eyman’s I‑1421 would also rescind the recently restored motor vehicle excise tax (MVET) authority given to Sound Transit by the Legislature enable ST to propose a comprehensive Sound Transit 3 package backed by stable revenue sources.
Eyman made it clear in his scripted remarks for today’s media event that he intends to resume his war on Sound Transit and Link light rail with this initiative:
Seattle-centric Sound Transit is, by far, the most arrogant, unaccountable government agency in our state’s history. They’re forcing taxpayers outside Seattle to pay for their multi-billion dollar choo choo train boondoggles in Seattle.
Seattle-centric Sound Transit is a multi-billion-dollar black hole for our tax dollars and needs to be held accountable for their arrogance and incompetence. [Initiative 1421] gets rid of car tab taxes currently being imposed by Seattle-centric Sound Transit.
In addition, Seattle-centric Sound Transit is going to try to impose $15-$25 billion in additional taxes this year — our initiative derails that. [Initiative 1421] throws a much needed monkey wrench into what they’re calling “ST3.”
I couldn’t help but laugh when I read the above in an email Eyman sent out this morning. Seriously… it’s like he’s living in another decade.
Earth to Tim: this is 2016, not 2002. Sound Transit is not the weak target of yesteryear. Today, Sound Transit is a high-performing, extremely effective public agency that is popular with the public. And Link light rail is no longer a far-off dream — it’s real. It’s here. It exists. People use it to get to work every day. And this year, we’re adding three new stations to it. Two of those will open within fifty days.
Sound Transit is still here and Link is a reality because we came together as a region to get it done. Tim Eyman tried to dismantle Sound Transit and prevent Central Link — which he denounced as a “choo choo train” — from ever being built.
But he failed. We overcame his opposition, along with that of his fellow anti-rail zealots. And since the groundbreaking of Central Link (an event that occurred in late 2003, the same year as the founding of NPI), we have seen steady, uninterrupted progress. Progress that must continue.
I remember all this history well because I’ve lived it. 2002 was the year I became an activist, leaving my passivist past behind. Fourteen Februarys ago, many people thought that Eyman might be finished in politics after he was caught having lied about lining his own pockets with his campaign cash. I wasn’t so sure.
Once I saw that the right wing was prepared to forgive Eyman, I realized Eyman would remain a threat for years to come. I concluded our state needed a Permanent Defense against Eyman’s initiative factory. And so I created one.
Today, Permanent Defense is still going strong, as NPI’s oldest project. It will celebrate its fourteenth anniversary next Monday.
Permanent Defense’s very first mission, all the way back in 2002, was to defend Sound Transit from Tim Eyman’s initiative factory. 2002 was the year that Eyman launched Initiative 776, a scheme to repeal Sound Transit’s motor vehicle excise tax authority, so that it would be unable to construct Central Link.
I spent a good chunk of 2002 helping organize opposition to I‑776; it was my first campaign. One of the tasks that I worked on was coalition recruitment. I reached out to as many companies and organizations as I could, asking if they’d taken a position against I‑776, and to go on record against I‑776 if they hadn’t.
In November of 2002, I‑776 narrowly passed statewide while failing in Sound Transit’s jurisdiction. Eyman thought he had won, but Sound Transit argued in court that because it had already pledged its MVET revenue to pay off bonds, its MVET had to continue to be collected. To Eyman’s surprise and disgust, the courts agreed. Light rail moved forward, and Tim Eyman’s plans to wreck it were foiled.
I should point out that, in early 2002, there weren’t many people or organizations defending Sound Transit. NPI’s Permanent Defense was one of a few outspoken ST supporters, along with Ron Sims, Greg Nickels, our friends at the Transportation Choices Coalition, and Richard Borkowski of People for Modern Transit.
The young, vibrant, pro-Sound Transit community that you’ll find today on social media and in the comment threads at Seattle Transit Blog simply didn’t exist then. Being a supporter of Sound Transit was, in some ways, like being a Seahawks fan when the team played in the Kingdome and wasn’t very good. It felt lonely at times. There weren’t as many people on the bandwagon.
Thankfully, those days are a distant blip in the rearview mirror.
Nowadays, Sound Transit has lots and lots of supporters — and not just among my generation. Sound Transit has proved that it can consistently deliver projects on time (or even ahead of schedule!) and under budget. ST’s increased respect and trust with the public has been earned, one project at a time.
Since 2002, in addition to opening Central Link and Airport Link, Sound Transit has expanded Sounder commuter rail in two directions, built the Tacoma Link streetcar, added routes and hours to its Express bus network, and helped WSDOT improve our urban transportation system by constructing express bus ramps, new HOV lanes, and partnered with Metro to create bigger and better park and rides.
Very simply, Sound Transit is making things happen. People can see it with their own eyes. Because ST continues to offer more options for getting around, ridership has continued to increase. And so has the agency’s popularity.
I bring all this up because I’m really not sure if Tim Eyman realizes who he is picking a fight with. It isn’t just NPI. As I already said, the way Tim’s talking, it sounds like he thinks it’s still 2002. And it’s not. We will be in very, very good company as we launch and rapidly accelerate the NO on I‑1421 campaign. The people of this region want Sound Transit 3. They want Sound Transit to succeed.
Eyman is betting he can sabotage Sound Transit with another statewide initiative. He’s boasting that the early polling that he did for I‑1421 shows I‑1421 has lots of support. Of course, his polling numbers are worthless. Eyman makes similar claims about every initiative that he runs, and he frequently produces polling which he claims demonstrates his measures are unbeatable.
But there’s no such thing as an unbeatable initiative. We know from experience that Eyman can be defeated. It takes resources and it takes organizing, but it can be done. Three years ago, we helped trounce a supposedly unbeatable Eyman initiative, handing Eyman his worst-ever electoral defeat.
With I‑1421, Eyman is also going after WSDOT and Amtrak Cascades. It’s important to remember that constitutionally, gas tax revenue cannot be used for non-highway purposes. This means rail projects have to be funded with other sources of revenue… like vehicle weight fees.
Eyman’s I‑1421 would pretty much eviscerate this revenue, hurting not only Cascades, but also WSDOT’s freight mobility programs.
To every pro-transit activist out there who is reading this post, I say: We need you. This is an all-hands-on-deck situation. Tim Eyman’s I‑1421 can and must be defeated. With your help, we can ensure that I‑1421 gets the vigorous, unreleting opposition that it needs and deserves.
If you’d like to become part of the team that will lead the way in fighting I‑1421, we urge you to consider becoming a member of the Northwest Progressive Institute.
A great opportunity to learn about our work is coming up in two months at our 2016 Spring Fundraising Gala on April 1st. Details about the event are available on our website. Early-bird tickets are on sale for a few more days… secure your spot at this great event while the early-bird rate is still in effect.
Next week, when Permanent Defense officially turns fourteen, I’ll have more to say about our plans to defeat I‑1421 and the other initiative Eyman intends to qualify to the ballot this year with the help of his wealthy benefactors.
NPI supporters can rest assured that we are already busy laying groundwork against Eyman’s latest assault on Sound Transit and WSDOT. Time is a precious resource, and not something that should be wasted. We are ready to take on Tim Eyman’s initiative factory again, and we hope that you are, too. Let’s win!