Tim Eyman signs I-1421
Tim Eyman becomes the first signer of Initiative 1421 (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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 first, unveiled back in Novem­ber, would uncon­sti­tu­tion­al­ly slap an one-year expi­ra­tion date on any rev­enue increase passed by the Leg­is­la­ture.

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.

Tim Eyman signs I-1421
Tim Eyman becomes the first sign­er of Ini­tia­tive 1421 (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

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!

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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5 replies on “Here we go again: Tim Eyman resumes his war on Sound Transit and Link light rail”

  1. Obvi­ous­ly, Mr. Eyman speaks for the dri­vers. He is prob­a­bly financed by the auto deal­ers and petro­le­um com­pa­nies. GOP=Gas Oil Petroleum

  2. Boo! We need to come togeth­er as a state to put Eyman out of busi­ness, permanently. 

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