NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

Sound Transit Board errs by putting attention seeker Tim Eyman on ST3 con committee

On Thurs­day, as the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Nation­al Con­ven­tion was enter­ing its final hours in Philadel­phia, the Sound Tran­sit Board of Direc­tors met at Seat­tle’s Union Sta­tion to take pub­lic tes­ti­mo­ny and work on a num­ber of items of busi­ness. Among these was Motion No. M2016-79, con­cern­ing the cre­ation of com­mit­tees to write voter’s pam­phlet state­ments for and against 2016 Sound Tran­sit Propo­si­tion 1 (Sound Tran­sit 3), which will appear on this Novem­ber’s ballot.

RCW 29A.32.280 requires that any leg­isla­tive author­i­ty sub­mit­ting a bal­lot mea­sure for the peo­ple for their con­sid­er­a­tion also appoint two com­mit­tees of not more than three indi­vid­u­als to write argu­ments for and against the mea­sure. These argu­ments then appear in the voter’s pam­phlet state­ment mailed to qual­i­fied vot­ers through the Unit­ed States Postal Ser­vice and pub­lished online.

Ini­tia­tive prof­i­teer Tim Eyman, who does­n’t have an ini­tia­tive of his own on the bal­lot to sell to the vot­ers this year and is the tar­get of mul­ti­ple ongo­ing inves­ti­ga­tions by Wash­ing­ton State Attor­ney Gen­er­al Bob Fer­gu­son’s office, announced ear­li­er this month he was lob­by­ing the Sound Tran­sit Board for one of the spots on the Sno­homish Coun­ty con com­mit­tee. (There are also pro and con com­mit­tees for King and Pierce, ST’s oth­er con­stituent counties.)

Two hours into Thurs­day’s meet­ing, Sound Tran­sit’s Board inex­plic­a­bly and inde­fen­si­bly vot­ed to grant Eyman’s request, not only putting him on the con com­mit­tee for the state­ment that will appear in the Sno­homish Coun­ty voter’s pam­phlet, but the King and Pierce ones as well.

The motion to appoint Eyman to all three con com­mit­tees was pre­sent­ed by Fred But­ler on behalf of King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive and Sound Tran­sit Board Chair Dow Con­stan­tine, who, like me, was in Philadel­phia at the DNC.

The only board­mem­ber opposed was King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Dave Upthe­grove, who pru­dent­ly point­ed out Eyman is under inves­ti­ga­tion for seri­ous vio­la­tions of Wash­ing­ton’s pub­lic dis­clo­sure law, and argu­ing that such a per­son should not be giv­en the respon­si­bil­i­ty of writ­ing a voter’s pam­phlet statement.

After Upthe­grove reg­is­tered his objec­tion, act­ing Chair Pat McCarthy asked if there was fur­ther dis­cus­sion or debate — but there was none, save for a brief state­ment by Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci not­ing that state law requires Sound Tran­sit’s board to make the appoint­ments. The vote was tak­en and the motion approved, with Upthe­grove the only board­mem­ber thought­ful­ly vot­ing no.

This appalling deci­sion reeks of bad pol­i­tics, and deserves to be loud­ly con­demned. The Sound Tran­sit Board know­ing­ly gave the job of pre­sent­ing argu­ments against its wor­thy pro­pos­al for light rail, bus, and com­muter rail expan­sion to a dis­graced, dis­hon­est con man who habit­u­al­ly lies and may soon be held in con­tempt of court for imped­ing an offi­cial inves­ti­ga­tion into cam­paign finance vio­la­tions he committed.

The back­room cal­cu­lus here seems to be that it will be a good thing for Sound Tran­sit if Eyman’s name appears below the argu­ments against ST3 in the voter’s pam­phlet because he is wide­ly dis­liked, par­tic­u­lar­ly in urban Washington.

That would cer­tain­ly explain how Eyman end­ed up on all three of the coun­ty con com­mit­tees for Region­al Propo­si­tion 1 (Sound Tran­sit 3) — even though he was only ask­ing to be on the one for Sno­homish County.

The cam­paign orga­ni­za­tion that has formed to oppose Sound Tran­sit 3 is under­stand­ably furi­ous. “This is so cyn­i­cal. This is an attempt to poi­son the issue,” Chuck Collins told the Seat­tle Times’ Mike Lind­blom. “Tim is radioac­tive in cen­tral Puget Sound, King Coun­ty. And they know this.”

In a weak attempt to jus­ti­fy Eyman’s inclu­sion, Sound Tran­sit board­mem­ber Fred But­ler not­ed the Board had received eigh­teen mes­sages from Eyman fol­low­ers lob­by­ing for his appoint­ment. What But­ler failed to men­tion was that the Board also received mes­sages from me and sev­er­al oth­er peo­ple ask­ing them not to appoint Eyman. This was my mes­sage on behalf of the NPI team:

Date: Wednes­day, July 13th, 2016
From: NPI Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Andrew Villeneuve
To: Sound Tran­sit Board of Directors
RE: Please don’t give Tim Eyman any role in draft­ing con argu­ments for ST3

Sound Tran­sit Boardmembers:

My team and I respect­ful­ly request that you NOT give Tim Eyman any role in pre­sent­ing argu­ments for or against Region­al Propo­si­tion #1 (ST3). Tim Eyman is a ser­i­al pub­lic dis­clo­sure law vio­la­tor who has a long doc­u­ment­ed his­to­ry of lying with impuni­ty to the pub­lic and the press. We at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute have fought his destruc­tive ini­tia­tives and tox­ic pol­i­tics for over four­teen years. We reg­u­lar­ly debunk the mis­in­for­ma­tion he presents.

With no ini­tia­tive of his own to sell this year, it appears Eyman has noth­ing bet­ter to do with his time than attack Sound Tran­sit and pro­mote can­di­dates he thinks will take their cues from him in the Legislature.

We need a thought­ful, civ­il con­ver­sa­tion around the mer­its of ST3 — or lack there­of, in the oppo­si­tion’s view. I have no doubt we can find far more sin­cere and knowl­edge­able peo­ple in Sno­homish Coun­ty opposed to ST3 not named Tim Eyman to put togeth­er con argu­ments for the voter’s pam­phlet. Thank you all for your ser­vice to our region and your unan­i­mous vote to put ST3 on the bal­lot. Now is our time!

A few days after I sent this mes­sage, the oppo­si­tion cam­paign pre­sent­ed a slate of indi­vid­u­als to ST’s board to write the con argu­ments. In a let­ter dat­ed July 18th, the cam­paign sug­gest­ed Chuck Collins, Gary Nel­son, and my friend Sen­a­tor Mar­a­lyn Chase be appoint­ed to author the argu­ments against in King and Sno­homish coun­ties. Collins and Nel­son were cho­sen, but Chase was left off in favor of Eyman.

Coun­cilmem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci, mean­while, tried to jus­ti­fy this deci­sion by claim­ing the board would have left itself open to crit­i­cism if it had­n’t picked Eyman:

Tran­sit-board mem­ber Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci of Belle­vue, also a Met­ro­pol­i­tan King Coun­ty Coun­cil mem­ber, said that snub­bing Eyman would trig­ger “par­al­lel crit­i­cism” of the board, from his supporters.

“Of all the appli­cants, he is by far the longest-tenured and high­est-pro­file tran­sit oppo­nent,” Bal­duc­ci said, not­ing two slots per coun­ty still went to what she calls the self-iden­ti­fied Smarter Tran­sit group.

“If you don’t put him on, it’s just going to prove you’re afraid of a real oppo­nent,” she said.

Wrong. Pass­ing over Tim Eyman would not have been a snub, because Tim Eyman is a dis­hon­est snake oil sales­man. He is com­plete­ly, total­ly unde­serv­ing of any posi­tion of pub­lic respon­si­bil­i­ty. No one should trust him and no one should be put into a posi­tion where they have to work with him (as Collins and Nel­son have been).

The last thing Sound Tran­sit’s Board should be wor­ried about is com­ing under fire from Eyman’s back­ers. Eyman and his cohorts absolute­ly loathe Sound Tran­sit, and noth­ing Bal­duc­ci or her col­leagues do is going to change that.

I can­not recall a time when Tim Eyman had any­thing good to say about Sound Tran­sit. Its staff and its board have worked incred­i­bly hard for years to make ST a well-run agency that is admired around the coun­try. Sound Tran­sit now has a track record of deliv­er­ing projects on time or ahead of sched­ule, and under budget.

None of this mat­ters to Eyman. In fact, Eyman resents Sound Tran­sit’s suc­cess­es. He despis­es the agency just as much as he ever did. His fol­low­ers feel the same way.

Eyman reg­u­lar­ly uses his email list as a weapon and a means of harass­ment, urg­ing his fol­low­ers to send nasty­grams to peo­ple who stand in the way of his agen­da. Past tar­gets have includ­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic state leg­is­la­tors, Supreme Court jus­tices, Repub­li­cans office­hold­ers who dis­re­gard­ed Eyman’s wish­es, and yours truly.

Eyman’s list isn’t all that big, but he’s usu­al­ly able to get at least a cou­ple dozen peo­ple to gen­er­ate nasty­grams, sim­ply by sit­ting down at his com­put­er a cou­ple of times a week and send­ing out mid-morn­ing mis­sives. Sound Tran­sit’s Board just val­i­dat­ed this email harass­ment tac­tic by giv­ing Eyman what he want­ed and cit­ing the eigh­teen mes­sages Eyman got his fol­low­ers to send as a justification.

Thurs­day’s action by Sound Tran­sit’s Board, which we strong­ly dis­agree with, should rein­force how impor­tant the work of NPI’s Per­ma­nent Defense project is.

Since Feb­ru­ary of 2002, Per­ma­nent Defense has pro­vid­ed a year-round first response to Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive ini­tia­tives. Through PD, we reframe the debate and debunk Eyman’s lies and mis­in­for­ma­tion. And we con­front Eyman’s enablers, who­ev­er they might be. Eyman owes much of his rel­e­vance to his wealthy bene­fac­tors and the media, but Demo­c­ra­t­ic elect­ed lead­ers have been com­plic­it in ele­vat­ing Eyman, too, notably for­mer Gov­er­nors Gary Locke and Chris Gregoire.

In many ways, Tim Eyman is like Don­ald Trump. They’re both atten­tion-seek­ers — it’s been said the most dan­ger­ous place in Wash­ing­ton is between Tim Eyman and a tele­vi­sion cam­era. They are both gift­ed snake oil sales­men. They both have a knack for exploit­ing peo­ple. They even share a name — Tim’s mid­dle name is Don­ald. And both have been able to manip­u­late the media in order to expand their influence.

In a mat­ter of weeks, per­haps days, attor­neys rep­re­sent­ing the peo­ple of Wash­ing­ton State will be in court ask­ing judges to hold Tim Eyman in con­tempt. It is our hope that judges will sign off on Attor­ney Gen­er­al Fer­gu­son’s request for fines of $2,000 a day and autho­rize his inves­ti­ga­tors to obtain the doc­u­ments they need to uncov­er the truth from the IRS and the banks Eyman does busi­ness with.

Giv­en that Tim Eyman is off the bal­lot and about to face the music, it’s no won­der he is des­per­ate­ly seek­ing atten­tion and rel­e­vance. By giv­ing it to him, the Sound Tran­sit Board simul­ta­ne­ous­ly harmed its own cred­i­bil­i­ty, alien­at­ed its own sup­port­ers, and gave the ST3 oppo­si­tion cam­paign a fresh bone to pick at.

The only win­ner of this out­come is Tim Eyman — and that is a real shame.

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