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.