It’s been a little over twenty years since voters in urban King, Snohomish, and Pierce counties voted to create the Regional Transportation Authority (RTA), better and more commonly known as Sound Transit.
During those years, thanks to the wise investment of our tax dollars, our region has gained a network of express bus routes, commuter rail lines, streetcars, park and rides, high occupancy vehicle ramps, and, most importantly, a flourishing light rail spine connecting sixteen stations, with dozens more under construction.
But while voters have repeatedly given Sound Transit the green light to finance and build all this badly needed transit infrastructure, there’s a guy living in Mukilteo who wants to turn back the clock and pull the plug on all the projects that haven’t already been finished. His name is Tim Eyman, and he’s well known to Washingtonians as a lying, cheating purveyor of self-serving initiatives.
The team at NPI have been organizing opposition to Eyman’s destructive schemes for over fifteen years through our Permanent Defense project. Our efforts to provide vigorous, year-round opposition to Eyman’s initiative factory have met with great success, and our track record is evidence of that.
Most of the measures Eyman has announced since the project was started have either failed to qualify for the ballot (including his last consecutive four), have been defeated by voters, have been or struck down in the courts. We maintain a running tally that we call Tim Eyman’s Failure Chart, which tells this story.
Tim Eyman absolutely loathes Sound Transit and has tried repeatedly over the years to either sabotage or destroy the agency to prevent it from building any more projects. The number of attempts he’s made to prevent Sound Transit from going about its work, going back to I-776 in 2002, could fill a book.
Although he has been defeated at every turn, he still has a burning desire to see Sound Transit destroyed. That was evident today when, in front of King Street Station, Eyman announced Initiative 947, a near carbon copy of his two failed 2016 attempts to — in his words — “gut Sound Transit like a pig”.
I-947 would repeal the funding sources that the state Legislature granted to Sound Transit with the 2015 Connecting Washington package. The intent of I-947 is to force the cancellation of most of the agency’s slate of ST3 projects.
“Let’s stick it to Sound Transit!” Eyman exhorted in an email to his followers timed to go out after he had finished spouting fabrications in front of reporters.
Were I-947 to be implemented, funding to extend light rail to Ballard, West Seattle, Everett, Tacoma, and downtown Redmond would be eviscerated. Sounder and ST Express expansion would also be endangered.
Sound Transit has already sold bonds to investors backed by ST3 revenue (which are constitutionally protected), but Eyman doesn’t care about that. I-947 attempts to force Sound Transit to retire its ST3 bonds early.
NEW SECTION. Sec. 13. A new section is added to chapter 81.112 RCW to read as follows: An authority must fully retire, defease, or refinance any outstanding bonds issued under this chapter, chapter 81.104 RCW, or chapter 46.17 RCW if:
(1) The following revenue collected prior to the effective date of this section has been pledged to the bonds:
(a) Revenue from the motor vehicle excise tax imposed under RCW 81.104.140 or 81.104.160; or
(b) Revenue from the motor vehicle weight fee imposed under RCW 46.17.365 or 46.68.415; and
(2) The bonds, by virtue of the terms of the bond contract, covenants, or similar terms, may be retired or defeased early or refinanced.
As mentioned, Eyman chose the plaza of Seattle’s King Street Station as the venue for his 11 AM media event announcing his new scheme to “stick it to Sound Transit”. (Sound Transit doesn’t own King Street Station, but it is the terminus for the agency’s two Sounder commuter rail lines.)
Eyman may not see the irony in his choice of venue, but we do.
For years, King Street Station was a decrepit, neglected facility. It was unsafe and falling apart. State and local elected leaders realized the station was in danger of being lost to decay and decided to restore it to its former grandeur. Over $47 million in mostly public funds were secured to realize the project.
Money for the project was provided by:
- Federal Transit Administration (FTA)
- Sound Transit
- Surface Transportation Program (STP) Enhancement
- State Appropriation – includes Transportation Improvement Board (TIB)
- South Downtown (SODO) Foundation
- City of Seattle Department of Transportation
- 4Culture Services Agency
- Federal Railroad Administration, High Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program
Renovations were completed in 2013. Thanks to this project, there is a beautiful waiting area for the benefit of the traveling public… and upstairs, there’s a lovely public plaza where the likes of Tim Eyman can hold media events.
Eyman won’t admit it, but he benefits from the investments we’ve made in public transit infrastructure just like everyone else. He proved it today when he became a user of a transit facility paid for by our tax dollars.
Eyman also benefits from all the buses and trains our tax dollars pay for even if he refuses to ride them. When transit service is of high quality, when it is frequent, and when it is reliable, people who own cars will deliberately eschew driving in favor of riding, taking cars off the road and alleviating congestion.
People like me. I have a car, but I chose to take the 545 into Seattle to get to Eyman’s press conference instead of driving. It was more convenient.
I invited Eyman to be my guest for a ride on Link light rail — which I don’t think he’s ever been on — to see for himself how useful it is. He declined my invitation. I’m persistent, though, and I will continue to offer to show him around the system.
The reporters who showed up at today’s “launch” have so far treated it though it were real news in the stories they’ve published. As far as we at NPI are concerned, though, it’s fake news until and unless Eyman demonstrates he has commitments from his wealthy benefactors to fund a signature drive. Without those commitments, I-947 will end up in the dustbin like I-1421 and I-869.
Speaking of I-1421: when Eyman announced it back in February of 2016, he did so in nearly the exact same fashion as he did today with I-947.
He summoned reporters to meet him late in the morning at a venue of his choosing, spent around ten to fifteen minutes bashing Sound Transit, and then made a big show of becoming the first signatory on the petition.
Take a look. This was a year and a half ago:
And this was today:
He even wore the same orange t-shirt — notice in the picture from today, it says “Nov 2016”, which is when Eyman envisioned that I-1421 would be on the ballot. But although Eyman tried hard to get the Republican Party and his benefactors to put money into I-1421, they declined — wisely.
Eyman started over with I-869, an initiative to the Legislature for 2017; they still didn’t bite. So Eyman moved on, and tried to get on the ballot in 2017 with I-1550, a scheme to eviscerate property taxes. It too failed. Now Eyman is circling back, betting that people upset over the result of the ST3 vote will fuel his resurgence.
If you’ve ever gone to the multiplex to watch a really lame remake of a movie that was originally made years ago, then you’ll get a sense of how I felt at today’s “launch”. It was a one-man show with the same plot and largely the same dialogue as the spectacle that Eyman shamelessly put on last year.
Nothing that Eyman said today was new or interesting. It was just repackaged lies. As I said, Eyman did not indicate, let alone demonstrate, that he has the six figure checks coming to him that he needs to hire petition crews to gather the 330,000 signatures minimally required to get I-947 in front of the 2018 Legislature.
If Eyman doesn’t have the money, then he is just wasting everyone’s time. And if he does have the money, then our region is facing a grave threat to our future that must be confronted. We will be keeping a close watch and be ready to spring into action to shift our organizing into high gear should that be the case.