Yesterday, the Seattle Seahawks and Houston Texans played a topsy-turvy, thrilling bout of gridiron at CenturyLink Field, with the Seahawks ultimately prevailing 41–38 after coming from behind to overtake the Texans in the final seconds. The game is likely to go down in Seahawks lore as one of the team’s most memorable victories, and will surely be remembered for a long time by the fans who witnessed it — including everybody’s favorite disgraced initiative promoter Tim Eyman.
Turns out that Eyman was able to score some really, really good seats to yesterday’s game for himself and his eldest son, and he felt like telling everybody.
So this morning, he sent out an email blast boasting of his good fortune.
Monday, October 30, 2017
Me and my oldest son Jackson got front row seats in the end zone of CenturyLink field to watch — up close and personal — yesterday’s amazing Seahawks game against Texas (thanks to some very generous friends).
When the two of us appeared on TV screens across the nation, I got tons of text message pics of the two of us from friends and family far and wide.
But as a co-sponsor of our $30 Tabs Initiative, I realized afterward that I was derelict in my duties — I shoulda wore one of my uber-orange $30 Tabs t‑shirts to the game. As it turned out, I coulda gotten our $30 Tabs Initiative promoted on national TV!
We could not have been closer to the action — here we are on the south end of the field before the game started.
Here’s Jackson petting Taima, the Seahawk’s [sic] hawk.
And I had the great honor and privilege of getting a picture with iconic Seahawks superfan Lorin “Big Lo” Sandretzky (for the uninitiated).
An amazing day, an amazing game, an amazing experience.
You know, it’s funny… amazing days, amazing games, and amazing experiences are precisely what Seahawks owner Paul Allen had in mind when he proposed building CenturyLink Field with taxpayer dollars back in the 1990s.
Allen, one of Washington’s richest denizens, insisted on the stadium’s construction as a stipulation of his deal to assume ownership of the Seahawks. Allen pledged to keep the team in Seattle, but insisted that he needed public funding to finance a new best-in-class stadium to replace the Kingdome. He offered to pay for the cost of a special election to allow voters to decide the fate of his proposal.
In June of 1997, that election was held. 820,364 votes were cast in favor and 783,584 in opposition, giving Allen the victory he had sought.
Among those in the 1990s who were fighting against public funding for sports stadia was a guy who would in a few years become infamous for his unceasing attacks on Washington’s public services and plan of government… Tim Eyman. In fact, it’s the cause that got Eyman started in politics. Not vehicle fees, not affirmative action. As he says on his website’s “resume” page:
Got started with an initiative to force a public vote on the first sports stadium (I got a “whopping” 100 signatures at Greenlake Park, a few blocks from our previous Seattle home) — initiative qualified and voters said “no” to the sports stadium, but the Legislature said “yes, this sports stadium is a state emergency.” That single, arrogant legislative act was the catalyst that inspired my political activism.
By “the first sports stadium”, Eyman means nearby Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners play. Safeco Field is owned by the Washington State Major League Baseball Stadium Public Facilities District, and Eyman is among its regular patrons. He opposed building it, but now that it exists, he simply loves going to games there… both with his family and with friends, as you can see from this April 2016 photo.
Eyman says the House and Senate’s “single, arrogant legislative act” was the “catalyst that inspired my political activism”. And although Eyman has a penchant for lying about, well, everything, that statement could be true.
But considering that Eyman really seems to enjoy going to games in Seattle’s publicly owned stadia, he ought to be grateful to everyone who had a role in getting these special places built. Lawmakers serving in the 1990s correctly foresaw that building Safeco Field would provide fans like Eyman the opportunity to happily take in major league sporting events, concerts, and rallies for candidates like Bernie Sanders in a classy, modern, versatile venue well into the twenty-first century.
And not long after that, a majority of voters reasoned that CenturyLink Field would complement Safeco Field as an outstanding venue for gridiron and football (soccer). So both stadiums were built, partly with public dollars.
It’s fine to believe that there are better uses for public dollars than sports stadiums. I hold this view myself. The owners of America’s professional teams are rich. Very rich. They have the means to finance the sporting palaces of their dreams without making demands of taxpayers. Ditto for billionaires who aspire to own a team.
In the 1990s, though, voters and elected leaders were told that if taxpayer dollars weren’t provided to build new stadiums for baseball and gridiron, Seattle could lose its teams. Those weren’t empty threats, either. Ken Behring was ready to move the Seahawks to California before he sold the team. The state was given a choice: put up the money or lose the teams. Was it a false choice? Maybe, but at the time, nobody stepped forward with a credible alternative plan to keep the teams.
Had those Washingtonians who were opposed to building the SoDo stadiums with public money prevailed, it’s very possible that the Mariners and Seahawks might have left town, leaving Seattle mostly bereft of pro sports franchises. There would have been a personal cost, to Tim Eyman, of getting his way: no “amazing” experiences with his son in the stands on days like October 29th, 2017.
The political and economic landscape has changed since the 1990s, and thankfully, here in the Evergreen State, we’re seeing progress on the arena financing front.
A group with substantial means has now stepped forward with an offer to renovate KeyArena exclusively with private dollars — a project the Seattle City Council may sign off on by the end of the year. (KeyArena, like the SoDo stadiums, is publicly owned.) Completion of this project, if it is greenlit, could result in Seattle being awarded new NHL and NBA franchises down the road.
And that would be an exciting development for our region. Just as the construction of our two SoDo stadia were back at the turn of the century.
To paraphrase the ghostly voice from Field of Dreams, one of the best baseball themed movies ever made: if you build it, they will come. That mantra partly sums up the philosophy of those of us in politics who are builders — who believe in creating, maintaining, and sustaining public goods and public services. I am a builder: I believe we become stronger as a society when we roll up our sleeves and work together to build what we and future generations need.
Tim Eyman, on the other hand, is a destroyer. He believes in destroying public goods and public services. Accordingly, his politics are incredibly destructive. (Solving problems like homelessness or pollution doesn’t interest Eyman; it’s why you never hear him express support for ideas that would improve or save lives.)
Yet despite being a destroyer, Tim Eyman is a user of public goods and services just like the rest of us, as he perhaps inadvertently reminded us today. That’s what makes his boasting especially amusing. The irony here seems lost on him.
Eyman’s behavior and choice of language suggest that he either doesn’t have the capacity to think long term and appreciate the consequences of the initiatives he sells, or he does and he just doesn’t care. Those of us who want Washington to be strong can’t afford to think that way, though. It’s extremely self-defeating.
CenturyLink Field and Safeco Field are built and mostly paid for. But other needed public goods are still on the drawing board and in the planning stages.
Like light rail.
Gutting light rail is Tim’s latest obsession. Eyman and his amen chorus on talk radio (that means you, Dori Monson) want to “stick it” to Sound Transit, which is trying to liberate commuters everywhere from gridlock by giving them mobility options.
Tim may think that light rail is a waste of money, that “choo choo trains” will soon be obsolete, that Sound Transit is an insidious conspiracy against taxpayers, and other such nonsense. But I have a suspicion that one day, his kids will be Link riders even if he himself never decides to Travel Light. And I imagine that they, like young people everywhere, will be glad that light rail got built and that schemes to defund it — such as Eyman’s I‑947, which we must defeat — did not come to pass.