NPI's Cascadia Advocate

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

Wednesday, October 9th, 2019

Auburn, Tacoma and Olympia join a growing list of cities that oppose Tim Eyman’s I‑976

Here at the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, we have been work­ing for eigh­teen con­sec­u­tive months to sound the alarm about Tim Eyman’s incred­i­bly destruc­tive Ini­tia­tive 976, a mea­sure that would shred bipar­ti­san, vot­er-approved trans­porta­tion invest­ments at the state, region­al, and local lev­els.

As the bal­lot drop date rapid­ly approach­es, city coun­cils around the state are tak­ing action and respon­si­bly sound­ing their own alarms.

Under state law (specif­i­cal­ly RCW 42.17A.555), cities are legal­ly allowed to take posi­tions on bal­lot mea­sures. And they’re tak­ing advan­tage of that author­i­ty.

This week, in addi­tion to Seat­tle, three more cities have declared their oppo­si­tion to the ini­tia­tive: Auburn, Taco­ma, and Olympia.

Auburn was the first of the three to act, at its meet­ing Mon­day night, where coun­cilmem­bers vot­ed six to one to pass Res­o­lu­tion 5460 reject­ing I‑976.

Coun­cilmem­ber Lar­ry Brown, who is also Pres­i­dent of the Wash­ing­ton State Labor Coun­cil and a mem­ber of the NO on I‑976 steer­ing com­mit­tee along with NPI’s founder, voiced his sup­port for the res­o­lu­tion first, cit­ing the exam­ple of the Fife curve along I‑5 dur­ing rush hour as proof that our grid­locked high­ways are at a break­ing point. If I‑976 is not defeat­ed, traf­fic will get much worse and jobs will be lost. “Our econ­o­my will screen to a halt as well,” he added.

Auburn Deputy May­or Bill Peloza had a very philo­soph­i­cal take on the res­o­lu­tion and the need to oppose the ini­tia­tive. Here are some of his remarks:

You know, I had a hard time with our $20 car tabs in the City of Auburn, but since that time our infra­struc­ture — not only trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture, but look at water, look at sew­er sew­er… look at all the peo­ple that are alive in this coun­cil cham­bers!

We’re in here — we’re alive because we’re pay­ing tax­es for qual­i­ty of life! And, nobody likes tax­es, but look at the old Roman days, when they used to tax the heck out of those Romans.

And they did­n’t like it either!

They protest­ed, and all this oth­er stuff, but hey, look at the infra­struc­ture that they built!

Those under­ground water­sheds that they put in. I mean engi­neer­ing feats that they did! How did they do it? Tax­es! So, I sup­port this because we need the infra­struc­ture for future. I don’t like the tax­es any more than any­one else, but it’s a manda­to­ry evil. Thank you.

Good for Peloza.

At NPI, we view tax­es as just nec­es­sary. There’s noth­ing evil about them. Tax­es are us pool­ing our resources to get things done for each oth­er. None of us can build a high­way or a rail­way with our own mon­ey, but by join­ing forces, we can do it.

Coun­cilmem­ber Largo Wales was the lone voice of oppo­si­tion to the res­o­lu­tion.

Wales is retir­ing from the Auburn City Coun­cil at the end of this year; Chris Stearns is run­ning unop­posed to replace her this Novem­ber.

Wales called Eyman’s meth­ods “uneth­i­cal” in remarks from the dais, but said she could not join her col­leagues in tak­ing a posi­tion against Ini­tia­tive 976.

“I just don’t believe this is the way to col­lect the need­ed rev­enue,” Wales said.

Nev­er­the­less, the res­o­lu­tion passed with the sup­port of Auburn’s oth­er six coun­cilmem­bers, putting the South King Coun­ty strong­hold on record as opposed to I‑976 and the dev­as­ta­tion that it would cause.

On Tues­day, the City of Taco­ma became the next city to act. Its coun­cil adopt­ed Res­o­lu­tion No. 40442 with a unan­i­mous vote of nine to zero. Some of the note­wor­thy WHEREAS claus­es in Taco­ma’s res­o­lu­tion are as fol­lows:

WHEREAS the Pub­lic Works Depart­ment of the City esti­mates the impact of repeal­ing local author­i­ty to impose TBD [Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict] fees would con­sti­tute a loss of approx­i­mate­ly $2.9 mil­lion per year, or $5.8 mil­lion per bien­ni­um, which would neg­a­tive­ly impact the City’s abil­i­ty to per­form nec­es­sary work to improve trans­porta­tion infra­struc­ture

WHEREAS I‑976’s impact to Wash­ing­ton State’s trans­porta­tion rev­enues will result in decreased fund­ing to the Trans­porta­tion Improve­ment and Mul­ti­modal Accounts, for which the City has uti­lized grant dol­lars for streetscape improve­ments, pedes­tri­an and bicy­cle infra­struc­ture, and Safe Routes to School projects (edi­tor’s note: impact­ed by reduc­tion to State Mul­ti­modal Account)

WHEREAS, if adopt­ed, this Res­o­lu­tion would express the City Council’s oppo­si­tion to I‑976 for its repeal of the City’s author­i­ty to impose TBD fees, and the adverse impact the loss of rev­enue would have on the City’s abil­i­ty to com­plete trans­porta­tion improve­ment projects

Ani­ta Gal­lagher, Assis­tant to the City Man­ag­er, shared some of the pre­lim­i­nary impact analy­sis for Taco­ma. Vehi­cle fees at the city lev­el would be repealed, caus­ing a loss of $2.9 mil­lion in Taco­ma — which rough­ly equates to eighty res­i­den­tial blocks worth of basic street main­te­nance or one hun­dred Amer­i­cans With Dis­abil­i­ties Act (ADA) com­pli­ant curb ramps.

Loss of rev­enue to the State’s Trans­porta­tion Improve­ment Account would also hurt Taco­ma. Improve­ments to the Lin­coln Dis­tric­t’s Yaki­ma Avenue Fes­ti­val Street, the Port of Taco­ma Road, and the E 64th St skate project.

Pierce Tran­sit would also lose $60 mil­lion for their Bus Rapid Tran­sit line, cur­rent­ly being planned along a 14.4‑mile cor­ri­dor between Taco­ma and Spanaway.

That’s half their fund­ing.

Tim Eyman speaking to the Tacoma City Council

Before vot­ing to oppose Tim Eyman’s I‑976, the Taco­ma City Coun­cil heard from Eyman him­self. The Coun­cil then unan­i­mous­ly vot­ed to oppose I‑976. (Pho­to: Sher­ry Bock­winkel for NPI).

May­or Vic­to­ria Woodards observed that it’s imper­a­tive for Taco­ma that Sound Tran­sit’s rev­enue not be impaired. If fund­ing is slashed, there might not be enough mon­ey to get Link light rail to Taco­ma. The ter­mi­nus might end up in Fed­er­al Way or Fife instead. That would leave Sound Tran­sit’s sec­ond largest con­stituent city bereft of the light rail expan­sion that it vot­ed for three years ago.

May­or Wood­wards also railed against Wash­ing­ton’s upside down tax code, which requires those with the least to con­tribute the most.

Coun­cilmem­ber Chris Beale remarked that Eyman’s slo­gans make for a “nice bumper stick­er” but that I‑976 would cause grave harm, includ­ing inter­fer­ing with our region­al strat­e­gy to stop and reverse cli­mate dam­age.

Coun­cilmem­ber Anders Ibsen offered the sharpest crit­i­cism of all. He assailed Tim Eyman as a “lit­er­al con­vict­ed thief and embez­zler”, which is entire­ly accu­rate. Ibsen also cor­rect­ly stat­ed that Wash­ing­ton vot­ers are adults, and soci­ety at-large should under­stand that it costs mon­ey to build things that we need.

Taco­ma’s vote was fol­lowed by a vote by the Olympia City Coun­cil.

Olympia is not inside Sound Tran­sit’s juris­dic­tion and vot­ers there do not pay the motor vehi­cle excise tax (MVET) that Tim Eyman loves to grouse about.

Olympia vot­ers do, how­ev­er, sup­port state-lev­el trans­porta­tion invest­ments and city-lev­el trans­porta­tion invest­ments through their tax dol­lars.

On Tues­day, Olympia’s Coun­cil dis­cussed I‑976 and declared its oppo­si­tion with a res­o­lu­tion. Olympia, like Taco­ma, has its own Trans­porta­tion Ben­e­fit Dis­trict, and the city cit­ed the loss of street main­te­nance fund­ing in its res­o­lu­tion:

WHEREAS, if passed by the vot­ers in the Novem­ber 2019 Gen­er­al Elec­tion, l‑976 would elim­i­nate the Olympia TBD’s author­i­ty to impose vehi­cle license fees and repeal the vehi­cle license fees already imposed by the Olympia TBD of $40.00 per year, result­ing in a fund­ing loss of at least $1.5 mil­lion annu­al­ly.

Olympia is cur­rent­ly work­ing on revamp­ing four down­town streets, with Legion Way to be revamped in 2020 and Franklin Street in 2021. As a part of Olympia’s Down­town Strat­e­gy gen­er­at­ed in 2016, these improve­ments to mul­ti­modal­i­ty will make down­town Olympia a much more pleas­ant urban envi­ron­ment to walk in.

These projects draw funds from the trans­porta­tion ben­e­fit dis­trict.

Coun­cilmem­ber Lisa Parsh­ley moved to adopt the res­o­lu­tion. Her motion was sec­ond­ed and then swift­ly approved by the Coun­cil, adding Olympia to the list of cities that have tak­en a stand for Wash­ing­ton’s future by oppos­ing I‑976.

By week’s end, Lake For­est Park is expect­ed to join the parade of cities speak­ing out against Ini­tia­tive 976. Its coun­cil will con­sid­er a res­o­lu­tion sim­i­lar to those dis­cussed above at a meet­ing on Thurs­day evening.

It’s heart­en­ing to see so many of our local elect­ed rep­re­sen­ta­tives doing their part to ensure vot­ers know what the cost and con­se­quences of this mea­sure are before they vote. Bal­lots will be mailed next week and must be returned by Novem­ber 5th. NPI strong­ly urges a NO vote on Tim Eyman’s I‑976.

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