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).

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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