Eyman: The local angleNovember 10th, 2011 by Steven Gardner
I’m posting here a letter e-mailed by Tim Eyman on the heels of the loss on Initiative 1125, which would have restricted how highway tolls can be used. He first makes the case that initiatives are hard, in large part because you have to judge months ahead what the electorate will support. That much probably everyone would more or less agree with.
At least one of his other comments is worth wondering about in connection with local issues.
“We’ve learned that initiative campaigns are, by far, the most effective way to increase public awareness, public education, and public participation in public policy. Initiatives aren’t just about passing laws; they’re about lobbying the government. And one of the most important tools of lobbying is public awareness and public votes. $30 car tabs and the 1% property tax limit are two of the most prominent examples, but the seeds of victory for this year’s I-1183 were laid by last year’s I-1100. There are legions of additional examples where the lobbying effect of an initiative campaign layed the groundwork for later legislative action.“
So this makes me wonder about the vets and homeless levy that failed in a big way here in Kitsap County. It’s not similar to an initiative in how it was launched. This was not a grass roots initiative in which a number of voters gathered signatures. This was launched by government. But could the silver lining for the levy’s supporters be that the issue was raised at all?
Sure, the measure lost big time. But people are talking about it. Is there any chance the needs supporters identified will be met some other way?
Eyman’s letter follows.
RE: 2011 observations
A few observations:
* Initiatives are difficult. This is a ‘no duh’ observation, but it deserves emphasis. When I-1125 was filed, we were estimating in January what the electorate would think about its combination of policies in November, factoring in the inevitable counterattack by the establishment. That’s like throwing a dart that travels for 11 months at a moving dartboard. That’s tough. And the initiatives we sponsor are extremely challenging because they tackle the toughest issue imaginable: putting limits on governments’ power. With the amount of power, money, and influence our opponents have, it’s remarkable our initiatives fare as well as they do.
* Last year’s I-1053 passed 64% statewide, 54% in King County, and in every legislative district outside Seattle. Why were the vote totals different with this year’s I-1125? Because I-1125 was a different proposal. Different initiatives produce different results. Initiatives come a la carte — voters consider each initiative on its own merits.
* I-1125 opponents’ focused their $2.5 million on one provision of I-1125: the requirement that the Legislature, not the Transportation Commission, set tolls. They said (1) this would increase project costs by 18% and (2) it’s crazy to trust Olympia politicians. They didn’t spend their millions defending tolls being diverted to the general fund, tolls lasting forever, tolls on one project paying for another, toll revenue being used for non-highway purposes, transportation projects violating the 18th Amendment, or imposition of variable tolls. Why didn’t they defend these policies? Because the people don’t support them (see questions 9-13 of KING 5′s poll on the individual components in I-1125: http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=c069d70c-f118-43a3-b6ca-6df726250053 ). And a poll of King County only voters showed overwhelming revulsion to tolling I-90 to pay for 520 (70% opposition): http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=0bfb78c0-b703-4b7c-8f45-619a5e792faf . And a poll of King County only voters rejected tolling I-5 (63% opposition): http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=91f1f8fd-844c-425e-8cb4-ea07ecc13ef1 . It’s hard to argue that voters changed their minds on these specific issues when the other side spent none of their time defending them. Observation: if that provision hadn’t been included, given the closeness of the election, I-1125 probably would have been approved by voters. Politicians are in for a rude awakening if they implement policies the people strongly oppose by claiming “the voters told us they wanted us to do it — look at the vote on I-1125.” And thanks to the campaign for I-1125, those efforts will receive much more public scrutiny.
* Based on 15 years of experience in the snakepit of politics, Jack, Mike, and I have learned that any initiative that qualifies for the ballot is a victory. 99.9% of public policy by state and local governments is done in the shadows, below the radar screen of the citizenry. We’ve learned that initiative campaigns are, by far, the most effective way to increase public awareness, public education, and public participation in public policy. Initiatives aren’t just about passing laws; they’re about lobbying the government. And one of the most important tools of lobbying is public awareness and public votes. $30 car tabs and the 1% property tax limit are two of the most prominent examples, but the seeds of victory for this year’s I-1183 were laid by last year’s I-1100. There are legions of additional examples where the lobbying effect of an initiative campaign layed the groundwork for later legislative action. We believe this will prove to be true with I-1125.
* For 15 years, opponents have tried to convince voters to reject our initiatives because I am one of the co-sponsors. It’s certainly hard for me to be objective on this, but I do have an observation: when our initiatives are approved, does that mean the voters voted yes because they like me? I don’t think so. I believe the voters vote yes on initiatives they agree with, vote no on initiatives they disagree with, and spend very little of their time pondering the popularity or lack of popularity of the sponsor. Bill Gates Sr. seemed like a nice older gentleman, an endearing spokesman who had the good humor to get dunked in a water tank, but his likeability didn’t save a deeply unpopular initiative last year. My sin of working with Jack and Mike Fagan and our thousands of heroic supporters to let voters vote on various initiatives every year did not deter the voters approval of last year’s I-1053 or this year’s 3 anti-red-light-camera initiatives. So even though it insults the intelligence of voters and defies experience, I’m certain our opponents will continue doing it. Why? Because it makes them feel good and it sounds a lot better than blaming the voters. Does it bother me? As I said to the Seattle Times on election night: “If you’re in political activism, you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff. It’s a snake pit. After 15 years, I’ve developed a thick skin.” Eyman is now on his 15th initiative in 15 years, with no plans to stop. “This is my calling,” he said. “This is what I was meant to do.”