2011 observations

by | Nov 10, 2011

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.”

*    Here’s two great stories about our efforts opposing automatic ticketing cameras:

Are traffic cameras poison for politicians?
We scored some scalps,” Eyman said Wednesday.

By Scott North, EVERETT HERALD, Wednesday, November 9, 2011

MUKILTEO — Call it the red-light camera effect.

At least Mukilteo activist Tim Eyman says there is reason to believe such a thing exists.

Not only did voters in three Washington communities line up solidly against the automated traffic-enforcement devices on Tuesday, some politicians who were considered big fans of cameras found themselves trailing at the polls.

“I think it is hugely significant on election night that we didn’t just win at the ballot box on the issue.  We scored some scalps,” Eyman said Wednesday.

In Lynnwood, longtime City Councilman Ted Heikel, one of the community’s most vocal camera supporters, was behind challenger Sid Roberts in early returns.  In Bellingham, a voter backlash against a plan to use red-light cameras was linked to the possible defeat of Mayor Dan Pike.

Voters in Bellingham, Longview and Monroe all made clear they aren’t camera fans, with early returns showing nearly two-thirds against the devices.

Because all of the votes were advisory, and the circumstances are different in each community, it is up to city officials to decide what happens next.

Eyman said there is a messages for elected officials:  Don’t buy into the notion that camera opposition comes from a vocal minority who like to barrel through intersections.

In 2010, Mukilteo became the first Washington community to vote out enforcement cameras.  The city dropped its plans before the cameras were ever used to issue a ticket.

Eyman spent much of this year working with anti-camera activists around the state pressing similar initiatives.

He said he’ll continue to work to give individual communities the opportunity to vote on camera programs.

A statewide initiative to ban cameras would be a slam dunk, Eyman said, but “it is frankly not as fun as picking these guys off, one city at a time.”

— END —

Washington: More Anti-Camera Initiatives to Come
After winning four of four anti-camera initiative votes, photo enforcement opponents vow to stop the cameras.


Tim EymanWashington State ballot initiative guru Tim Eyman vowed Wednesday to put even more pressure on municipalities he sees as dependent on automated ticketing revenue.  Eyman is feeling good after voters on Tuesday rejected cameras by comfortable margins in three of three contests on Tuesday.  Larger jurisdictions are now in his sights.

“For us, it’s full steam ahead,” Eyman told TheNewspaper.  “I’m gung-ho to do a couple more cities and keep the ball rolling.  I’ve never found a more effective way to lobby the legislature than to say, ‘You either do it, or we’re just going to pick you off one city at a time.'”

Last year, 71 percent of voters in Mukilteo approved a measure outlawing cameras.  On Tuesday, 65 percent of the voters in Bellingham, 65 percent in Monroe and 59 percent in Longview felt the same way.  Local politicians in some jurisdictions are starting to realize the public is not on their side.  Last week, Redmond’s city council voted 7-0 to allow its red light camera contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to expire on January 31, 2012.

“Collision data indicate that the impact of traffic safety cameras on collisions in Redmond is inconclusive,” Police Chief Ron Gibson wrote in a memo to the city council.

Voters in Redmond had submitted a valid petition to order the issue placed on the ballot earlier this year, but the city convinced a judge to block citizens from petitioning their government, even in an advisory-only vote.  Lawsuits on the issue remain pending from the county court level all the way up to the state supreme court.  The ongoing litigation is racking up substantial legal bills for the municipalities and traffic camera companies that decided to fight the citizens’ initiatives in court.  In Longview, legal costs have nearly exhausted the city’s share of the profit generated by cameras.

“If I don’t get a Christmas card from Stoel Rives law firm, which is representing several of the cities, I’m going to be hurt,” Eyman said.

In most cases, efforts to block initiatives have backfired showing an unseemly coordination between the private vendors and municipalities.  Groups like Campaign for Liberty, which co-sponsored the anti-camera initiatives, are using the votes to convince lawmakers in Olympia to repeal the authorization they gave to photo enforcement.

“There’s just no other way to uncover how sleazy the companies are and how unpopular the cameras are than doing these citizens’ initiatives,” Eyman said.

An ATS executive lost his job after he was caught acting as a “sock puppet” posting pro-camera comments on online forums as if he were a local resident.  In Lynnwood, emails were released showing police officials sought to do favors for ATS in hopes of landing a lucrative job with the firm. City councilmen like Ted Heikel, the primary defender of cameras in Lynnwood, lost his seat Tuesday.

“If you’re a politician in bed with the red light camera companies, it’s bad for your political career,” Eyman said.  “It’s making all the pro-camera politicians look bad.”

— END —

Best Regards, Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, & Mike Fagan, Fighting for Taxpayers for 15 Years, ph: 425-493-9127, email: tim_eyman@comcast.netwww.VotersWantMoreChoices.com 

P.S.  There are thousands of politicians, bureaucrats, lobbyists, and special interest groups working each and every day to raise your taxes.  Shouldn’t there be at least one person, one team, one organization that fights to lower your taxes?  Please help us so we can continue our successful efforts on behalf of taxpayers.