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Eye On Olympia

Thu., July 3, 2008, 9:56 a.m.

Eyman: “We’re the Rodney Dangerfields of politics…”

Controversial initiative pitchman Tim Eyman, whose been booted from meetings and once got pied in the face by political opponents, this week faced a new challenge: the lawnmower man.

Eyman on Tuesday got ready to file his latest initiative petitions, enough to put I-985 on the ballot. A relentless publicity seeker, he called a press conference to announce the victory on the steps of a state building next to the state capitol. But as a TV crew and a couple of newspaper reporters arrived, a state groundskeeper on a riding lawnmower happened to be roaring away just across the street.

"Mow the lawn some other day!" Eyman shouted, as the man obliviously piloted his rig around stone steps and shrubs and sidewalks.

"We're the Rodney Dangerfield of politics," Eyman said, launching into his spiel anyway. "No respect."

Reading from prepared remarks, he touted the measure as a tool in the fight against traffic congestion. He estimates it would raise about $150 million a year for anti-congestion work. Most of that money, however, would be diverted from the general fund, which pays for things like schools and health care. The measure would open up car-pool lanes to everyone during off-peak hours, require more synchronizing of traffic lights, and do away with a requirement that transportation projects set aside half a percent of the cost for public art. Instead, the art money would be spent on anti-congestion work.

Among the things critics are unhappy with: the measure would do nothing to boost busing or other public transit.

But midway through Eyman's spiel, a rumbling Olympia city bus pulled up at the curb, a few feet away. Then it began beeping.

"The Sierra Club," he joked, raising his voice to be heard. "The Sierra Club sent out a bus to disrupt our meeting. They are nefarious."

Its passenger dropped off, the bus rumbled off.

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