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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  WA Government

Spin Control: I-976 fallout fuels split in state

UPDATED: Mon., Dec. 16, 2019

The reader on the phone launched immediately into a complaint about what “they” were doing to “us” over “my” initiative.

Apparently this is not just the season of tidings of comfort and joy, but of pronouns without clear antecedents. It was obvious the initiative was Initiative 976, because there have been stories for several weeks that detailed the latest turn of the legal screw on the ballot measure. It wasn’t the first call in recent weeks, as the legal battle seems to have inflamed East Side angst.

Technically, Tim Eyman’s initiative, I said. I just write about them – win, lose or draw. So by “us” you mean –

Folks in Eastern Washington, he said.

And “they” would be –

People in Western Washington, always taking our money and telling us what to do, he added.

OK. So you know that Garfield County Transit Authority is part of the group that filed the lawsuit? It’s actually the named lead plaintiff.

They are? Well still, the West Side keeps taking our money and spending it over there.

If you look at the latest Office of Financial Management figures, that’s not really true with the General Fund, which is the largest state budget. People in most West Side counties, as a whole, pay more in taxes than they get back, as a whole, in programs. Changes a bit, year-to-year, and as they say in the commercials, individual results may vary. But that’s pretty much the way it works.

Yeah, well, they’re always messing things up. Like Snoqualmie Pass. Clear-cutting all those trees, letting the water run off the mountains, flooding the highway. I’ve driven over that pass for years. Never used to happen.

Pretty sure that’s either federal, state or private land, being cut by private companies on contract sales. There are some rules for restoration, but I don’t think King County has any say in timberland management.

And what about Mount St. Helens?

Definitely not connected to King County or I-976, but what about it?

All that federal land around the mountain is a mess. But forests the timber companies own aren’t.

The land immediately around the mountain is a national monument. It’s sort of a living laboratory to see how fast Mother Nature restores things after a disaster like the eruption. The land farther out belongs to timber companies. But those aren’t really forests. They’re essentially tree farms, replanted with specific types of trees after the blast, so now most trees are pretty much the same size. That’s why it’s a bit mesmerizing sometimes when you look at it too long while driving.

Oh, yeah, I noticed that.

Listen, I’ve got no overwhelming love for Seattle and King County, particularly when I get stuck in traffic trying to get there from Olympia. You can blame their government officials for lots of things, but not Snoqualmie Pass or Mount St. Helens.

Well, maybe. But they’re still trying to stick it to us on car tabs.

I didn’t even try to tell him that the car tabs folks pay in the central Puget Sound counties cost hundreds of dollars more than what he pays, which is why Pierce and Snohomish county voters gave I-976 the boost it needed to pass. After the caller hung up, it occurred to me that while East-West animosity has been around for decades, the I-976 fight stokes the us-versus-them feelings to new levels. Maybe that’s because some people adept at exploiting that anger are having a field day.

Take Mr. Eyman – can I get a Henny Youngman style “Please”? – who seems to be everywhere in a frenzy that makes the Energizer Bunny seem like a three-toed sloth. One day last week he was trying to rally the troops to storm the Pierce County commissioners meeting. On another he was calling for a mass gathering in the King County Superior Courtroom for a hearing that wasn’t really a hearing.

The week before that he was on the steps of the state Supreme Court, touting an unprecedented legal maneuver to get the car tabs fight pulled out of King County. It wasn’t even his lawsuit, and he had to be advised by the attorney filing the motion not to approach one of the justices in the hallway for a little chat. (As with most unprecedented maneuvers, the request was dismissed.)

Two days later he was at the King County Courthouse, trying to intervene in the original case and ask to have a private attorney defend the initiative. But such a request seems to ignore one of Eyman’s key talking points – that the initiative is what the voters of the state decided.

Voters are represented by the state attorney general’s office. It’s the law, even if Eyman doesn’t like that because other attorneys in that office are going after him for campaign finance violations.

Oh, for the days when Eyman took a few weeks off between the counting of ballots for whatever initiative he had on the November ballot and a choreographed news conference in early January to announce whatever initiative he was filing with the Secretary of State for the next election.

This year, those weeks have been filled by Eyman seeking maximum financial advantage as he flogs both his legal theories in the initiative court battles and his independent gubernatorial campaign. Should his long-shot campaign for governor succeed, he arguably would represent voters – but not until 2021.

For the record, no independent has survived a Washington top-two primary in a race for a statewide office that includes Democratic and Republican candidates, which next year’s gubernatorial race already has. So all I can say to Eyman and his thousands of email supporters reading his daily diatribes and thinking about sending him another check, good luck with that.

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