Back in 1991 I co-authored the book and lyrics for an Off-Broadway musical. Much to my dismay the NY Times sent Mel Gussow to opening night, a theater reviewer who occasionally confessed that he didn’t really care for musicals. (He didn’t much care for ours either.)
And so in talking about the initiatives on today’s ballot, I should start with a similar caveat: I don’t much care for the initiative process. Indeed, for those unfamiliar with my bio, this blog’s domain name is a vestige from my accidental pratfall into the political arena, when a joke between me and some friends somehow turned into an initiative to officially proclaim Tim Eyman a “horse’s ass.”
Oh, I think that initiatives are fine in theory, but in practice, I don’t find anything particularly direct or democratic about direct democracy. All it takes to get an initiative on the ballot is half a million dollars of paid signature gathering (or free use of the airwaves.) And the battle at the polls is too often won by whoever spends the most money. Moreover, the vast majority of initiatives are actually complex pieces of legislation that would greatly benefit from a more deliberative legislative vetting, rather than just being thrown together in some watch salesman’s bonus room, and shoved onto the ballot for an up or down vote.
Perhaps the only initiative on today’s ballot that remotely resembles the type of simple, straightforward policy issue direct democracy is equipped to deal with, is I-901, which bans smoking in public places. Do you want smoke-free bars and restaurants? I do. Cigarette smoke is a nuisance and a health hazard, and a smoker’s right to puff away in public clearly infringes on my right to breath clean air. Breathing trumps smoking. So I’m voting Yes.
The other initiatives, I’m voting No.
I-900…? Say what you want about my anti-Eyman posturing, but I’m guessing I’m one of only a handful of citizens in this state to actually read the full text of I-900 and compare it section by section to the performance audits initiative passed by the Legislature last spring. I-900 is superfluous and over-reaching, placing too much power in the hands of the State Auditor. Sure, I trust Brian Sonntag to use this power wisely, but he won’t be auditor forever. How soon do you think it’ll be before the BIAW spends a million bucks to put some hack into the auditor’s office, who can use I-900 to harass and disrupt state and local agencies of their choosing?
And finally, while I certainly support experimenting with performance audits (I even testified on behalf of the bill last spring), Eyman is dramatically over-promising the impact. These are complicated audits that require a great deal of expertise… and the full compliance of those being audited. It’s kind of like psychoanalysis… it only works when you have a good therapist and a cooperative patient.
I-912…? What can I say… it’s a shortsighted, intentionally misleading, possibly life-threatening load of crap. Our state’s economic health, and the safety of its citizens, depends on maintaining our transportation infrastructure… that’s why I-912 has drawn opposition from such an unusually broad coalition of groups: labor, business, environmental, etc. Indeed, the only groups that seem to be actively supporting the initiative are politicians and radio talk show hosts.
The bipartisan transportation package that I-912 would repeal was painstakingly negotiated, and includes hundreds of desperately needed safety and improvement projects scattered throughout the state. Kill it now, and nothing will replace it for years. This is too important an issue to fall victim to petty political maneuvering.
I-330 / I-336…? Confused as to which is which? Well one is backed by the insurance industry and the other is backed by the trial lawyers… and they both deserve to be defeated. There is most certainly NOT a medical malpractice insurance crisis going on in WA state right now, as I-330’s backers deceitfully claim, and even is there was, I-330 is a totally one-sided solution that takes away your rights, and hands them over to the insurance industry.
As for I-336, it contains a few good ideas, but this is much too complicated an issue to warrant a thumbs up at the polls. Medical malpractice and tort reform need to be addressed by an open, deliberative process in the Legislature, not in an advertising war on the airwaves.
And I almost forgot… the Seattle Monorail. It’s never fun euthanizing a pet, but show some mercy and put this dog to sleep now. It’s not that I don’t want a monorail, it’s just that this particular one just isn’t worth the money.
I’ve got nothing against the technology, and I’m a big fan of elevated rail, but the monorail folks went about this entirely backwards. They started with monorail technology, and then tried to figure a way to fit it into our cityscape and transportation infrastructure… when really, they should have started by looking at our transportation needs, and then finding the solution that would make the most sense. Maybe that would have been a monorail? Or maybe dedicated bus lanes? Or maybe a giant roller coaster from West Seattle to the downtown waterfront? (Wheee!) But we’ll never know.
But yet, you gotta admire a city that still has the youthful joy to give something like this a try.
So in summary, Yes on I-901, an emphatic No on everything else. (And I wouldn’t be so disappointed if all the initiatives failed.)