Washington’s initiative process has failed as a tool of The People. It has largely become a means for the wealthy to pass their own pet laws.
The problem is so bad that even the Seattle Times has had to acknowledge it:
WITHOUT addressing specific pros and cons of any of the three statewide initiatives that appear likely to qualify for November’s ballot, it is hard to deny one glaring truth: None are truly grass roots in origin.
Got enough money and a bug up your ass about something? Buy yourself an initiative! It’s easy. It’s fun!
Just ensure the initiative dangles a small, tangible, immediate benefit to voters, and their eyes glaze over with green dollar signs as they unwittingly vote to dismantle the The Commons that they previously supported and put in place. Seriously…it’s a perverse exploitation of human greed.
This year’s prime example is Tim “biggest lie of my life” Eyman’s I-1125, which is likely to qualify for the ballot (maybe today).
The initiative will severely restrict the State’s ability to toll highways AND prevent light rail from crossing on I-90.
An initiative born of a populist grassroots uprising? Hardly. The effort is primarily funded by Bellevue real-estate baron Kemper Freeman, who has contributed over a million dollars to the initiative campaign.
Freeman has a bug up his ass…he doesn’t like light rail or something. So, he is attempting to purchase himself a law.
The law would thwart the will of the voters, who have twice voted to bring light rail to the east side. Freeman sued to stop it, and lost. So now, Freeman will exploit fear of and self-interest over tolling to pass an initiative that will stop light rail—something that voters have made abundantly clear they want.
Yesterday, King County executive Dow Constantine was on KUOW. He pointed out:
“If you shop at Bellevue Square you contribute to [the I-1125] campaign.”
Conversely, you, your family, your friends can choose to take your money elsewhere.
Ultimately, the initiative process itself must be repaired. My first choice for repair is to get rid of paid signature gatherers altogether, as Oregon did in 1935. But Oregon’s current process, passed in 1985, that prohibits signature gatherers being paid per signature would be an okay start.
Until reform happens, the wealthy will retain the privilege of purchasing their own laws.