Tim Eyman arrived at the Secretary of State’s office riding in the back of a pickup truck like a dog… not the grand entrance one might expect from Washington’s self-proclaimed “initiative king.” This was no royal carriage, and there was certainly no throng of loyal subjects waiting to cheer him on.
Over the past few days Tim had repeatedly emailed the 3600 people on his list, asking them to show their support by joining him at the press conference this morning. But as he peered out the canopy window, all he saw were the usual members of the press, the loyal opposition, and angry scowls of determined librarians from the Timberland Regional Library.
It was exactly this kind of inability to energize his base that had led me to call Initiative 864 dead a few weeks back. Tim lacked the money to hire paid signature gatherers in force, and has for years failed to display the motivational and organizational skills necessary to lead a volunteer petition drive. I couldn’t see how, under those circumstances, he could possibly gather 200,000 signatures.
Still, I admit a pang of anxiety as he and the Fagans dropped the tailgate and started to unload their cargo. At times, I can be nearly as arrogant as Tim… had I underestimated his grass roots support? His political savvy? His intelligence? His fashion sense?
Tim was wearing sandals with a business suit! What other shocking surprise might he have in store today?
But all my self-doubt was quickly erased when out from the truck came a folding table adorned with stacks of petitions. This was clearly a prop. I-864 had failed.
The rest of the festivities were fairly anticlimactic. Tim pulled out the usual bullshit chart showing the steep rise in property tax revenues over the past 25 years. (As Steve Zemke says, it’s kind of like whining that candy bars no longer cost a dime.) Then he sat down behind the table and told a few lies before disingenuously opening the floor to questions he had no intention of answering.
When Tim was done, the librarians took their well deserved moment in spotlight, placards in hand, as the TV cameras taped interviews of I-864 opponents. I say “well deserved” because librarians across the state played a key role in defeating I-864, by seeking out paid signature gatherers and countering their lies with the truth. These were some of the so-called “union thugs” Tim has complained about.
Now, I joked about the librarians in my previous blog, and was immediately chastised via email for perpetuating stereotypes. If I did so, I did it lovingly. (And, well… because I thought it was funny.) The truth is, the librarians were an inspiration; this wasn’t a top-down political campaign, but a self-organized effort of dedicated individuals committed not only to saving their own jobs, but to saving the libraries on which we all rely.
Of course the librarians were not alone in opposing I-864. Firefighters undertook a similar effort, as did the Council of County and City Employees through their very effective Voter Education Committee. And the Association of Washington Cities deserves special credit for the tremendous job they did mobilizing their members to get accurate information out to local media as to devastating impact I-864 would have on public services.
And as long as I’m doing a post mortem, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the media.
I have been known, in the words of Knute Berger, to “kick the crap out of the news media.” Why? Because often, they deserve it. (And, it’s fun.)
But I must admit that both I-864 and I-892 have received the most thorough and informative news coverage of any Eyman initiative in recent years. Reporters and editorialists didn’t wait to see if these initiatives qualified for the ballot… they weighed in early and often, ensuring that the handful of voters who still read newspapers had more to work with than Eyman’s sound bites.
And by the way, I genuinely appreciate the way they put up with me, my badgering press releases, and my occasional wild rants.
But enough backslapping for now. I’ll have more to write about I-864, but first I’m going to take a couple days to drink a few beers, watch some fireworks, and relax.
Happy Independence Day.