The next big thing in Washington politics is an old thing: “property rights.”
As reported yesterday in The News Tribune, Oregon’s new anti-growth-management law, that requires financially compensating property owners for potential losses due to zoning or land-use restrictions, has spurred interest in Washington from the usual suspects. [State might copy Oregon property rights plan]
On Friday, some of the state’s most powerful interest groups met in Olympia to discuss acting on that inspiration by running an initiative similar to Oregon’s Measure 37, either this fall or in 2006.
“The conclusion was the time was ripe for such an initiative,” said Gary Tripp of a group called Bainbridge Citizens United. “We are going to draft an initiative ASAP.”
Tripp organized the meeting, which was attended by several building groups and initiative veterans, including the Building Industry Association of Washington, the Washington State Grange and Tim Eyman.
That’s right, the BIAW and Tim Eyman.
And the Grange…? Well, I’m still not sure what to make of them, but they’re beginning to piss me off.
Not that any of this should come as a surprise. Environmentalists have been expecting a copy cat initiative, and those of us on the Eyman-watch have been wondering when Tim would abandon his dead-in-the-water performance audits initiative to pirate this potentially more lucrative issue.
But being alert and being prepared are not the same thing. Those of us who believe that rational growth management policy is absolutely necessary to maintain our region’s quality of life, must start organizing, working the media, and raising money… now. For all of Eyman’s bluster and self-aggrandizing, all it really takes to get an initiative on the ballot is half-a-million dollars worth of paid signatures. There’s a ton of money to be made by builders and others from unconstrained development, and you can be sure that they are ready to invest millions at even the hint of electoral success.
As I’ve often complained, the initiative process tends to suck all the nuance out of public policy debates, throwing extreme proposals at complex issues. But as James Vesely points out in today’s Seattle Times, this is an issue worthy of further discussion:
The required 10-year review of the growth-management practices kicked a moribund engine into life. That engine is the desire of small property owners to develop their land, if they wish. The big question is: How can we accommodate them to avert a property-rights rebellion without changing a region’s core beliefs?
Good question. And perhaps in the comment thread of this blog entry we can thrash out some answers.
Unfortunately, an initiative won’t afford voters such luxury; they’ll simply be allowed a thumbs up or down on a radical piece of anti-growth-management legislation. In 1995 voters rejected a similar Referendum No. 48 by a healthy margin, 59% to 41%. But that was the result of an intense, well-organized campaign… an effort we need to duplicate, and quickly.
Just thought I’d give you all a heads up.