To drum up support for his new initiative, Tim Eyman says he wants to spotlight the Longview City Council’s “arrogance,” “obstinance” and disrespect of citizens for refusing to put a traffic camera initiative before local voters in 2011.
If it passes, Initiative 517 would guarantee the public’s right to vote on local or state initiatives if enough valid voter signatures are submitted.
In 2011, the Longview council blocked a citizens’ initiative petition to recall the city’s red-light cameras and school zone speed cameras. The city attorney said the petition was invalid on the grounds that the City Council’s authority to approve traffic cameras is exempt under state law from a challenge by citizens’ initiative.
Last March, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that city laws allowing for red-light traffic cameras are not subject to repeal by local initiatives.
Eyman’s email Tuesday to the Longview council called I-517 a “direct rebuke to the anti-initiative arrogance of Longview’s mayor and City Council.”
“You were its inspiration. I-517 would not have been conceived, drafted, filed and qualified without Longview’s mayor and City Council,” he wrote. “And now you are the poster-child for our campaign.”
Longview’s voters deserve to know how each council member feels about the initiative, Eyman wrote, asking each council member to reply to a list of questions, such as, “Do you support or oppose the people’s right to initiative? Do you support or oppose the people’s right to have their signature count?”
Eyman also sent the same email to five other cities involved in anti-initiative legal battles: Wenatchee, Mukilteo, Bellingham, Renton, Monroe and Redmond, informing them they were the campaign’s poster child and inspiration.
In Longview, only Councilman Mike Wallin — who started the anti-traffic camera initiative petition before he was elected to council — responded to Eyman’s email.
“Some governments have tried to bully and usurp the rights of the people,” Wallin wrote. Eyman’s initiative was important because it “puts into law that the people are a legitimate local legislative authority, a reminder and acknowledgment that government exists by consent of the people,” he stated in an email Tuesday. The initiative also ensures that governments “do not waylay and obstruct the process of placing an issue on the ballot,” he said.
Wallin also urged his council peers to answer Eyman’s questions, writing, “Each of us has an obligation to let our beliefs be known and speak up.”
Longview Councilman Chet Makinster told a reporter Wednesday he didn’t even read Eyman’s email.
“I deleted it. I don’t have any interest in anything he has to say,” he said of Eyman, a Mukilteo resident known statewide as an initiative hawk for the many measures he has steered onto the ballot.
Wednesday, Councilman Ken Botero said he hadn’t read the email, either. A few minutes later, he called The Daily News back and said, “I answer to the community, not to Mr. Eyman. He demands my answer? He doesn’t even live here.”
Two other council members said the city attorney had advised the council not to comment because Longview is still involved in a lawsuit regarding its traffic camera initiative petition.
Wednesday afternoon, Eyman send out another mass email to the Longview Council asking, “Why are you all being so gutless? ... Leaders respond, cowards hide. ... Stop being so gutless, hit ‘reply all,’ answer the question.”
No one rose to the bait.
I-517 also would give people a year to collect signatures for initiative petitions rather than six months, and would make harassment of a signature gatherer a criminal act.