Two Cedar River library supporters respond to Tim Eyman's letter to city officials
By DEAN RADFORD
Renton Reporter Editor
January 15, 2013 · 1:48 PM
Tim Eyman's email to Renton city officials Monday regarding the library initiative earlier this year named two of the Cedar River library's biggest supporters, Stuart Avery and Beth Asher.
Eyman of Mukilteo, who has spent the past several years writing statewide initiatives, is now promoting Initiative 517, which would give citizens one year, rather than six months, to gather signatures for initiatives and make sure signature gatherers and signers aren't harassed.
He took issue with the Renton City Council's initial decision not to place a citizens initiative on the ballot despite the successful efforts of Asher, Avery and dozens of others to put the location of a new library to a vote of the people.
"We want to make sure that the nightmare you inflicted on Renton residents Beth Asher and Stuart Avery never happens to another Renton citizen who tries to let Renton voters decide a Renton issue with a Renton initiative," he wrote in his email (BELOW) to Mayor Denis Law and the City Council.
But Avery in an email (BELOW) to those officials writes that he doesn't agree with Eyman's characterization that Renton's elected leaders are the "poster child" for the Initiative 517. He indicated he was contacted by Eyman Monday afternoon, after Eyman had sent the email.
Asher also sent an email (BELOW) to city officials, informing them she "would agree with the stated idea behind I-517," but she wants to read the initiative's text and study it.
"The tone of the email is kind of like putting gasoline on an anthill, and I don't always agree with everything Mr. Eyman initiates," she wrote.
Avery and Asher in their separate emails make it clear they both support the right to petition government.
"I do want to say that I agree with citizens having the right to petition since our government is participatory at every level," Asher wrote. "The First Amendment guarantees that right."
She pointed out the key to the issue is communication.
"Elected officials are public servants, elected to listen to and serve their constituents," she wrote. "If communication is open and residents are listened to petitioning as a form of redress wouldn’t be needed as often."
Avery also pointed out in his email that "it should not be assumed that I am either for or against I-517 at this point, as I have not done enough homework to formulate a reasonable position on the matter one way or another."
He wrote that he understands Eyman's motivation for writing the letter.
"But I don’t believe the City of Renton is the poster child for I-517. We have a great city, with leadership which we should all be proud of. Is it perfect? No. But nothing ever is. Each of you will continue with heartfelt effort your work to make it a better place to live, and our community will continue to stand up and voice our opinions and beliefs with the same goals in mind."
Here is Tim Eyman's email to Mayor Denis Law and the Renton City Council:
Monday, January 14, 2013
City of Renton:
Mayor Denis Law and City Council Members Randy Corman, Terri Briere, Rich Zwicker, Ed Prince, Don Persson, Marcie Palmer, and Greg Taylor
bcc: Our thousands of supporters throughout the state (cc'd to the media, house & senate members, and Governor)
Dear Mr. Mayor and City Council members:
Last year, Renton's mayor and city council did everything possible to stop Renton Initiative #2 "The Library Initiative", including your vote to block Renton voters from voting on a local initiative that got enough signatures in the required amount of time: http://www.rentonreporter.com/news/145877785.html.
Despite the city of Renton's charter guaranteeing the people's right to local initiative, the mayor and city council refused to respect the citizens' right to participate. You actually tried to rob Renton's citizens of their right to vote.
Renton's mayor and city council forced local citizens to go through a nightmare just to let the voters decide on Renton's library initiative THAT TURNED IN THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF SIGNATURES IN THE REQUIRED PERIOD OF TIME (http://www.rentonreporter.com/news/162382526.html). We were forced to go this same nightmare when we did local initiatives letting local voters decide on those obnoxious red-light cameras -- 6 cities, 6 initiatives, 6 lawsuits (http://heraldnet.com/article/20110622/NEWS01/706229801). What a waste: the city of Longview has spent (so far) over $100,000 for Seattle lawyers to sue their own citizens in what turned out to be an unsuccessful effort to prevent Longview voters from voting on that local initiative.
We want to make sure that the nightmare you inflicted on Renton residents Beth Asher and Stuart Avery never happens to another Renton citizen who tries to let Renton voters decide a Renton issue with a Renton initiative.
We were specifically thinking of officials like Renton's Mayor and City Council when we drafted Initiative 517's section 4 (http://sos.wa.gov/_assets/elections/initiatives/FinalText_269.pdf). Section 4's heading captures its intent "GUARANTEEING THE PEOPLE’S RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES THAT SUBMIT SUFFICIENT VALID VOTER SIGNATURES" while its text makes clear this new state law (if voters approve the initiative in November): "Any state or local initiative for which sufficient valid voter signatures are submitted within the time period required must be submitted to a vote of the people at the next general election ballot. The people are guaranteed the right to vote on any initiative that obtains the required number of valid voter signatures in the required time frame."
I-517 is a direct rebuke to the anti-initiative arrogance of Renton's Mayor and City Council. You were its inspiration. I-517 would not have been conceived, drafted, filed, and qualified without officials like Renton's Mayor and City Council. And now all of you are the poster-child for our campaign. I-517 allows us to put the brightest spotlight on your arrogance, your obstinance, and your disrespect of the people you claim to represent.
You might even call this provision in section 4 the Briere/Swicker/Parker/Persson/Law provision: "Government officials, both elected and unelected, must facilitate and cannot obstruct the processing of any initiative petition and must facilitate and cannot obstruct the public vote of any initiative." (RENTON REPORTER, April 3, 2012: "Briere, Zwicker, Parker and Persson indicated in comments that they did not see the need to get additional feedback from the community" (http://www.rentonreporter.com/news/145877785.html).
Isn't it insulting that such a new state law is needed? Shouldn't this be done without a new state law requiring it? Because of Renton's mayor and city council and their arrogance, it is clearly necessary. To this day, you defend your indefensible anti-voter-participation actions. To this day, you believe that citizens participating in the citizen initiative process shouldn't be allowed. To this day, you believe that citizens are not entitled to their constitutional right to petition and right to vote at the local level.
Renton's voters deserve to know how each and every member of the Renton City Council and Mayor Denis Law feel about I-517's section 4. I-517 requires that local initiatives that turn in the required number of signatures in the required amount of time be put on the ballot for a public vote - you got a problem with that?
But answering that question, you also answer these: 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? Do you support or oppose the people's right to vote?
These are simple, straightforward questions that each you should have the guts to answer. Your constituents have a right to know where you stand.
Sincerely, Tim Eyman, Jack Fagan, Mike Fagan, Eddie Agazarm, and Paul Jacob, co-sponsors of Initiative 517 (our official committee name is "PROTECT YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE ON INITIATIVES"), email@example.com, 425-493-9127, cell: 509-991-5295
“The true danger is, when liberty is nibbled away for expedients and by parts.” Edmund Burke
Here is the City of Renton's response to Tim Eyman's email:
The City of Renton fully supports the public's right to vote and the initiative process. Regarding the library initiative, the administration was moving forward to build the new library based on the direction of City Council. When Renton citizens approached the Council and requested that the issue be once again voted on by the public, Council debated and decided to place it on the ballot. Once the public voted the Council accepted the outcome, the administration worked with the King County Library System to amend the interlocal agreement that was in place and we are now implementing the people's decision.
Here is Stuart Avery's email to Mayor Denis Law and the Renton City Council:
Dear Mr. Mayor Law, and City Council members,
I would like to take this opportunity to address the letter which was sent to each of you by Mr. Tim Eyman. I learned about this letter only this afternoon when I received a phone call from Mr. Eyman on my lunch hour informing me he had used my name in association with a correspondence sent to you Mr. Mayor, the council members and members of the local media. In reading the letter this afternoon, it was a surprise to me that he was calling out the administration and all of the council members in the manner in which he did. As you all know, I have very strong feeling about the work and efforts which so many in our community put into the downtown library movement, and understand fully each of you also had to personally wrestle with the issues of the moment, and did so because you care and are passionate about our city's well being. Although many times we were at odds with what we believed was right in moving forward, we each fought hard for what we believed would be the best thing for all. I was not approached in advance by Mr. Eyman on the letter. It was written without my knowledge, and without an understanding of my perspectives. It should not be assumed that I am either for or against I-517 at this point, as I have not done enough homework to formulate a reasonable position on the matter one way or another. However I feel it is important for each of you to know and understand, I would not have agreed to binding my name to the letter as it was written, and do not feel that Mr. Eyman should have worded it in the manner he had. Do I believe things should have been handled differently regarding the downtown library. Absolutely. But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to swing a stick at any of you to further a different agenda. He was not at those council meetings listening to the healthy debates, or on the streets talking to the people speaking for and against either side of the issue. I understand he has his agenda, and that’s fine. I support his right to it, and understand his motivation for writing the letter. But I don’t believe the City of Renton is the poster child for I-517. We have a great city, with leadership which we should all be proud of. Is it perfect? No. But nothing ever is. Each of you will continue with heartfelt effort your work to make it a better place to live, and our community will continue to stand up and voice our opinions and beliefs with the same goals in mind. I am very proud of our city.
Thank you for your service and allowing me the opportunity to set the record straight on this matter.
Here is Beth Asher's email to Mayor Denis Law and the Renton City Council:
I got a copy of Tim Eyman’s email. The tone of the email is kind of like putting gasoline on an anthill, and I don’t always agree with everything Mr. Eyman initiates. In principle I would agree with the stated idea behind I-517 but I want a chance to read the full text and study the initiative. So, I’ve downloaded the full text of I-517 from the Elections website.
I do want to say that I agree with citizens having the right to petition since our government is participatory at every level. The First Amendment guarantees that right. Voters who have indicated by their legally collected and validated signatures that they want a say in the way an issue is decided should not be denied the right to use the ballot. I think the key to this issue is communication. Elected officials are public servants, elected to listen to and serve their constituents. If communication is open and residents are listened to petitioning as a form of redress wouldn’t be needed as often. For all elected officials, federal, state, or local I would say: let people participate, use the resources of the community that you represent, listen to your residents before special interest groups. Listen and take feedback – a dialogue results in better conversation than one you have with yourself.Contact Renton Reporter Editor Dean Radford at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-425-255-3484 (ext 5050).