Tim Eyman apologizes to Renton city officials for initiative email

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman apologized in an email Monday to Mayor Denis Law and the Renton City Council for what he describes as "disrespectful" emails he sent to them last week regarding Initiative 517.

It's the same apology he sent Monday to elected leaders in Wenatchee, Mukilteo, Redmond, Monroe, Longview and Bellingham for similar emails he wrote to them last week.

Initiative 517 would give initiative promoters more time – a year rather than six months – to collect enough valid signatures to place the measure on a ballot.

Eyman wants to ensure that initiatives that receive enough valid signatures automatically go on a ballot.

He called the Renton City Council and Law the "poster child" for why Initiative 517 is necessary because the council initially decided not to place on the ballot a initiative to let voters decide where to build the new downtown library.

However, a reworked initiative did go to the voters, who voted strongly to keep the library over the Cedar River. Two leaders of that initiative effort named in Eyman's email also sent emails to Renton officials in response to Eyman.

Below is Eyman's email to city officials. In it, he writes that this time he's just sticking to the facts.

Dear Mr. Mayor and City Council members:

I apologize.  Last week, the emails that were sent to you were disrespectful and uncivil.  My frustration with what has happened to local initiatives got the better of me.  If I had it to do over again, I would have toned it down and just laid out the facts.

I-517 will be certified by the Secretary of State tomorrow and so voters will be voting on it in November.  What happened in Renton and other cities are a key motivation behind I-517's main policy which is section 4.  It says that when citizens collect enough voter signatures in the required amount of time, the initiative goes on the ballot and the voters get to vote.

There currently is no state law that clearly states how local initiatives should be handled (with state initiatives, two unanimous state supreme court rulings say the voters have a right to vote).  And so, over the years, city and county officials have processed and allowed votes on initiatives they agreed with (or at least didn't mind so much).  But with initiatives they disagreed with, city and county officials have refused to process and refused to allow votes, causing costly litigation.

So, for example, the Renton city council allowed a public vote on a fireworks initiative but the council initially voted to block a vote on the library initiative.  In Bellingham, the council let the people vote on our red-light camera initiative but successfully blocked a vote on the No Coal! initiative.  In my hometown of Mukilteo, our city council voted to put our red-light camera on the ballot and the courts backed up their decision and there was a vote.  But in Wenatchee, the mayor and city council blocked the exact same initiative and the courts backed them up and there never was a vote.

So right now, it's a pick-and-choose policy that allows the government the power to choose which qualified initiatives the people can vote on and which qualified initiatives they can't vote on. This guarantees costly litigation and causes tremendous frustration, anger, and hard feelings between the citizens and their elected representatives. And letting the government pick-and-choose is particularly problematic when officials have a clear conflict-of-interest as they do with red-light camera initiatives (because letting the people vote means the likely rejection of the money-generating cameras).

I-517's section 4 creates a new state law that clearly requires state and local initiatives that qualify for the ballot get to be voted on.

After sending out last week's emails and listening to the feedback, I've thought a lot about this.  It was a mistake to let my own feelings on the matter get the best of me.  To Renton's mayor and councilmembers, I apologize for the strident and disrespectful tone in those previous emails.  I sincerely apologize.

Sincerely, Tim Eyman

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