"No on I-745, I-722, I-713"
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:15 PM
"Nature, 'tis said, abhors a vacuum.We might fairly apply this maxim to state politics, where a leadership void shares blame with zealots and charlatans for the spate of initiatives before voters Nov. 7.We have in this space commented sourly on the bland term of Gov. Gary Locke; we suggest again that lacking an executive with a dynamic vision and the ability to massage sensible programs through a polarized Legislature, we wind up with snake-oil salesmen like Tim Eyman and sideshow barkers like John Carlson setting the political agenda for the state. Their tool of choice: the citizen initiative.But very few of life's problems can be reduced to a simple yes/no proposition. So we wind up with overly simplistic ballot measures - often misleading or patently unconstitutional - that cause more problems than they purport to solve, leave messes for the courts and Legislature to clean up, and further feed public cynicism.Voters can back a more reasoned approach to public policy-making by voting no on these initiatives Nov. 7:Initiative 745: Professional wrestler-turned-maverick governor Jesse Ventura offered some insight on anti-transit initiatives during a recent visit to Seattle. Said he: Do they really believe they can pave their way out of congestion? Still, this measure that would direct 90 percent of state transportation funding to road construction and maintenance is as dangerous as it is inept. A Tim Eyman brainchild, I-745 would continue what I-695 started - decimation of public transportation in favor of single-occupant vehicle travel. We could devote the whole column to the folly of this idea - the astronomical cost of land condemnation for new roads and freeway widening; the resource waste and environmental damage that would come with fewer buses, more cars and no light rail; the certainty that new capacity is filled up as soon as it's added; the endless cycle of gridlock.If Tim Eyman really wants to live in Los Angeles, he's welcome to move there. We'll be happy to point him and his SUV to the nearest freeway on-ramp south.But for Seattle, this measure is a fraud. The fact that highway construction is at a standstill isn't a funding issue, it's a feasibility issue. We're simply out of room for new roads.Initiative 722: Eyman's other brainchild, the so-called Son of I-695, would rescind tax increases approved after I-695 qualified for the ballot in 1999; it would also limit annual increases in the valuation of property to 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This is a measure calculated to starve state and local governments; moreover, the cap on land valuations reflects ignorance of how property taxes are calculated, and would surely be tossed out by the courts. The state Constitution requires taxes to be uniform on similar classes of property, and says that all real property is one class. But under this scheme, properties in areas rapidly appreciating in value - say, Bainbridge Island - would be taxed at a lower effective rate than those in sluggish real estate markets - Gorst, for example, or the state's rural areas. Shifting the tax burden to less affluent communities is not equitable, it's not reform, and it's not constitutional.Initiative 713: This would ban commercial animal trapping in most situations. But it's hard to imagine why anyone west of the Cascades is devoting any thought to this, which solves a problem we're not sure actually exists. * * * * *Saturday: Initiatives involving public schools. "