Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Is I-933 the ticket to bankrupting the state?"

Another bang-up column from Adele Ferguson on I-933:
So here come Washington’s governors, past and present, to warn us that Initiative 933 is the ticket to bankrupting the state.

I-933 requires city, county and state governments to pay for proposed regulation of private land that restricts its use or value to the owner or forget it. Owners could challenge prior decisions dating back to 1996 and government would have to reimburse them or waive the rule.

It’s sponsored by the Washington State Farm Bureau and many of its county bureaus and opposed an outfit called Citizens for Community Protection, Nature Conservancy, Gov. Christine Gregoire and the six living ex-governors, Gary Locke, Mike Lowry, Booth Gardner, John Spellman, Dan Evans and Al Rosellini.

The Guvs had a press conference and landed all over I-933 as poorly drafted, vague and capable of costing the state, i.e. taxpayers, billions of dollars if it had to pay out the sums anticipated. Apparently, they are predisposed to believe that no government would back off if its proposed regulation was not welcomed by the land owner. Well, what do you expect from governors? Look up govern in the dictionary. To govern is to exercise power or authority in controlling others, to control, to determine, to regulate, and to restrain.

The last thing any governor wants is to lose any of his or her power over regulation of the peoples’ lives. Governors, most public officials, by the way, hate the initiative process because it’s the people making decisions for themselves. Governors want the issue dealt with by the legislators, whose probable response in January would be to name a commission to study it and report back in a year.

Gov. Gregoire pledged to work out a solution with the lawmakers. She’s good at making promises. It was only last June that she promised she and legislative leaders would move to restore some sort of property tax relief in the wake of a state Supreme Court ruling that I-747, which put a one percent cap on increases in state and local property tax collections was unconstitutional.

Let’s see what you propose on that, Governor, before we listen to your promise to do something about I-933. Let us know now if you will restore the one percent cap we voted for or you have something else in mind.

She’s the one, by the way, who, as head of the Department of Ecology, set up the process that made water permitting such a long, drawn-out affair when the Legislature cut her budget for staff.

Like Gov. Locke before her, her chief concern isn’t pleasing private property owners but organized labor and state employees. Quote Gregoire at a state Labor Council picnic in 2003: “You and labor will always have a voice in every decision I make.”

Locke, in 1996, told the council, “I will gladly use my veto pen to strike out any legislation that is anti-labor. I expect you to tell me what sections to veto and I will.”

The media also has joined in opposing I-933. There were numerous stories criticizing the money spent by the Building Industry Assn. on a challenger to a sitting Supreme Court justice as if that somehow made the race dirty, but in writing about the money spent for and against I-933, it is way down in the stories that the opponents have spent three times as much as the proponents.

If government acts wisely, taking the rights of the land owner into consideration as well as any need for regulation, I-933 doesn’t have to cost anything at all.
Let's look at opponents' claims that I-933 is the "developer's initiative" and that is being supported by all this out-of-state fat cats looking to get rich paving over Washington farmland.

In a letter to the Tacoma News-Tribune, Dan Wood of the Washington Farm Bureau wrote:

The fact is, Washington Farm Bureau members wrote I-933 and have provided most of its financial support.

Washington Farm Bureau and our county organizations have contributed more than $400,000 of the nearly $800,000 we have raised so far.


Applying the TNT editorial board’s methodology to the No on 933 campaign, it could be reported that a cabal of software moguls – including at least three of America’s richest men – are colluding to rob Washington citizens of the use and value of their private property.

Nearly 75 percent of the No on 933 campaign’s war chest has come from 25 super-rich donors, activist environmentalist groups and Big Labor, each giving $20,000 or more.

And, the No on 933 campaign has received more money from out-of-state than the Property Fairness Coalition.

Indeed, the No on 933 campaign’s largest contributors are Californian John Morgridge, a prominent Democrat donor who is on Forbes’ list of Richest Americans, and Texas attorney Carol Dinkins whose law firm represented Enron.

In addition, both Bill Gates and Paul Allen have given generously to the No on 933 effort.

It makes sense that Allen’s Vulcan Development wants to limit housing outside of Seattle’s urban growth boundary. How else will they fill all those high-end condos being built in the Denny Triangle?
Look no further than the pages of one of those anti-933 media organizations Ferguson mentions, the Spokesman-Review, for more proof:
In Washington, the statewide Grange is sitting this one out. So is the Washington Association of Realtors, whose members are deeply divided. The Building Industry Association of Washington, which poured huge sums into Referendum 48, has made a token donation to this effort but is not actively campaigning for it. Other developer groups have said I-933 could create as many problems as it solves.
No, I-933 is not the "developer's initiative." It is the "common man's initiative," opposed by the rich, the powerful, the media, the academics, and the rest of Washington's elites with no dirt under their fingernails, looking as always to keep power exclusively in their hands. The farmers and small landowners have no wealthy allies to call upon like the environmentalists and the bureaucrats. But we have our voices and our votes, and we can be powerful if we unite. Vote Yes on I-933!

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