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Friday, October 21, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

Danny Westneat

For once, Eyman has good point

Seattle Times staff columnist

This year's statewide ballot initiatives are so poorly written or so obviously hijacked by special interests that they give direct democracy a bad name.

Except for one. The one written by Tim Eyman. Seriously. It makes me queasy to say so, as I've never voted for anything associated with our initiative gadfly run amok. I guess I figured I never would.

I stand by how I described Eyman a year ago: "He seems addicted to initiatives," I wrote. "Having one seems more important than what it says or who really benefits from it."

That was when he was pimping that preposterous slot-machine measure to turn the state into a gigantic roulette wheel, ostensibly to spin tax rebates back at the public.

This year, all the other initiatives are flawed or destructive in typical Eyman fashion. Yet his Initiative 900 — well, I'll be damned. I just can't find anything wrong with it.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut occasionally. Eyman's found a good idea.

It's not earthshaking. All it does is let the elected state auditor grade the performance of local and state government agencies. This essentially is what newspapers do when there's a hint of wrongdoing: We investigate to see if public employees are doing their jobs.

Under I-900, the auditor will release reports. If the news is good, the audited agency will tout it. If not, then it can work to correct its shortcomings. It's a quiet, sensible step toward better government at all levels. (I can't believe I just wrote that about something from Eyman.)

In contrast, the rest of the field suffers from flaws that seem to plague initiatives.

Take the indoor-smoking ban, I-901. If it just banned indoor smoking, I'd be for it. But this law would also ban smoking outside, near businesses and workplaces — which means most of any downtown. It's absurd. If ever a proposed law screamed to be amended, this is it. But that's the problem with initiatives. Your only choice is yes or no.

I'm against the gas-tax repeal, I-912, because I want to see the roads and bridges fixed. But it's also a classic case of how people who don't know what they're doing end up writing bad laws.

I-912 would repeal some taxes on gas but won't repeal the taxes for diesel. The result is that it penalizes the drivers who generally have the most fuel-efficient cars — exactly opposite what you'd want to do.

Finally, there are the odious doctors and lawyers initiatives, I-330 and I-336. Both seek to rewrite incredibly complex medical-malpractice rules.

Just on principle, no voter should agree to let a vested interest group write laws to regulate its own industry.

As to the question of whom do you trust, doctors or lawyers, the answer is: nurses. And the nurses say vote no on both measures.

No, this year, only Eyman does it for me. I'm not happy about it, I told him.

"Don't worry," he soothed. "I'm just having a little blip of responsibility. Next year I'll go back to being evil."

Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 206-464-2086 or

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company



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