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Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words letters@seattletimes.com.

February 7, 2010 at 6:00 AM

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Bypassing the initiative

Posted by Letters editor

Used as a tool for out-of-state interests

Editor, The Times:

Bruce Ramsey’s editorial, “Bills to spite Eyman don’t help” [Opinion, Feb. 3], gave a one-sided view on ballot initiatives. These proposed legislative bills to restrict initiatives would not only affect Tim Eyman, but all special-interest groups: lobbyists, out-of-state-funders and independent groups.

These groups use our ballot initiatives to influence and promote their own self-interests. By focusing the argument solely on Eyman, Ramsey is being disingenuous. He fails to discuss how the initiative process is not always a “homegrown,” grass-roots campaign.

In 2006, our I-933 “property-rights” initiative was mainly financed by Howard Rich, a New York real-estate developer. With Rich’s wealth and his self-interest group, Americans for Limited Government, this developer used the ballot initiative to influence elections in 11 Western states concerning “property rights.” I-933 was Rich’s attempt to overturn our local, city, county and state regulations on land-use development.

When Ramsey fails to give a complete view of the overuse and abuse of the initiative process without regard to all the facts, he does his readers a disservice by slanting the argument as a group of state legislators attempting to usurp democratic principles.

— Glenda Tecklenburg, Mill Creek

Initiative is important popular check on government

On Feb. 3, the Democrat-controlled Legislature introduced legislation to undo the will of the people — Senate Bill 6843. Initiative 960 forced our legislators to reveal how much new bills would cost — last year, some proposed bills were shown to cost billions! They sounded nice; we didn’t have billions to spend. Once the fiscal note was attached to the bill, it often — and rightly — failed. If this new bill passes, transparency is gone.

I- 960 also required a two-thirds vote in the Legislature — or a simple majority vote of the Legislature along with a vote of the people — to increase taxes. In other words, we wanted them to live within their means! Through rushed political maneuvering, legislators are trying to get through this bill that undoes I-960 without allowing us to read the bill or comment on it. It is appalling that they can be so arrogant in flouting our will.

If SB 6843 bill passes, you can bet there will be large tax increases for us and we will begin down the road to insolvency, similar to that which plagues other states.

— Nancy Thompson, Clinton

Initiative befuddles system, empowers troublemakers

The problem with the initiative is at least twofold:

First, the principle of representative government was weakened when, in 1912, the state adopted the progressive agenda — that included initiatives, referendums and recalls — to hobble the influence of “big business.” Today, in a much more complicated world, with better-educated voters and legislators, we don’t need the initiative.

Today’s legislators — not a bad lot compared with those from 1912 — have the ability to do their real job of representing us voters and putting together complex legislation that voters could not possibly undertake rationally — and do it much better without the initiative. The initiative is a constitutional anachronism, it is disruptive of good government and the sooner we get rid of it the better.

Ours is a representative democracy, not that of a Swiss canton — our state constitution says so.

Second, the initiative gives full scope to troublemakers like Tim Eyman. He not only earns big money by playing to the fears and ignorance of too many of us, asking “Wouldn’t you like government on the cheap?”

He cynically does the nihilistic work of his backers: wealthy but vicious ideologues. He gives employment to pitiable folks who will do anything for a buck, but they should find employment less damaging to our public treasure: the civic process.

The best way to weaken Eyman and his backers is to require, by law, that signature gatherers may not be paid. Should conscientious voters be willing to let the Eymans of this world do their civic work for them?

— James Huntley, Sequim

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