The man behind Washington’s initiatives is back on the war path.
In a letter to Mayor Denis Law and Renton City Council members, Tim Eyman accused the City of attempting “to rob Renton’s citizens of their right to vote,” in respect to last year’s Library Initiative.
The initiative passed with a 76 percent of the vote last August following months on signature gathering from local supporters, including Stuart Avery and Beth Asher.
Eyman named both Avery and Asher in his letter, but didn’t fully disclose his comments before hitting the send button Monday morning. In fact, he didn’t contact Avery until several hours after the letter was published.
Asher said she received a call from Eyman over the weekend, but was shocked at the tone of his correspondence come Monday.
“I agree with his point,” she said, “but I was kind of surprised at the tone. It seemed like an attempt to garner publicity.”
Avery, who was entirely unaware of Eyman’s intent to use his name in a letter to the city, was shocked.
“I did not want to be implicated as a poster child,” Avery said, adding that “It was pretty clear (Eyman) hadn’t studied up on the issue,” despite citing media reports in the letter.
“For the regular citizen, the process of affecting change is becoming increasingly difficult,” Avery said. Although he does support progressive policy reform to facilitate citizens’ ability to affect change, he disagrees with Eyman’s “antagonistic, aggressive approach.”
The initiative process was a learning process, Avery said about his work to keep the downtown library over the Cedar River, “but the letter is not an indication of how I feel about city leadership.”
On Monday night, Avery wrote his own letter to the Mayor and City Council members.
“I don’t believe the City of Renton is the poster child for I-517,” Avery wrote.
In the end, the city did the right thing, and the citizens were allowed to vote on the library issue, Avery said.
Renton Mayor Denis Law released this statement late Monday afternoon: "The City of Renton fully supports the public's right to vote and the initiative process. Regarding the library initiative, the administration was moving forward to build the new library based on the direction of City Council. When Renton citizens approached the Council and requested that the issue be once again voted on by the public, Council debated and decided to place it on the ballot. Once the public voted the Council accepted the outcome, the administration worked with the King County Library System to amend the interlocal agreement that was in place and we are now implementing the people's decision."
Despite the outcome, Eyman disagrees.
“What that library initiative showed is that city officials don’t really care what the initiative is,” he said, adding that the initiative on initiatives “is incredibly, incredibly necessary.”
“Imagine if our initiative passes. They would save all that money and grassroots organizations wouldn’t have to lawyer-up,” Eyman said.
Eyman also sent a similar letter to City Officials in Mukilteo, Monroe, Bellingham, Wenatchee, Longview and Redmond.