Washblog

Gravel mines, stinking carcasses, stolen water, tricked voters, I-933

We are facing, with a coordinated one-two punch of I-933 and the stacking of our state Supreme Court with property rights ideologues, an unprecedented assault on our ability to make and enforce our own laws in Washington.

Stephen Johnson, Washington State Senator from the 47th Legislative District where I live, is just finishing up a less than stellar term.  He has never been a judge, yet he wants to sit on the highest court in Washington State.   Like Jim Johnson before him - who also ran for this office with an anti-government, anti-education, anti-environment philosophy, he has refused to be participate in the King County Bar Association evaluation process. [Note, 8/18/06: Johnson has received a rating of Well Qualified rating from KCBA, higher than their rating for Susan Owens. You'll notice that Johnson did not submit a questionnaire. I wonder how KCBA was able to do this evaluation fairly without interviewing Johnson or getting a questionnaire filled out?]

But all's not lost. First of all, the Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW) rated him as supporting their agenda 100% in the legislature last year. Even more importantly, featured prominently on Stephen Johnson's endorsements page is a proclamation: The King County Corrections Guild has unanimously voted to endorse Stephen Johnson with a rating of EXCEPTIONALLY WELL QUALIFIED.

We Washingtonians are facing an unprecedented assault on our ability to make and enforce our own laws.   Development, construction, and anti-government interests are backing Initiative 933, which would require government to pay private citizens and companies to comply with environmental and zoning laws. As the second punch of this one-two, these same interests are attempting to pack our courts with their hand-picked "property rights" judges who will rule their way when the I-933 cases come to court.

This election, these interests are backing Stephen Johnson and John Groen, who are challenging Justice Susan Ownens and Chief Justice Gerry Alexander, respectively. Neither Johnson nor Groen has judicial experience to prepare him to serve on our highest court. Groen, unlike Stephen Johnson, recently accepted over $100,000 in campaign contributions from real estate developers and builders - just one week before a new law made this illegal.  

Just what organizations are behind these dastardly doings?  There's some information on Washington's Public Disclosure Commission page .  But you don't get the whole story here.  In 1996, an initiative very similar to I-933 failed in Washington state.  Polling implicated the funding of the BIAW in this failure.  So BIAW is not funding this initiative directly.  But you see many of its members in the PDC donor list.   And, clearly, it is  participating in the judicial races, having endorsed both Johnson and Groen -- and printed up and distributed thousands of flyers for them.  And why not?  Senator Johnson supported the BIAW agenda 100% of the time in the legislature last year.

Washington State Farm Bureau, another backer of both Stephen Johnson and John Groen, is the main in-state financial sponsor of I-933. Their political director, Dan Wood, filed both I-933 and the 1996 initiative. The biggest contributor by far, however, at $200,000, is An Illinois group associated with Tom DeLay, Abramoff, and Grover Nordquist called Americans for Limited Government (ALG).  ALG is funding campaigns to overturn the environmental and zoning laws in about 10 states nationwide right now.  Washington is considered a keystone of this anti-government effort.

Sightline: I-933 worse than Oregon's Measure 37
Most likely, your next-door neighbor is now legally prohibited by zoning laws from building a gravel mine on his property.  Under I-933 he'd likely be granted the right to dig that mine.  In Oregon, where a similar initiative, Measure 37, was just passed, there really is a gravel mine being built in a residential neighborhood.   Bizzarely, I-933 goes way beyond Measure 37.   According to Sightline, it could remove from the government the power to require people to clean up stinking animal carcasses - or the power to regulate where sex shops are sited. The law is written so broadly that, depending on how it's interpreted, we would really lose most of our power of self-government over environmental matters here in Washington.

Measure 37, much less extreme than I-933, has been a disaster for Oregon.  The state courts have been flooded with thousands of lawsuits costing millions of dollars.  Property values are getting trashed. Former supporters of Measure 37 are coming out publicly stating their regret for having supported the law.  They feel tricked.

Under I-933, the quickly fading era of Tim Eyman is going to seem like a pleasant dream.   Our memories of him dressing up like Darth Vader and Buzz Lightyear and lamely accusing the Secretary of State of stealing the inititative signatures he didn't have the gosh darn initiative to get - all that's going to seem nostalgically quaint.  Even the horses ass thing, bucolic!

First off, we'll be paying an estimated one billion dollars annually  just to administer I-933.   Second, we'll be dealing with thousands of lawsuits from people who will say the government has already stolen their money (hey, psst - we might be able to sue for damages from laws that were passed a century ago!).    Third, the state will have to pay some people straight up without fighting them in court first.   Fourth, we'll be losing federal funding for stuff like highways because we'll out of compliance with Federal clean air and wildlife protection laws.

WA State Dept. Ecology: Losing our ability to govern our own state
Here's what I understand from Washington State Department of Ecology's (DOE) Analysis of I-933.  I've uploaded this pdf and linked to it here because it's so extreme, I want readers to be able to check my interpretation.

Under I-933, DOE tells us, Washington State could lose its authority to regulate toxic discharge into our waterways.  I-933 would probably result in the federal EPA   stepping in and taking over the protection of federal waterways.  State waterways would be largely unprotected.  

Under I-933, farmers who have been using water for decades under established rights could see their supplies dry up.  That's because anyone would be allowed under I-933 to use as much groundwater or upstream water as they could collect on their own private land.  In fact, they'd be allowed to waste the water as much as they want.  You can't do that legally now.

Under I-933, the burden of paying for pollution cleanup would shift from polluters to taxpayers.  Our state's vehicle emissions testing program could be declared illegal.  People would be able to burn garbage whenever they wanted.   Anyone could build in floodplains.   There are some people I've dealt with in this life-- and I think of them and it's like a dark cloud passes overhead.  With I-933, those kind of people, you know the kind of people who are completely self-centered or who even get off on harming others, their power is going to increase.

We have creeks here in my neighborhood that run through private property.   There are two on mine.   Under I-933, my husband and I will be allowed to divert or fill in the running creek, cut down all the trees, and build a casino.   Goodbye beautiful salmon, blue herons, green tree frogs, slithery snakes, fiddlehead ferns, stinging nettles, rufus-sided towees, raccoons, and piliated woodpeckers who are in my woods.  

Washington State Grange, an organization that more farmers belong to, warns us against I-933.  The Grange tells us that I-933 is likely to spawn many lawsuits. Republicans for Environmental protection says:  "REP America believes that `compensation for partial takings' legislation is generally unwise, and would be potentially an unacceptable burden on taxpayers."

Government and society will never be perfect.  But, surely, we can work our problems out in Washington among ourselves - liberals and conservatives, rural and city.  We live in a representative government that allows us to work through such matters under law.  Senator Johnson criticizes Susan Owens, the judge he is challenging, by saying she's pro-government.  Well, in a representative government, being pro-government is also pro-people, pro-community, and pro-security.  If we condemn government, don't we condemn our own power to protect our communities and air and waterways?

The three sitting Supreme Court judges who I think deserve our votes this primary:

Position 2:  Susan Owens
Position 8: Gerry Alexander
Position 9: Tom Chambers

This began as a (paper-saving) report for my neighbors in the Clover precinct of the 47th Legislative District, where I'm a Democratic precinct committee officer.  To my Clover neighbors who tune in here, welcome!  Thank you for visiting Washblog.  Please come visit again.   And please pass on the word to others.

< Mike! supports $1 billion paycut for tipped employees | Want to know where to target the campaign? Where GWB has only 20% support. >
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Dave Gibney Pullman

by gibney on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 12:09:24 AM PST

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This will be a useful URL to my hand made PCO lit which I am finally getting around to making / dropping off.

rmm.

http://www.liemail.com/BambooGrassroots.html

by rmdSeaBos on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 07:34:31 AM PST

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....if their ability to make a Yahoo Group private is any indication of their ability to run a political campaign, then the Yes on 933 folks are morons, and we really should stop worrying right now. </snark>

I'm with Obama

by willisreed on Tue Aug 08, 2006 at 10:37:48 AM PST

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To me, these idiotic selfish laws have a HUGE hole waiting for the right message -

When Boeing or Bob the Backyard Oil Refiner use their property how ever they want,

Then they COST ME MONEY!

what about the lost value of MY property cuz now I am living under a runway next to some idiot brewing gasoline in the blackberry bushes?

I've wondered about this for years.

I agree with Noemie's analysis and points, but

these initiatives do a such a "great" job at getting publicity cuz they really really trigger people's selfishness, SO

let's take the selfishness one more step -

HOW much do you lose when every jackass and every corporation with more money than you can do whatever they want, regardless of the impact on YOUR public and private property?

Are any of you aware of any ... Econ or B-School proffs ? labor groups ? someone, somewhere doing this kind of selfish money math?

Boeing / Jackass do what they want = YOU LOSE $50/ sqare foot on your house = $100 grand on your 2000 foot house =

maybe you should vote for it, if you are so go$$am stupid.

rmm.

http://www.liemail.com/BambooGrassroots.html

by rmdSeaBos on Mon Aug 07, 2006 at 07:44:08 AM PST

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