Initiative 517, a self-serving contrivance from Tim Eyman’s shop, is curiously un-Eyman-ish. Conservative and nonpartisan totems such as private property rights and free speech fall away. The mission is to make gentle the life of paid signature gatherers and those who make a living pedaling initiatives.
Think metaphorically. I-517 is 90 percent pig, 10 percent lipstick. The pig (substitute your least-favorite barnyard critter) is an invasive beast who tramples over property and can’t be challenged. I-517 permits paid signature gatherers to accost citizens inside public facilities such as Woodland Park Zoo, Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field. The sanctuary of the downtown Everett Public Library? You’ll need to navigate the gantlet.
Under the initiative, signature gatherers are legally protected on public-traffic walkways even if it’s someone’s private property. The language reads, “Including those in front of the entrances and exits of any store,” your property or no.
Supporters reason that signature gatherers won’t pony up for tickets to enter a stadium, but that’s a pay-no-attention response, especially with liberal and conservative initiatives bankrolled by deep-pocketed interests. There’s a reason that the Seahawks and the Sounders, sports teams that avoid the political fray, are on the record opposing I-517. It’s bad for business.
The Association of Washington Business, the Washington Food Industry Association and the Washington Retail Association all have said nay. That’s in part because of the 25-foot buffer rule, which places signature gatherers off limits from their opponents.
A signature gatherer advocating euthanasia for aging baby boomers would go unchallenged outside a QFC because interference would constitute criminal behavior. If an aging baby boomer, sensitive to questions of generational snuffing, stands in front of the signature gatherer and tells passers-by that the proposal is gawd awful, she would be interfering and in violation of the law.
Picture each signature gatherer riding the Seattle Center’s old Bubbleator. You may counter-protest (thank you, First Amendment) but only outside the bubble.
Finally, there’s the lipstick, the sensible feature subsumed by the rest of the pig. I-517 gives initiative backers a year to collect the required number of signatures to qualify it for the ballot. This would be a welcome reform — signatures track with the state’s population — and align Washington with other states such as Alaska and Montana, which give signers a year. It also clears the way for non-moneyed interests to make the cut.
Lawmakers need to tackle timelines for signature gathering separate from the dross of I-517. A pig with lipstick is still a pig. Vote no on I-517.