With Tim Eyman in audience, Lynnwood City Council passes resolution opposing car-tab Initiative 976

Tim Eyman speaks to the Lynnwood City Council Monday night.

The Lynnwood City Council passed a resolution Monday supporting rejection of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 976 on the grounds that it would be detrimental to city road maintenance.

By a 5-2 margin, the council voted to oppose a proposal from Eyman — an anti-tax activist — that would cap car tab fees at $30, rate vehicle prices at Kelly Blue Book value and “repeal, reduce or remove” the city’s authority to impose certain vehicle registration taxes and fees.

Initiative 976 will appear on the Nov. 5 general election ballot. Ballots will be mailed to voters later this week.

During the council’s public comments period Monday, Eyman accused the council of levying “dishonest” taxes and said the city took advantage of Lynnwood residents by not giving them a chance to vote on the city-imposed $40 car tab fee. Eyman added that the council’s proposed resolution was an illegal effort to oppose a citizen initiative.

“What really infuriates people is the government telling people how they should vote,” he said.

With general election ballots set to drop this week, Eyman has been lobbying cities for support. Multiple cities like Seattle have unanimously voted to oppose the initiative. Recently, the Lacey City Council refused to take a stand on the issue.

During the discussion, Councilmember Ruth Ross said she was in favor of the resolution, noting that the car tab fees provide funding for city roads. Ross pointed out that as a result of the 2008 recession, the city was left with little to no funding for road improvement projects for 15 years. Lynnwood was only recently able to provide annual maintenance, she added.

Additionally, Ross disagreed that the council was telling residents how to vote.

“We know that our residents are smart enough to vote for themselves,” she said.

Road improvement projects are funded by the city’s Transportation Benefit District (TBD), which receives revenue from the city’s car tab fees and a voter-approved 0.1% increase in the city’s sales tax that generates $2.5 million per year. According to city Public Works Director Bill Franz, $1.1 million of Lynnwood’s road maintenance funding comes from city-imposed car tab fees. I-976 would eliminate that TBD revenue, he said.

Before voting in favor of the resolution, Councilmember Ian Cotton said improved roads help address the city’s traffic issues — the top concern he hears when speaking with residents.

“One of the primary mechanisms we have in place to mitigate traffic is improvements to, expansion of and well-maintained transportation systems like our roads,” he said.

Cotton conceded he could understand how it would appear the council is trying to influence how Lynnwood residents vote, but said that was not the case.

Voting against the resolution were City Council President Ben Goodwin and Councilmember George Hurst. Speaking to his decision, Goodwin said he was not voting for or against I-976, only the resolution. He said he agreed with Eyman that the council was using city resources to encourage people to vote against the resolution.

“This is not either a nay or yay on the initiative itself,” he said. “This is yay or nay on the process that we’re going through to do this, I don’t think is right.”

Hurst said he would not support the resolution because I-976 was based on a citizen petition and the council should acknowledge the wants of Lynnwood residents who signed.

“When we express that it should be a ‘no’ on a citizen initiative, that’s where I have a problem,” he said.

Lynnwood’s TBD Board in 2016 adopted an ordinance increasing the annual fee from $20 to $40 — effective February 2017. Voters in April 2017 approved the 0.1% sales and use tax increase to fund Lynnwood roads.

–Story and photo by Cody Sexton