A Measure 37 in Washington’s Future?

In a sign of a spreading movement, the passage of Oregon’s Measure 37 (see here, here, and here) is inspiring activists in neighboring Washington to pursue their own property rights initiative. The Puget Sound Business Journal writes:

“Emboldened by the success of property-rights initiative Measure 37 in Oregon, critics of Washington’s current land-use policies are considering launching an initiative of their own. Several prominent property-rights and land-use groups expect to meet Jan. 14 at the Olympia offices of the Building Industry Association of Washington to discuss the possibility. Organizer Gary Tripp of Bainbridge Citizens United is bringing together some of the state’s initiative veterans — including the BIAW and Tim Eyman — with Measure 37’s sponsor, Oregonians in Action. OIA executive director David Hunnicutt will speak at the meeting. Other groups sending representatives include the Pacific Legal Foundation, the Washington Farm Bureau, the Washington State Grange and the Washington Policy Center. Tripp said he’s lining up a spokesperson, a campaign manager and funding for the group, tentatively called Balanced Rights.”

More power to ’em. But according to the Seattle Times

“Environmental activists say they’ll be ready to fight it. ‘We’re definitely starting to work on the issue,’ said Tim Trohimovich, planning director for the environmental group 1000 Friends of Washington.”

The Business Journal adds:

“‘What happened in Oregon is they got stuck with a misleading ballot title. That’s not going to happen here,’ said John Healy, communications director with land-use environmental group 1000 Friends of Washington. ‘The conventional wisdom says that a good ballot title is worth a couple of million dollars in campaign contributions.’ Healy says he expects that once the effects of Measure 37 become clear, Oregon voters will want it modified. In the meantime, Healy expects a fight in Washington, with property rights groups on one side and the environmental community, labor, cities and counties on the other. ‘This would be a big fight,’ Healy said, ‘and I suspect there would be national players involved.’ “

Hmmm. The ballot title for Measure 37 was, “Governments Must Pay Owners, or Forgo Enforcement, When Certain Land Use Restrictions Reduce Property Value.” Doesn’t seem that misleading to me; in fact, it seems pretty straightforward and consistent with what the initiative calls for. I don’t think that the title was the problem in Oregon. Voters displayed their dissatisfaction with the way statewide land use planning has played out there over the last thirty+ years. It will be interesting to see how this battle plays out in Washington. Will enviros will be able learn from the Measure 37 experience to refine their message in a way more palatable to voters? Anti-Measure 37 groups suffered a major defeat in Oregon, with some 60% of voters passing the initiative and all but one county voting for it. Stay tuned.