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Auditor calls Eyman on his ‘B.S.’


September 6, 2017

Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel isn’t having Tim Eyman’s “B.S.”

Eyman, a Mukilteo resident known for his perennial statewide voter initiatives aimed at cutting taxes, volunteered earlier this year to pen a statement opposing a city sales tax measure for the county’s fall voter’s pamphlet.

As county elections officials proofread statements last week, they came across Eyman’s use of that acronym and decided it was inappropriate for the pamphlet.

On Tuesday, Weikel officially rejected his use of the term, calling it profane, and giving him until Thursday to either change the wording or appeal the decision to the county prosecutor. Otherwise, Eyman’s statement would be nixed from the pamphlet entirely.

“Removal of the term “B.S.” from the rebuttal statement does not prevent you from expressing your arguments against Proposition 1,” Weikel wrote. “You may do so with any word choice that is non-profane and does not imply a profanity.”

Eyman on Tuesday said he plans to appeal the decision, maintaining that the auditor’s decision infringes on his right to free speech.

“I do not concede and I do not believe this is vulgar, obscene or even inappropriate,” he said. “This isn’t one of George Carlin’s seven dirty words you can’t say on television. It is so G-rated; it is really so tame and sedate.”

Eyman mocked Weikel, calling her a prude and comparing her to a nun with a ruler. Weikel said she’s no prude; rather she’s trying to uphold the professional integrity of the county’s publication.

“I feel a responsibility to maintain a professional level of discourse in this local voter’s pamphlet,” she said. “Using personal attacks on other people, using profanity or vulgar language, I think jeopardizes that.”

Proposition 1 gives Mukilteo voters a chance to weigh in on how to pay for city street maintenance and pedestrian improvements. It asks for a one-tenth of 1 percent increase in the city sales tax, which would make Mukilteo’s the highest in the state.

Eyman said he sees this as an opportunity to send a message to elected officials that taxes are already high enough.

On the other side are Glen Pickus, Melanie Field and Nicole Thomsen, who wrote the pro statement. They contend street preservation is a well-identified need and a sales tax is the best way to cover its $1.35 million annual cost.

“The fact the city needs more money for street maintenance, sidewalks, and bike lanes is indisputable,” they wrote.

In his rebuttal, Eyman wrote: “Politicians always say the need for higher taxes is ‘indisputable.’ We call B.S. on that.”

Eyman admits there are plenty of other ways to make the same point, but said he should be free to liven up the language in order get the attention of voters.

“You are dealing with a voter’s pamphlet that is probably the most milk-toast thing you’ve ever read,” he said, noting that he never uses such language in messages to his supporters. “Would it be easy to just roll over? Yes, but I’m a political activist. I think the onus is on the government to say why this is wrong. How do we know what is appropriate or inappropriate unless the government tells us?”

When her staff brought the issue to her attention last week, Weikel said she decided the term wasn’t appropriate for this particular venue.

“The local voter’s pamphlet is certainly not prohibiting Tim from saying what he wants in other venues,” she said. “In this venue, though, we have rules.”

County administrative rules give Weikel the authority to decide whether a statement is “libelous or otherwise inappropriate.” She said those rules are based on existing state law passed by the Legislature.

“In trying to define what can and can’t be said, you can’t get everything,” she said. “By making it broader, it takes into consideration all the things you can’t remember when writing your legislative rules.”

Weikel, who served as elections manager for several years prior to becoming auditor, said this is the first time anyone has pushed back when asked to re-word a statement.

“In the past, candidates have verbally attacked their opponents in very negative ways,” she said. “We have reached out to them and said we don’t accept this kind of discourse, and candidates have always changed what we asked them to change. I honestly don’t remember any candidate actually using vulgar language.”

Eyman said he’s equally disturbed by the fact that the auditor regulates what candidates put in their statements.

“Political speech is supposed to be the most protected speech,” he said. “If I’m a candidate, why can’t I tell people that I’m running against a horrible person and here’s why? How disturbing does it sound that they are micromanaging these things and people are rolling over and changing their language?”


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