Being Kemper Freeman means being so rich that you never, ever need to take "no" for an answer.
For years, the wealthy Bellevue real estate and shopping mall developer who's never seen a patch of land he didn't want to improve with asphalt, has been trying to stop expansion of light rail to the Eastside. His experience even over just the last year tells a lot about how decisions get made — or not — in our one-dollar, one-vote version of democracy.
In April 2011, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled against Freeman's lawsuit to stop the use of the Interstate 90 floating bridge for light rail.
Last November, voters decisively rejected Initiative 1125, a Tim Eyman measure almost entirely bankrolled by Freeman that would have (among many other things) blocked a major source of funding for light-rail expansion.
Then, in early March, Judge
Michael Cooper of Kittitas County Superior Court ruled against another Freeman lawsuit — this one seeking to block the use of the I-90 bridge's current express lanes for light rail rather than cars.
If you're wondering what on earth a judge in Ellensburg is doing ruling on the details of funding transportation across Lake Washington, you're clearly not familiar with the concept of shopping for the most sympathetic possible court. Yes, even Republican Kittitas County, where they don't need no stinkin' public transit, slapped Freeman down.
It doesn't matter.
Some wealthy people use their riches to feed starving Africans, fund the local opera, buy a sports team or invest in the next big thing. Freeman uses his to try to pave everything in a thousand-planet radius, by hiring lawyers, filing initiatives and buying politicians.
One of whom is his ace-in-the-hole in the face of years of the courts and the public rejecting Freeman's anachronistic, automobile-centric ethic.
Because Rob McKenna just might be your next governor.
McKenna, the Republican attorney general, is currently neck-and-neck in the polls with former Rep. Jay Inslee in the race to replace Gov. Christine Gregoire. For years, he's worked hard — with the help of fawning media coverage in places like The Seattle Times — to project an image of being a moderate, "reasonable" Republican, not like those fundamentalist, Tea Party-ish crazies that keep losing statewide elections. McKenna's done so primarily by avoiding visible stances on divisive or culture-war issues.
Mind you, he's just as much an ideologue as any Tea Partier. But with the conspicuous exception of joining other Republican state attorneys general in the lawsuit to end ObamaCare now before the U. S. Supreme Court (against the wishes of Gregoire, the state Legislature, and — if you believe polls — a solid majority of Washingtonians), McKenna has not publicly thrown a lot of red meat to his base.
So some people were surprised when, on March 21, McKenna appeared before a gathering of the Freeman-funded, road-friendly Eastside Transportation Association and said, among other things, that he is a “deep, deep skeptic of bringing light rail across
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