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Dori: Tim Eyman-Jay Inslee coverage may as well have come from state-run media

Gov. Inslee and Tim Eyman argue on Thursday, Jan. 9. (KIRO 7 screengrab)

I don’t know what kind of chance you and I as taxpayers have when the media, at times, takes positions that makes it look like our media is state-run. Thursday’s news about Tim Eyman, Governor Inslee, and car tabs is a perfect example of this.

This is an issue that affects regular people across the region. People in their 20s who are in their first, second, or third jobs and aren’t making a lot of dough yet can’t afford to pay $400 just for their 10-year-old cars to be licensed. Working-class, middle-income families in which Mom, Dad, and the 16-year-old daughter all have cars can’t afford $1,000 per year. And so the voters spoke loudly and clearly with I-976, November’s $30 tabs initiative.

What we’ve seen since then is nothing but legal manipulations, such as the lawsuit against 976, to try to continue to collect this illegally-calculated tax that taxpayers voted down.

In late November, Jay Inslee released a statement saying that the state portion of the car tab revenue collected would go in an escrow account so that it could be returned to people if $30 tabs are held up in court. Like 99 percent of you, I assumed that meant that for people whose car tabs have been collected in December and January (after $30 tabs should have gone into effect), if you paid $500, then $470 was waiting in an escrow account for you.

Tim Eyman on confronting Governor Inslee over car tab escrow account

Wrong. We found out on Thursday that the only part of the money that the state is holding in escrow is the state portion of the tabs — maybe $20 per set of tabs. But all of the money going to Sound Transit and local cities is being spent … and that means that you’re probably not going to see it again. They’ll say, “We’re sorry, but we already spent the money. We just don’t have it.”

On Thursday, Eyman confronted Inslee about it at an Associated Press event. During that confrontation, Inslee made a crack about Eyman stealing the chair from Office Depot last year. “Sit down, just don’t steal that chair,” Inslee said to him.

The story here is that the government is stealing your car tab money. Most of it is not going in escrow. It is being distributed to Sound Transit and the cities. If you pay your car tabs, you are never going to get that money back. That’s a huge story. It’s a story that affects families. It’s a story that affects readers, viewers, and listeners.

But for the media that may as well be state-run, the only aspect of this story worth covering was that Jay Inslee sent a zinger at Tim Eyman.

We have a First Amendment. It means that our press is empowered to be a watchdog of government. And thank goodness for that because it means we can alert people to let them know that this money that everyone believed was going to be returned to them if 976 is upheld is not actually being saved for them. This is a huge revelation that greatly affects families’ wallets.

Here is how we covered it. Our headline was, “Tim Eyman on confronting Gov. Inslee over car tab escrow account.” It wasn’t about the chair or any of the other nonsense that doesn’t affect your life. I touched on the chair, sure, because it was a funny moment, but it was not the focus or lede of the article. For the other media outlets, however, the narrative was, “Tim Eyman = bad, government = great.”

Does anyone else in the media have a problem with government stealing hundreds of dollars from each car owner through these shenanigans? Does anyone else in the media have a problem with government ignoring the will of a majority of voters? How in the world does everyone else in the media not care about that?

Yes, Tim Eyman stole a $70 chair from an office supply store. He admitted it and reached a settlement in court. But why is that, in the minds of my fellow media members, a billion times more important than the government stealing hundreds or even a thousand dollars from each family in this region? Inslee could have put a stop to it — he is a billion times more of a thief than Tim Eyman. Jay Inslee promised he would not raise taxes and has signed off on the four biggest tax increases in the history of our state. He has been one of the driving forces in ignoring the will of the voters in 976.

I like most of the news operations in town, I really do. But I’m trying to coach them a little. You need to start looking at what affects the lives of your audience members. And you have to start covering the news in a way that is reflective of the biggest concerns in their lives. Seattle may be far to the Left, but suburban King County is very moderate. All of my listeners in the surrounding areas appreciate watchdogs of government. I really do not understand how everyone else in the media does not understand that.

Too often, the media is not about keeping tabs on government or helping out your family. It’s about helping their buddies in government.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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