Seattle parks: What's with a mid-summer vote on a long-term change?

Guest Opinion: The city ballot measure represents a loss of control over their parks for voters.
Seattle's Seward Park

Seattle's Seward Park Flickr user joeydz

Proposition 1 to create a Metropolitan Park District in Seattle is not what it appears to be. It is not a parks levy; it is, instead, a measure that will forever change the administration of our city parks. While appearing to be a relatively benign product of deliberate effort by its proponents, it is a drastic measure being rushed to an emergency-type vote in August, when relatively few people will cast ballots, for a change that can never be erased or modified by the taxpayers of the City of Seattle.

Among concerns raised by the prospect of the approval of a Metropolitan Park District these points are salient:

  • It is designed to increase your property tax significantly without your authorization.
  • Its governance, however, would be by the same City Council members who currently oversee the city parks but who are constrained by having to seek voter-endorsement of their proposed levy on your property value every six years.
  • Once converted to the MPD our parks funds will be subject to lobbying for non-park uses or inappropriate actions by its Board to support things like new waterfront tourist attractions, professional sports arenas and other uses that should be sifted by voters and other stakeholders.
  • Governed by state law rather than by city ordinances, the district, once created, cannot be reversed or altered by city voter initiative, meaning that it could endure many decades even if it is shown to be unsatisfactory.
  • Less inflexible alternatives, such as development impact fees, should be considered as a way to fund the current and increasing need for parks that results from increased development.

Your tax will be increased because the levy rate will no longer be subject to voter approval and, while initially it will be a modest increase, by law it could at any time be raised from the $33 per $100,000 valuation now being planned to $75 per $100,000.  For an average home value of $500,000, this could yield a tax of $375 per year for the indeterminate lifespan of the MPD with no possibility of voter rejection, approval or modification.

Why would the City Council want to create a mirror image of itself as an MPD board when it can already tax beyond the lid with a vote of the people? Precisely: The point of the MPD is that they would not have to face prudent spending limitations enforced by a vote. The lack of adequate funding at all levels of city government for all of its dependencies is the reason-for-being of the MPD. With it, they won’t ever have to ask us again. Is this the reason the City Council is stampeding Seattle voters to a rush vote in August? Many also wonder if the current council wants to do this now, well prior to 2015 elections of a majority of city council seats by geographical area, and in August, when voters are paying the least attention to civic affairs than any other season except Christmas.

Finally, Proposition 1 is not finding public favor in spite of proponents’ efforts to portray it as an unadulterated blessing for kids, families and all of nature's creatures that use or populate our parks. The directors of the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County have voted unanimously to oppose this weakening of the public’s oversight from turning over the parks to the same council but without direct public influence on crucial budget and policy matters.

On Aug. 5, vote no on Proposition 1 to assure future public control of our city parks while retaining some measure of balance in the budgetary allocation of scarce taxpayer dollars. An MPD is a bad governance approach; other, good government approaches should be fully explored before committing the city to an irreversible course of action to maintain our city’s beautiful parks.

Earl J. Bell is Professor Emeritus in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington.


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Comments:

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 7:49 a.m. Inappropriate

Bill Lucia's piece in today's Crosscut reinforces Professor Bell's concerns and those of all of us who oppose an MPD for Seattle. "The City Council is thinking about sweetening the pot for hotel developers as part of Seattle's downtown waterfront redevelopment."

Seattle's "downtown waterfront redevelopment," also known as the Waterfront Park, is scheduled to receive $4 million per year beginning in 2019 if the MPD passes, and this number could be yanked upward at any time by a vote of Seattle City Council acting as the MPD Board of Directors. Why should fixed-income homeowners out in the neighborhoods be taxed to death to pay for downtown goodies that will mostly attract tourists and out-of-towners? The economic benefit there does not flow to us, although we would be on the hook to pay for it.

And that's only one of my concerns. The blandly-named "Seattle Park District" or MPD is a Trojan horse. Vote NO.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 10:18 a.m. Inappropriate

This parks plan is a terrible idea, and should be voted "NO". If you like the way Sound transit is governed you'll love this new commission.

GaryP

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 7:04 p.m. Inappropriate

Everybody at Crosscut thinks Sound Transit's unique governance structure is the best.

"The Seattle Process" produced (and nurtures) it. Plus, the ways Sound Transit deviates from a representative democracy suggests the state legislature "innovates" around here "just like what happens in ecommerce, software, and aircraft".

Those narratives are encouraged at Crosscut.

crossrip

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

Just say 'NO' to creating another un-elected panel with little public oversight.

The Seattle City Council has turned a deaf-ear to voters for too long. The City Council's near-Royal behavior may be the result of their top-in-the-nation-salaries & benefit package, and a too-cozy relationship with developers.

Voters tossed Councilmember Conlin out of office last year for wrong-thinking and bad policies. More of the city council need to follow Conlin out the door.

This MPD proposal is wrong for Seattle, wrong for taxpayers, and more evidence that top-down change is needed in City Hall.

Save "OUR" parks, keep voters in the driver's seat, and vote NO on the MPD.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 12:08 p.m. Inappropriate

Recently the City Council created regulations designed to prevent Uber and Lyft from competing with the existing taxi cartel. The companies successfully circulated referendum petitions, suspending the new scheme. Instead of referring the issue to the voters, the Council repealed it knowing how unpopular was what they had done.

The MPD has no referendum, and no initiative. That means less accountability. Vote NO.

simorgh

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 1:07 p.m. Inappropriate

This piece is full of errors:

1) All city ordinances apply. The park district is a revenue source that's dedicated to parks. Nothing more.

2) Revenue must be used for parks. People saying it will be used for stadiums might as well add UFOs into the mix, to be thorough.

3) It will increase taxes by $4 per momth if you own a $400,000 house. But that's the point, to raise revenue for parks to deal with major maintenance backlog of $267 million.

4) Nearly a year of public process led to the Mayor and Council unanimously recommending Prop 1. Yes, that includes Sawant, O'Brien and Licata.

5) The folks opposed are fighting for the status quo, in their own words. That may be fine in some neighborhoods, but others want longer community center hours, lower fees, more and better ball fields and safer, cleaner parks

Don't be fooled. Prop 1 is about taking care of our parks. The opponents say they love parks, they just don't want to invest in them.

Vote YES on Prop 1. Please.

hbkahn

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 5 p.m. Inappropriate

HBKAHN - you need to read the RCW that governs what an MPD can and cannot do.... read examples in the RCW of what qualify as parks & recreation...

Public process that held 3 public meetings that resulted in an 81% preference for levies over the MPD.... and the committee didn't even discuss the results of the meetings but went straight to a ballot language poll created by a political action committee in favor of the MPD to help them decide what to recommend?

Vote NO on Prop 1.... This could be your very last vote for parks if you vote yes.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 7:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Talk about "full of errors":

1) MPD is created under state law and is subject to state law. City Charter referendum and initiative do NOT apply to Park District actions. The contract between District and City is an illusory promise; it can be cancelled at any time. There is a good chance the revenue stream is subject to the bidding requirement of RCW 35.61.135, opening Park operations to union busting and privitization.

2) Your sneering is inapt; read the MPD statute.

3) The Park District board can more than double the initially promised tax rate at any time without another vote.

4) The so-called liberal block of Sawant, O'Brien, and Licata would be well off to be more careful about whose interests they are representing. Disappointment runs deep.

5) I am not fighting for the status quo. I want a more equitable tax structure in this state as well as a better maintained park system (and also less focus on hard infrastructure and more on open space). In the meantime, I also do NOT want to institute an undemocratic institution that will plague us indefinitely.

Don't be fooled: Prop 1 is about setting up an irrevocable and unaccountable revenue stream.

louploup

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 8:45 p.m. Inappropriate

The "contract" between the City and the District is an ordinance. It's law. The revenue stream is irrevocable (a good thing) but not unaccountable. District elections is supposed to make your City Council member more accountable to the district and easier to elect/unelect. If you don't like what the oversight committee recommends, or what the Council then approves, unelect them.

MissRuby

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 8:23 a.m. Inappropriate

The Interlocal Agreement (ILA) is NOT an ordinance. It is authorized by an ordinance. By its own terms, it is terminable at will by either party (the City through Council and Mayor or the District through Council sitting ex officio). Regardless, state law trumps city law when there is a conflict. Like the bidding provision of RCW 35.61.135, that is explicitly counter to a provision in the ILA.

As I have stated repeatedly, election of Council members in their duel roles give little real accountability for the District. They will be re-elected based on overall performance, not on performance or use of District's revenue stream. City Charter referendum and initiative DO NOT APPLY. Saying election of council members by district improves "accountability" for the Park District overall is a fraud.

At best, as a result of district elections, the money will be allocated more fairly geographically. In that regard, tell me, do you think the 7 district members are going to be able to undo the millions of $ already wired into the District's revenue stream for the waterfront (District 7) or the Zoo (District 6)? Do you think the Council as a whole sitting as Park District Commission--without ANY ability by voters or mayor to check their power, are going to resist raising the tax rate to the max over time?

louploup

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

I think the money allocated for the Zoo and Waterfront is a smart and important allocation.

MissRuby

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 8:47 a.m. Inappropriate

HBKAHN,

The Seattle City Council keeps getting drug into court for spending City Light & Public Utility charges paid by rate payers for purposes other than delivering a kilowatt or a drop of water. (E.g. Shifting payment for street lighting, which is a basic service provided for from general tax fund, to the utility). They lose after appealing to the State Supreme Court. So what does the Council then do? Try and re-structure the spending so that it has a tenuous connection to being NECESSARY for delivering a kilowatt or drop of water. Then then get challenged via a letter, which they ignore. They then get sued again, lose again, appeal again, lose again. Why would I want to give them a public parks entity as another slush fund to do the same thing that do with our utility payments?

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 1:23 p.m. Inappropriate

As noted by hbkahn, this piece is rife with what he calls errors, but what are nothing more than bald faced lies.

The constraints of revenue to city governments are thanks to a stupid 1% rule, and an inability to levy an income tax. To imply that impact fees would ever be on the table, or, worse, would create revenue enough to fund operations of our parks is ludicrous, and even some of the parks opponents recognize that.

It boils down to taxes. Do you believe that we should pay taxes for goods and services - essential services like community centers and programming for seniors and families. Or should those only be for people who can afford them.

Instead, Mr. Bell joins with the biggest threats, the biggest enemies of parks in Seattle, in using blatant lies and distortions to argue against taxes. Stable funding for parks, community centers, and programming - that is what Proposition 1 is about. Mr. Bell advocates for the Tim Eyman method - micromanaging budgets at the ballot box.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Read RCW 35.61. Very few city governments levy an income tax. Detroit has one.

Everyone believes we should pay taxes for essential services. Straw man arguing will not settle this. Voters will -- and if they vote Yes they will NEVER get a second chance.

simorgh

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 7:53 p.m. Inappropriate

List the "blatant lies" please.

louploup

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

“My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.” -- Thomas Jefferson

The MPD is too much government. Unnecessary, and it allows our out-of-touch city council to devote those tax dollars now directed to Parks to be spent elsewhere. This is a net increase in taxes, plain and simple. But, it is also a transfer of taxing authority away from voters.

No to MPD.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 1:57 p.m. Inappropriate

I find it extremely significant that the League of Women Voters who focus on good governance recommend a no vote. The Metropolitan Democratic Club also recommmends no.

Yes, we who think this is just wrong and anti-democratic are not crazy.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

I see that the Seattle Times also had a recent editorial and their board says to Vote NO.

Treker

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 3:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Opponents to Prop 1 are cynically twisting facts and tapping into anti-government, anti-tax rhetoric—even paranoia—that is corrosive to our public life and does a grave disservice to our city. Their victory would be an enormous loss for all of us.

ptb

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 5:04 p.m. Inappropriate

just want to get this right.... you are saying that the League of Women Voters, the Seattle Times, the Metropolitan Democratic Club are anti-govt, anti-tax, paranoid and are corrosive to public life.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 6:34 p.m. Inappropriate

The Times, yes. Others are just misinformed.

MissRuby

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 7:54 p.m. Inappropriate

List the "twisted facts" please.

louploup

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 3:09 p.m. Inappropriate

This op-ed and the entire opposition is cynically twisting facts and tapping into anti-government, anti-tax rhetoric that is corrosive to our public life and is a great disservice to our city.

We have the opportunity to vote on an incredible park package that builds on the incredible legacy that early city leaders had the foresight to invest in.

Let’s come together and prove Seattle truly loves parks and the values of community, access, and equity that they embody!

Not to mention the dozens of neighborhood groups, parks advocates, labor groups, human services organizations, environmental groups who have endorsed the measure.

Vote YES!

caphill

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 5:11 p.m. Inappropriate

so who is writing your yes on prop 1 comments? funny that two different people just used the same phrases!

your comment writer needs to do more work on details and facts and not just "love your parks" blah blah blah

you are obviously facing an uphill battle when you have to resort to labels and name-calling....

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Here's a partial list of "NO on Prop 1" endorsements:

League of Women Voters, Seattle-King County
Seattle Times Editorial Board
Seattle Community Council Federation
Laurelhurst Community Club
Central Area Neighborhood District Council
The Metropolitan Democratic Club
The Seattle-King County Realtors

More endorsements are coming in every day.

Just say no to Proposition 1, it's another bad idea from the Seattle City Council.

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:48 a.m. Inappropriate

By "partial" you mean "comprehensive." Here's the organizational endorsements for Yes on Prop 1:

11th District Democrats
32nd District Democrats
34th District Democrats
36th District Democrats
37th District Democrats
43rd District Democrats
Alliance for Pioneer Square
Allied Arts of Seattle
Arboretum Foundation
Aquarium Foundation
Berger Partnership
Cascade Bicycle Club
Downtown Residents Council
Downtown Seattle Association
Earth Corps
ECOSS (Environmental Coalition of South Seattle)
El Centro de la Raza
Feet First
Forterra
Freeway Park Association
Friends of Athletic Fields
Friends of the Seattle Waterfront
Friends of Seattle’s Olmsted Parks
Green Plate Special
Groundswell NW
King County Conservation Voters
King County Democrats
King County Young Democrats
Laborers Local 1239
Martin Luther King County Labor Council
Nature Consortium
Neighborhood House
North Central Little League
Northwest Ultimate Association
Nube9
Professional and Technical Employees, Local 17
Recreational Adult Team Soccer (RATS)
Sierra Club
Senior Services
Seward Park Audubon Center
Seattle Fire Fighters Union, Local 27
Seattle Human Services Coalition
Seattle Neighborhood Greenways
Seattle Parks Foundation
Seattle Tilth
Seattle Youth Soccer Association
Skate Like a Girl
South Park Neighborhood Association
South Park Area Redevelopment Committee (SPARC)
Southwest Youth and Family Services
Student Conservation Association, Northwest Region
Teamsters Local 117
Transportation Choices Coalition
Trust for Public Land
United Association Local 32 - Plumbers and Pipefitters
Urban Sparks
Volunteer Park Trust
Walker Macy
Washington Conservation Voters
Washington State Council of County & City Employees PAC
Washington Bikes
Washington Trails Association
Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition
West Seattle Green Spaces Coalition
Woodland Park Zoological Society

hbkahn

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 4:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Fortunately, besides the 15 citizens who spent 9 months studying the issue, nine Councilmembers who deal with park funding annually and the Mayor who all agree that an MPD is the best and only alternative to solve our park funding crisis, over 60 civic organizations have endorsed Proposition 1. The Time are clearly outliers in their opposition, and the Times has never supported a City Parks Levy. Some of the endorsing organizations and elected officials are: the 11th, 32nd, 36th, 37th, 43rd Democratic Legislative Districts, and MLKC Democrats; former Mayor's Royer, Rice, Schell, Nickels, McGinn; Washington and King County Conservation Voters; Sierra Club, Forterra (formerly Cascade Land Conservancy; Earth Corps; Feet First; Transportation Choices Coalition; Trust for Public Land; Human Services Coalition; Allied Arts; El Centro de la Raza; South Park Area Redevelopment Committee; Southwest Youth and Family Services; Neighborhood House; Senior Services; Washington Trails Association; Washington Wildlife and Recreation Coalition; Cascade Bicycle Club; Friends of Athletic Fields; North Central Little League; Seattle Youth Soccer Association; Arboretum Foundation; Aquarium Foundation; Friends of Seattle's Olmsted Parks; Seattle Neighborhood Greenways; Seattle Parks Foundation; Volunteer Park Trust; West Seattle Green Spaces Coalition; Woodland Park Zoological Society; King County Labor Council; and that's not all. You get the picture. Don't let the Times and a few anti-government opponents persuade you. Listen to the masses! Vote yes on Prop 1.

twain

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 4:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Twice the Times has editorialized against the Parks Levy under the current system. Now it editorializes in opposition to changing the system. Their editorial board sounds like the right-wingers in DC: no to everything.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 7:57 p.m. Inappropriate

Pure ad hominem

I am often in disagreement with right-wing crap in the Times, but that's irrelevant. You say absolutely nothing about why Prop 1 is a good governance measure or why the opponents arguments are incorrect.

louploup

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 6 p.m. Inappropriate

Well, like Stakeholder, let's see what kind of list Caphill has in mind .
Remember VOTERS , there will be other levys on the ballot along with the MPD's I agree with Professor Bell's expertise.
It is a levy closeted in legalese that leaves out the public decisions about their money, and more taxes they may well be unable to afford, considering the current financiA climate.

I will gladly vote for a higher direct Parks Levy, not the MPD levy. I urge Seattleites to vote for an unencumbered
larger Parks Levy LL

Lenny

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 6:35 p.m. Inappropriate

For the discussion on uses, RCW 36.69.010is on the web and lists what the board can spend the money on. It does allow the board to define other recreational uses. I guess in response to the UFO, if we were in Roswell N.M. And wanted to acquire. UFO viewing park, it would be allowed.

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 8:54 a.m. Inappropriate

You ignore the history of the City using City Light and Seattle Public Utilities to bilk ratepayers for those services into paying for services that are really general fund services, like street lighting, open space, etc. The City gets sued, goes to the Washington Supreme Court, loses, and then tries to dress up the provision of general fund services via ratepayer money by creating some new tenuous connection to spending necessary to deliver a kilowatt. If they don't have the good faith to abide by the RCW, what it says is not relevant.

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 6:42 p.m. Inappropriate

There is NOT a levy planned. Levy capacity is being allocated to other items, like universal pre-school. THIS is our way to pay for parks. I don't know who Professor Bell is, but I put the credentials and expertise of the citizens group and electeds who researched and organized this proposal up against the opposition any day. Bell and his ilk have raised concerns that sound paranoid and old-fashioned. I don't know what to make of the League on this. I used to respect that organization, but I think current leadership has made a mistake here and is about to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

MissRuby

Posted Fri, Jul 11, 9:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Researchers around the country, who specialize in parks and recreation finance, have established park taxing districts as one of the best means of creating long-term stability for public parks, especially during hard times. The proposed Park District tax rate is 3% of the total current levy rate on your tax bill, a fair price for us to pay for clean, safe and well maintained parks, including restoring operating hours of our Community Centers throughout the city.

Governance will be very similar to the current system, where the Parks Department, under the Mayor, and with substantial citizen input, will submit a fully fleshed-out budget proposal for Parks to City Council. The Council will perform its typical budget review (their biggest job for the entire city budget). They will not be creating a new shadow government, nor will they be building professional sports areas.

Impact fees are limited by state law, as the professor should know. It would be nice if Seattle had such authority, but good luck changing those laws in Olympia.

Forrest

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 8:36 a.m. Inappropriate

The City of Seattle does have "such authority" (impact fees). Many of the surrounding cites use it. The downtown establishment (including probably the Times) has prevented consideration of the mechanism in Seattle for years.

In the process leading to Prop 1 impact fees were explicitly kept off the table during the consideration of possible funding mechanisms. Impact fees are not a panacea and can only provide a portion of the funds needed to properly maintain our parks, but they are clearly part of the solution to address needs created and exacerbated by relatively unconstrained growth.

The total lack of comprehensive auditing of the department together with the Council's failure over time to adequately fund maintenance in park levies, it is time to say "Enough" -- Go back to the drawing board, conduct an honest public process with ALL options on the table, including a thorough audit of the department.

The current Council is trying to lock in an unaccountable revenue stream BEFORE the district elected council can weigh in on the issue. This is where district elections are important; a district based Council can--if we elect enough progressive, non-Downtown bought representatives, we can hope for a more democratic process leading to a better way to sustainably fund our parks.

louploup

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 12:51 p.m. Inappropriate

Have you read this research? Please cite it.

Does any of it cover the Prop. 1 model -- the "district" which is actually the City, run by the City Council itself?

Do you really trust the City Council to do a better job than they do, say, in their land use or taxicab regulations?

simorgh

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 8:51 a.m. Inappropriate

Let's look at park districts around the country..... most of them are managed by separately elected independent Boards, not their City Councils.... and Tacoma attributes their success to that specific accountability to the public by their separately elected Board. Minneapolis and D.C., separately elected boards.

Pullman WA, an MPD that the pro-MPD group likes to point out as successful: I ask, how can you compare it to Seattle? They have 24 parks employees, we have 950. They use it only for routine expenditures, like what our gen'l fund is supposed to be. They have a capitol expense? they have to issue a levy. But yes, their City council acts in a dual role.

Tukwilla was established with the Board being the City.... It's not working... they have been fighting to get it changed to a separately elected Board. See the comments in the Seattle Times blog from a very disgruntled Tukwilla resident who says, Seattle, don't vote for an MPD, and explains the troubles they have had because they approved the City Council as the Board for the MPD.

I am not aware of any cities where there is dual revenue and don't know how it is managed.

According to the expert that presented to the Legacy Committee, Seattle is one of the top 5 parks systems in the country..... and she also said we are envied around the country for our voter supported levies....

So, as I have said elsewhere...... this could prove to be a very expensive experiment, an example for the rest of the country of how NOT to support parks. Remember, if Seattle approves it and it doesn't work out as citizens were promised it would, there is NO RECOURSE. Voters do not have the power/authority to vote to dissolve the tax district.

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 12:30 a.m. Inappropriate

Enough of the usual "progressive" suckers are against this one thst it'll probably fail. Not that they deserve any credit.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 8:37 a.m. Inappropriate

You don't know when to stop typing.

louploup

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 1:22 p.m. Inappropriate

You don't know when to stop breathing.

NotFan

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

"you" don't know when to "stop" breathing

simorgh

Posted Sat, Jul 12, 10:18 p.m. Inappropriate

Gee, "I know you are but what am I." Haven't heard that one since what, fourth grade?

You Seattle "progressives" really aren't as smart as you imagine yourselves to be, are you?

NotFan

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 1:07 p.m. Inappropriate

I recently witnessed these same arguments take place in the Methow Valley of Washington. The approach was the same-largely scare tactics. Losing control, having to pay taxes, eminent domain. No constructive arguments or good alternative suggestions. The underlying reason that the Seattle area is so successful is our great environment. It is the ultimate infrastructure. Tons of now successful folks came here for other reasons, loved the area and stayed. Doing whatever we can to support, repair and improve that important infrastructure is paramount. It's poppycock that we have no control. All our officials are elected-be they state or city, and ultimately answerable to us. Let's support our parks and what makes it great to live here, improving life for us all and let's recognize the scare tactics for just what they are.

MM

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 9:03 a.m. Inappropriate

what about the other scare tactic, if you don't support THIS taxing authority, parks aren't going to be cared for. A levy could cover all the horrible things like Green Lake' maintenance problems. a levy could cover the inequity in programming. The expiration of the current levies (parks and pike place) free up $ for Parks. This was all part of the grand plan.... ignore pleas for levies, put only one mechanism on the ballot, scare voters into thinking parks will all go to pot if they don't vote on this permanent tax district which lacks guaranteed and binding accountability.

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 5:46 p.m. Inappropriate


This is a clear "no" vote, which is certainly not the same as not being supportive of funding parks.

Park levies give the voters the full control voters must grip tightly too; this Metropolitan Park District vote gives voters no clout, and no say-so.

Run as fast as you can from this insidiously bad, bad idea, and Vote NO as soon as your ballot comes in. Don't forget to stamp it.

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 5:46 p.m. Inappropriate

I could have written this, and in bits and pieces I have.
I am voting No.
I am encouraging people to act to vote No.

It's the Port of Seattle, but for parks, it's the Parks of Seattle.

I would vote for a parks district if it were separate from the city council, its members were directly elected by council district, that's 7 member, zero at large members, and the voters required to approve the raising of the tax.

Mr Baker

Posted Sun, Jul 13, 6:31 p.m. Inappropriate

I don't see any need for it at all. It's not about parks anyway. It's about shoveling tax money to developers. Everything else is the usual Seattle "progressive" whipped cream on dogshit, to coin a phrase.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 12:28 p.m. Inappropriate

If this measure fails I'd suggest coming back and trying another MPD proposal, but one with an independently elected directors.

In addition I'd also suggest avoiding use of levy capacity for other things such as pre-schools until either an MPD is formed or a large park levy passes. That would probably mean voting no on pre-schools in the autumn if this MPD measure fails.

Replacing the City Park Department with a Municipal Park District governed by a directly elected board would have more accountability than the present City Council and levy committee system. City imposed inefficiencies and costs now in the Department could be eliminated.

Such a board would be more directly responsible than the city council because it would be judged solely on park issues and not a mix of park and other issues.

Increased park funding seems reasonable, likely to provide good value for cost, and likely to provide real benefits for most citizens.

Presumably a responsive elected board could set appropriate priorities and acceptable tax levels. Most things on the legacy committee list are probably worth funding although some such as the downtown waterfront park may be more debatable than others.

Unfortunately the present vote mixes up three issues: MPD governance; park funding levels; and use of the City's funding capacity.

The real driver for those who structured the present proposal seems to have been desire to fund things other than parks via levies while maintaining City control of the parks. Part of the reason for that is the council and mayor have not spent general fund dollars wisely or been willing to make the hard choices that would require. Having control of the parks allows them to give favors or to take credit for popular park improvements.

The public may prefer to use funding and levy capacity for parks instead of for things council members prefer like pre-school funding, housing, or social services. These may be good uses, but levies for them or similar things might fail or need to be limited in the future regardless of creating a Municipal Park District. If the public feels they are worth the cost they will pass, but if it feels otherwise they will fail.


Citizen

Posted Wed, Jul 16, 12:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Thank you for the excellent analysis, and thanks to editors for the "Pick".

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 12:47 p.m. Inappropriate

Yep, if it fails, let's make sure the "progressives" come back with a smoother plan for screwing the public.

NotFan

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 3:23 p.m. Inappropriate

What's the argument that creating a state corporation which is a Parks District is better than a levy? I've heard only two such arguments:

1) It provides a long term source of funding. True, but at the cost of making citizen input irrelevant. I've researched it, and Professor Bell is right: there is no requirement for any citizen vote on future increases in taxes, or on the uses of the funds raised. I'd rather have a levy, where citizens influence how much will be raised and how it will be used.

2) It provides more funding. True, but at the cost of raising taxes without citizen approval. And perhaps a larger cost: it gets city council members off the hook for making choices with the city's basic budget. Most of the park funding has come and will come from the city budget. Let's not give council members an incentive to decrease the contribution from the city budget, use those funds for other purposes, and make up for it by increasing taxes through the Parks District corporation!

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 7:58 p.m. Inappropriate

They need to disguise the Waterfront park and perpetual programming in something that could be created without actually having to name it and vote on the named thing.

Parks, the gift that keeps on giving.

Mr Baker

Posted Mon, Jul 14, 11:13 p.m. Inappropriate

Interesting the number of commenters with unfamiliar names show up when an election is near.

Re this issue, the City Council will be the only "board" that will oversee this, ever. And since there's a City Council election coming up relatively soon, no one now knows who will be on the Council. So you're voting blind.

sarah90

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 12:45 p.m. Inappropriate

Hmm. We don't know who'll be on the council? In most places, that's what elections are about. Except in North Korea and "progressive" Seattle, where the Party picks all the candidates.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 4:54 a.m. Inappropriate

This reminds me of the last years King County Parks levy "Renewal" vote. A rubber stamp committee of hand picked individuals that begin with the end in mind. Run the election in a low turn out primary. Does anyone remember the "Renewal" was actually a 41% increase and a yearly inflation escalator? Remember Sandeep Kaushik and the usual committee members running away from the details like doubling the amount for land acquisition, even though over 50% of King County is already in some form of government control or ownership.

How are the King County Parks a year down the road? Better maintained? More capital improvements? Vast swaths of land opened to public enjoyment that were previously closed? Or just another pot of money that can be guided to pet projects and higher salaries?

Cameron

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 9:07 a.m. Inappropriate

Caution flags make me worry. Yes, hour cutbacks on centers and wading pools could certainly be due to reduced revenue. The extra drastic decrease this year could also be to manipulate the public with cutbacks to high visibility programs, much as King County tried to do several years ago.
It appears that most Parks Legacy Board members are uncomfortable with not allowing the MPD to be dismantled. Why has it gone forward to a vote without a public input component or a way to repeal the choice?
It appears that the majority of Legacy board members have bricks and mortar, athletic field, or Magneson neighborhood backgrounds. Has open space and drop-in use been well-represented?
As a Seattle resident, I am fine with contributing up to $340 in taxes to parks. I usually exceed that anyway. My experience with Parks, however, suggests that public input is essential to allow additional oversight for boneheaded decisions. Building 11, giveaways to special interests, bumping users in favor athletics and dogs, all would have ended badly for the drop-in user if not for public input. For example, a nearby park would have been skinned and given away if the community could be ignored.
Parks is an incredibly inefficient entity. I know of no private sector company that could survive with a 40% overhead for their construction projects. We also tried very hard to include a maintenance component in ProParks, but were overruled.
Finally, I have issues with the timing and smarmy, half-truth advertising - the mid-summer vote when everyone is away screams manipulation and recommends a "no" vote on its own.

slame

Posted Tue, Jul 15, 11:08 p.m. Inappropriate

I was called for the parks survey, I attended one of the three hours community meetings, I've looked around about MPDs in the state, and parks funding, and I was set to vote no, then the Seattle Times said "vote no" so I went back and reexamined everything. I'm still voting no.

- Seattle Parks Staff - at the Bitter Lake community meeting - stated that developer impact fees were illegal in Washington. Blatantly false.

- The report to council skipped over the fact that of the 5% of people at our meeting who thought that an MPD was a good idea, ALL said ONLY if this was a separately elected board, NOT the city council.

- Cheasty Park debacle with turning a natural area into a commercialized bike terrain park against parks policy.

- no recent parks audit. Vast experience with parks.

- no voted on parks super. I think Chris Williams is a nice guy. I think he's not a long term parks leader.

- Building parks with not restroom facilities - creating public urinals. Or causing issues for neighbors.

I want to support parks. Parks are a necessary government function. This process, this plan, isn't going to get our families three votes.

Catherine

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 3:50 p.m. Inappropriate

I will vote NO on Prop 1. Idealistic misrepresentations is all that has helped this campaign obtain their ill-gotten support. The Mayor wants a flower in his bonnet with the waterfront park and this is how he's going to get it.
“An MPD would increase taxes by $88 million/year without guaranteeing even one more dollar for our parks. Were a Seattle MPD to be established with its own limited claim on property taxes, advocates for reducing City spending or for spending more on fire, police, and social needs will have a case against the spending of City property taxes for parks, and these funds are likely to diminish further. Tacoma once had a well-regarded and well-funded Parks Department, but it withered once the Tacoma MPD was established.” C. Leman

Did I also hear that each councilmember receives an extra $ 10,000 a year for serving on this board? No wonder they support it.

moebe

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle has huge maintenance backlogs in streets, parks, and municipal buildings. the right way to prioritize funding for parks, transportation and municipal works is through clear ballot levies, which say what will be done, in what time frame and at what cost. the Parks District proposal is a blank check, which will make government less responsive to the taxc payer.

We all love our parks, but a separate district that cuts the tax payer out of the decision making is not the way to show love for our park system.

Queenanne

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 4:40 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear Queen Anne, most beloved neighbor, my residence over on Mercer Place water-side, was plagued by diesel-spewing roaring/rattling buses/trucks. Thus, my opposition to Mercer West. I helped Mercer East get started and calculate genuine improvement, but MercerWest HARMS MercerEast,
regretfully intendered for your edification.
BERTHA IS NOT your friend, fur-end, fur, fir, fer YOU!
Bertha is your End! Unsuitable soil conditions, period.
Michael P McGinn, acted on his gut instinct, lost his gut, still fought though to the end.
Mike is right. WE-YOU-US are WRONG to let Bertha continue! Honestly!
Bertha is now finished. Fix her. Send her elsewhere.
WurshDirt donk/punk/purist/oilburner speculator
fellows f-ing in charge here supposedly,
admit to no DOT representatives competent
in the good State of Washington.
FYI. You're welcome, you inhabitants
all more awkward than you think.
Over-educated know-it-alls
alongside builders misled to be wasteful
as a matter of pride.
DUMP BERTHA both of ya. NOW!

Wells

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:59 p.m. Inappropriate

You can love parks, but still want SPRD held accountable... vote NO and ask for a levy.
SPRD hasn't had an external audit for at least six years...about the time of the last levy.
I would continue voting for levies...consider it sustainable funding with proper checks and balances.
When someone asks me for a "blank check", I tell them NO!... I'll be voting NO on Prop 1.

AerieView

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 12:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Many people-like myself-love Seattle's parks, use one or more of them weekly and are happy to pay taxes to support our wonderful parks' system.

Seattleites currently pay property taxes of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value ( a "manageable/reasonable" amount for most people).
Included within that amount is our current parks' levy in which a property owner pays 19 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

No matter how much you love our parks and want to finance them, a 21% increase in property taxes is disasterous for many residents (especially seniors, retired persons on fixed incomes, people who have lived in their homes for many years and whose homes have inflated values, homeowners of low and moderate incomes, etc.) because the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of all current-and upcoming-taxes may force them out of their homes!

If you vote "yes" to create an MPD, you are voting to PERMANENTLY increase your property taxes by up to 21%

$3.60 current levy amount + 75 cents equals a 21% property tax increase.

Don't be fooled by MPD proponents who say you'll only pay $4 more per month for a home worth $400,000. The campaign is starting the MPD at 33 cents to get your votes but you are actually voting to give City Council the power to raise that amount to 75 cents (without a vote by citizens).

Furthermore, they can raise the amount to 75 cents by giving-themselves-180 days notice of the change. It's the MPD Board giving notice to the City Council (themselves) to raise the property tax.
They don't have to ask voters!

This increase comes with NO ASSURANCE that any particular park project will be financed since there is no list of projects our City Council must fund.

Neighborhood projects are likely to get lower priority than the projects advocated by wealthy, influential people who are able to impact City Council decisions.

Furthermore, Seattle is about to get a "new system" of City Council governance- by district. No one knows how that system will function and what problems will arise during the implementation of that new "structure".

Citizens have no idea of how City Council will respond to neighborhood parks' issues/concerns-in the future.

It is prudent to assess the "success" of the new City Council by district system before changing the entire way by which we finance and prioritize park projects.

So City Council gets a "blank check". Citizens get no assurances, no meaningful way to influence decisions, a permanent tax increase and a situation that will force -potentially thousands- of people to sell their homes which are no longer affordable.

Most people are willing to pay for parks through a levy and should be able to continue to do so with an assessment of a "reasonable" amount.

Vote "NO" on the MPD proposition and tell our current City Council to put an "Affordable" Levy on an upcoming ballot!

P.S. To answer a question that was previously raised about an increase in pay for the Councilmembers acting as the MPD Board: It is true that each Councilmember may earn as much as $10,000-per year-more just for "changing hats" to act as Boardmembers of the MPD.

That dictate represents at least a $90,000 additional cost to
taxpayers.

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 4:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Dear Queen Anne, most beloved neighbor, my residence over on Mercer Place water-side, was plagued by diesel-spewing roaring/rattling buses/trucks. Thus, my opposition to Mercer West. I helped Mercer East get started and calculate genuine improvement, but MercerWest HARMS MercerEast,
regretfully intendered for your edification.
BERTHA IS NOT your friend, fur-end, fur, fir, fer YOU!
Bertha is your End! Unsuitable soil conditions, period.
Michael P McGinn, acted on his gut instinct, lost his gut, still fought though to the end.
Mike is right. WE-YOU-US are WRONG to let Bertha continue! Honestly!
Bertha is now finished. Fix her. Send her elsewhere.
WurshDirt donk/punk/purist/oilburner speculator
fellows f-ing in charge here supposedly,
admit to no DOT representatives obviously incompetent
in the otherwise good State of Washington.
FYI. You're welcome, you inhabitants
all more awkward than you think.
Over-educated know-it-alls
alongside builders misled to be wasteful
as a matter of pride.
DUMP BERTHA both of ya. NOW!

Wells

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