Why Seattle's future and its parks are better with yes on Prop 1

Guest Opinion: Despite people trying to make the issue complex, the choice is simple. If you love parks, invest in them, please.
Seattle Youth Soccer Association players at Lower Woodland Park: Funding to improve ballfields to meet huge demand is an important part of the Prop 1 proposal.

Seattle Youth Soccer Association players at Lower Woodland Park: Funding to improve ballfields to meet huge demand is an important part of the Prop 1 proposal.

The beach at Madison Park

The beach at Madison Park Seattle Parks and Recreation Department

As the current parks levy expires, Seattle voters are being asked to renew support for neighborhood parks and community centers. While some have worked to make this issue complex, it’s actually quite simple: Proposition 1 will provide stable, dedicated funding to take care of Seattle parks and continue investing for the future. Period.

Everyone claims to love parks. Yet in my family — as I suspect in yours — love means we have a responsibility take care of each other. It means we plan for and invest in the future. The same is true for our parks and community centers.

Right now, Seattle is failing to truly love its parks. We have a $267 million backlog of deferred maintenance, caused by poorly conceived Tim Eyman initiatives, the Great Recession and challenges related to parks levies, which create a political imperative to dangle shiny ornaments in front of voters while neglecting the parks we already have.

As the fastest growing city in the nation, Seattle's demand for parks is only increasing. And our current system disproportionately impacts lower-income people, as we increase user fees and price people out of our public sports leagues and programs at community centers.

That’s one of the reasons that El Centro de la Raza, Neighborhood House, Seattle Human Services Coalition and Southwest Youth and Family Services have joined dozens of other groups in endorsing Yes on Proposition 1.

For the first time, Proposition 1 would create a stable, dedicated source of funding to take care of Seattle neighborhood parks and community centers. It will provide funding to keep community centers open and to maintain ballfields. Today in Seattle, neighborhood advisory committees can invest private donations to keep community centers open longer hours. The net result is that some community centers in higher-income neighborhoods are open much more than those in lower-income neighborhoods. Without stable funding, this trend of “pay to play” will continue.

As any homeowner knows, there is always repair work to do. Imagine owning a system of 465 parks, 26 community centers, 185 athletic fields and 120 playgrounds. The list of repairs is long and grows every day. Without funds to maintain these investments, many will fall further into disrepair, impacting public safety as well.

Nobody wants this to happen, since we all agree Seattle loves its parks. The real question is how we will take care of the parks we have and ensure everyone has access to them. And how will we invest for the future growth that we know is coming?

Proposition 1 is our single best chance to change the current dynamic, with the majority of funding invested in maintaining our existing parks. It reflects more than a year of work by a citizen’s advisory committee, Mayor Ed Murray and the City Council, and has earned the endorsement of Mayors Murray, McGinn, Nickels, Schell, Royer and Rice, among many others. And it will cost the owner of a $400,000 home $4 more per month.

Opponents claim to love parks but offer no solutions for the current situation, other than more of the same. Let me be clear: If you love parks, you invest in them.

There is no “Plan B” if Proposition 1 does not succeed, other than more Seattle process that revisits the same well-worn path the citizen’s committee already walked. In the meantime, our maintenance backlog grows, access to community centers remains limited and “pay to play” stays the norm.

At the national level, the public sector is under constant attack by the Tea Party and its ilk. In Seattle, we can invest in the public realm and embrace good governance by officials who will soon be elected by district. In short, we can do better.

Seattle is a great city, which is one of the reasons people want to live here. Parks are the physical places where we come together as friends, neighbors, and families. Parks make Seattle a great place to live, which is why Seattle loves its parks. Loving parks means investing in them; there is simply no way around it. Please join me in voting Yes on Proposition 1 to renew our commitment to Seattle neighborhood parks and community centers.

Ken Bounds is chair of Seattle Parks for All, the campaign to fund Seattle parks and community centers. He is former superintendent of Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation.


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Comments:

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 5:57 a.m. Inappropriate

"At the national level, the public sector is under constant attack by the Tea Party and its ilk. In Seattle, we can invest in the public realm and embrace good governance by officials who will soon be elected by district. In short, we can do better."

So the author has to attempt to throw out some sort of notion that if you oppose the Prop 1 you are a "Tea Party and its ilk" supporter? Weak,pathetic attempt Mr. Bounds. Is that really all you have?

Then in the same paragraph you go on to claim "we" can invest in the public realm AND embrace good governance by officials who will soon be elected by district? Why can't you just say the City Council will be the board? Because the notion that the Seattle Mayor and City Council represent "good governance" is laughable on its face.

Cameron

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:39 a.m. Inappropriate

The Mayor will have no legal say over the Park District's revenue. Calling a scheme cooked up by the current at-large council to lock in un-checked Council authority indefinitely "good governance" is even more laughable.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

YES on PROP 1 was endorsed by the Municipal League - the gold standard for good governance.

Opponents cook up lots of excuses - the reality is they don't want to pay for parks. Pure and simple.

If you love parks, please vote yes to take care of them.

hbkahn

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:11 p.m. Inappropriate

"the reality is they don't want to pay for parks" is an utter crock of you know what. Why don't you respond to the substantive "good governance" concerns about the measure?

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:28 p.m. Inappropriate

I know some of the people behind the opposition, and for them, at least (I can't speak for the others, or for who the people who are inclined to vote no), it has zero to do with paying for parks, which they do gladly. It has everything to do with governance. In this case they disagree with the Municipal League (and, incidentally, agree with the League of Women Voters).

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:53 p.m. Inappropriate

Benjamin--I know people on fixed income who are concerned about the absolute increase in the amount of taxes the City can bring in without further vote. On top of the gentrification driven skyrocketing valuations of their homes, I suspect many low income and elderly are concerned. That concern does not make them Teabaggers.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 3:41 p.m. Inappropriate

When Seattle Channel broadcast a public hearing on the Parks Prop 1 an articulate and seemingly well-informed man said as part of his comment that a Seattle Parks Levy has never been voted down. He was not contradicted by subsequent comments (or council members present who I believe all support the measure) but I admit it does sound like an extreme claim and I have never seen in verified in the print media. Is that claim true?

kieth

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 5:24 p.m. Inappropriate

kieth--All the statements I've seen confirm that parks levies have always passed in Seattle, and I've never seen anyone come up with any contradictory evidence or even claim.

louploup

Posted Tue, Jul 22, 2:54 p.m. Inappropriate

It is, of course, not just a matter of "parks". There are several components administered by the Parks Dept.:

1) Parks, gardens, playgrounds, green spaces, off-leash areas, etc.

2) Recreation - fields, courts, gyms, pools, golf, boating/sailing, fishing, etc.

3) Zoo and aquarium.

4) Community, environmental learning, and teen-life centers.

5) Educational, cultural, and arts programs.

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:24 p.m. Inappropriate

When the opposition uses tactics previously pushed locally by the Tea Party or Tim Eyman, why should they be surprised that folks point out the similar language?

Mickymse

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:49 p.m. Inappropriate

"tactics previously pushed locally by the Tea Party or Tim Eyman"

Examples, please.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 8:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Ken Bounds,
You also have a huge conflict of interest in your endorsement of Prop 1, because after you left the position as Parks Superintendent you derived significant income from a Parks Foundation consulting contract to produce a "Study" that could have been written in a few days. If I have this right --- while your were our Parks Superintendent, you were the driving force to create the Parks Foundation which I believe was a great idea. However after receiving income from the Foundation you need to disclose your conflict of interest in your support of Prop 1.

To all who read this please vote NO on Prop 1 to demand that our Park funding be done with accountability! Our Parks which we love need more funds and your NO vote will mean that we do it with accountability!

Whoa

Posted Fri, Jul 18, 11:28 p.m. Inappropriate

Ken,

You are so right that Seattle is a great city, but that doesn't mean we need Prop1 to give taxing authority away to those who wish to get their hand in our cookie jar!

Let's keep the lid on our cookie jar until we see an MPD plan with commissioners that are not a part of the City Council!

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:32 a.m. Inappropriate

Ken, Your repeated argument that opponents are voting against parks is manufactured. By not giving the public the right to choose between viable options, thoughtful voters who insist on sound government prinicples are forced to vote no and then you wrongly claim they don't support our parks. Cleaver politics and that is what this has been from the gitgo, a manipulative so-called public process that always had as its end goal the MPD.

Would you sign a contract to have a house built that includes a statement that the builder can change anything in the contract he so desires and you don't have to approve the change? He can double the cost.... he can choose to put in a glitzy exterior and then take out a bedroom and a bath.... That's what is happening here. An open-ended contract is not smart business, nor is it smart government. Campaign promises do not equate to guaranteed accountability.

A taxing district managed by City Council without any *guaranteed* binding rules for how it will operate? Politicians love the idea of this guaranteed power and money and nothing concrete to hold them accountable to.

Give us a $36million levy NOW for the highest priority items. Work on fixing all the problems of the MPD: add periodic public vote, add enduring rules of operation - then bring it back to us as the levy expires and maybe you'll get my support and the support of the League of Women Voters.

A NO Vote forces City Hall to give us a levy with rules and parameters. Vote NO if you believe it is more important to have good accountable government practices than non-bnding promises, promises that incidentally keep changing depending upon what part of town Sally Bagshaw is presenting in.

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 8:53 p.m. Inappropriate

I want to again restate that Ken Bounds statement in support is a conflict of interest. He was the prime mover in creating the Parks Foundation --- and derived income after, from the Foundation, so he needs to disclose that in his support of Prop 1.

Please vote NO on Prop 1 and look forward to increased funding of our Parks through votes on increased levies that have accountability to we, the voters.

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:36 a.m. Inappropriate

This is a clear and compelling article. After years of review, this proposal has received broad support from those on all sides of the political world. It deserves our support!

Clewis

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

The stories about Mars Hill church shows what happens when there are a lack of checks and balances in governance. The lede above states:

"Guest Opinion: Despite people trying to make the issue complex, the choice is simple."

A fairer lede would be: "despite people who are pushing this measure are trying to keep the focus only on the money, the changes to governance of removing the Mayor, removing the citizen checks on governance of cities and removing the opportunity for voters to weigh in on priorities makes this a very complex bill that deserves a lot of scrutiny, which is why August was chosen as the time to run the vote: we wanted as little as possible discussion about the full implications of this vote."

If the vote fails, there will no doubt be a resolution to continue funding at the current levy level for another six years. A big question: will the levy just fund maintenance, or will it include money for the waterfront as well?

Mr Bounds states "a majority" of the money will go to maintenance. We can hope he's right, but that leaves a lot that can go to other purposes.

sjenner

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:33 p.m. Inappropriate

There is NO CHANGE to governance. Current Parks properties, employees, etc. continue to be a part of the City of Seattle government with the Mayor's involvement and all relevant public records and open meetings statutes.

This is a funding mechanism. Could they buy new properties or hire their own employees? I suppose so; but I also supposes you and others would sound the alarm at such a move. Could the City Council try to transfer all of the existing people, infrastructure, properties, etc.? Sure, they COULD. Again, this would be subject to all the existing laws and rules currently in existence.

Generally when other taxing districts like this exist with electeds serving as the governing board, they meet to set rates once or twice a year and that's about it. Are you concerned about the City Council meeting this afternoon as the Transportation Benefit District and making tax proposals? Are you worried that they're suddenly going to overrule SDOT and built freeways through the middle of the City. After all, they "could"...

Mickymse

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 2:12 p.m. Inappropriate

Your first sentence is flat out NOT TRUE. The Council is arrogating to itself legal authority over a revenue stream without any legally binding say by either the Mayor or the Electorate. The ILA purports to keep management as is, but the law says it is not possible. The ILA is an illusory contract.

Your comparison of the proposed Park District to the Transportation Benefit District doesn't stand up to close scrutiny: read Ordinance 123397 (available from here--http://www.seattle.gov/stbd/) and the applicable statute, RCW Chapter 36.73: With few exceptions, taxes "may not be imposed by a [transportation benefit] district without approval of a majority of the voters." RCW 36.73.065. The exceptions include the $20 car tab, and, amazingly enough, development impacts fees.

Furthermore, TBDs are supposed to dissolve automatically after "completion of the construction of the transportation improvement or series of improvements authorized by a district." RCW 36.73.170. The City's ordinance carries that provision over intact: "The Transportation Benefit District shall be dissolved when all indebtedness of the district has been retired and when all of the District's anticipated responsibilities have been satisfied." We'll see how that turns out...

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 10:58 a.m. Inappropriate

A bit of clarity on the statement made by Mr. Bounds that this would cost a homeowner of a typical $400,000 house just $4.00 a year: It is pretty important that voters understand how levy rates work. A .75 levy per thousand dollars of value would be $300.00 per year, not $4.00.

That is a pretty significant misstatement. Strange for someone who previously ran the Parks Department.

Juliana

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 11:56 a.m. Inappropriate

The mill rate is set at .33 per $1000 of assessed value. That equals $4 more per month for someone who owns a $400,000 house.

hbkahn

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 12:09 p.m. Inappropriate

$400,000/$1,000) X .33 = $132 in your example. The ballot issue says .75 per thousand dollars of value.

Juliana

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 1:59 p.m. Inappropriate

The $4/month per $400,000 assessed value is in addition to what the expiring parks levy is currently collecting: $132 - $48 = $84.

$400,000/$1,000) x .75 = $300. $300 - $84 = $216 or at most an increase over the expiring levy of $18/month per $400,000 assessed value.

If you can't afford to pay $4 (or $18) per month more in property taxes, you shouldn't be buying a $400,000 house in the first place.

Last I checked, well-maintained parks increase the value of houses in surrounding neighborhoods.

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:40 p.m. Inappropriate

The confusion is because Prop 1 is NOT a levy. The 33¢ rate is what the City Council promises they will levy once the voters create their new taxing authority (Seattle Park District, with Council sitting as Commissioners). The 75¢ rate is the level the Council as Park District Commissioners can go to without any further vote. Ever.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:55 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks for your correction of Mr. Bounds statement.

And vote NO on Prop 1.

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 12:13 p.m. Inappropriate

This MPD levy looks like something the Legisature cooked up in a complex mode of operation by the City Council.
The unmentioned top rate will be 75 cents per $100,000 assessed valuation ,or $300 plus per year.
I would be open to a larger plain standard levy not open to manipulation toward projects ordained by the governing Coumcil in perpetuity, that may not be what the paying public wants. LL NBH

Lenny

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

Ken - I agree completely with the need to provide a consistent revenue stream for our parks. One then has to wonder why the heck the crafters of the proposal would elect to torpedo the possibility of passage by simultaneously deleting public input from future decisions!

My experience with the Parks department over the last twenty-five years is that it is a hugely flawed public entity. I am running scared of Prop 1 ONLY because park users will apparently no longer have the opportunity to adjust some of the horrendous proposals initiated by Parks administration, or well-connected cronies, without the prior input of the client - the actual users.

Prop 1 COULD have been written to establish an MPD with taxing authority, and still retain public input over tax increases, retain a public input process on decisions affecting neighborhood parks and open space, and provide a mechanism for public intervention when/if the MPD goes "off the rails" and starts catering more to developers and the well-connected instead of the citizens of Seattle.

Prop 1 COULD have been as clear as you describe, but it is not. We are being asked to choose between funding our parks and being allowed to be a participant at the table considering decisions that affect our neighborhood parks. If the choice is not clear, it is not due to those questioning Prop 1. The choice has been muddied because the Legacy Committee made some very poor decisions crafting the proposition. It makes it unlikely that anyone who has had any experience trying to work with Parks in the past will choose to vote in favor of Prop 1.

slame

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:47 p.m. Inappropriate

I agree with your comments about historical behavior of Parks Dept. However--

I do not believe much accountability can be written in to an MPD's structure because the authorizing statute (RCW Chapter 35.61) does not provide for it (legally mandated public input). The most significant difference allowed by state law is to have a separately elected parks commission, like the largest—by far— existing park district (Tacoma). The Council refused to consider that option while rushing the measure onto the August primary ballot.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Why didn't our City consider a separately elected parks commission, like Tacoma and other large cities?

Vote NO on Prop 1.

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 7:35 p.m. Inappropriate

Parks has never had an external audit either performance or financial. Until very recently the proponents couldn't even agree on the maintenance backlog amount. It was $243 million, no $274, and now it's $267 million. this backlog started years ago 0 it;s not the result of the recession. Even the proponents web site FAQ says that. Why didn't the City Council demand an audit first?

Parks Dept is not receptive to community input, and they don't want to deal with small neighborhood parks. Individual employees are afraid and demoralized because they won't get back up from administration even when they are carrying out administration policy.

The real reason for Prop 1is that it doesn't come under the city's property tax lid so the council can raise more property tax. Ken Bounds and Thatcher Bailey used to give that and a steady funding source as the only 2 reasons for the MPD. Notice they are quiet about that now.

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 9:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Time again to respond by mentioning that Ken Bounds has a serious conflict of interest in promoting Prop 1.
Ken was the mover and shaker that created the Parks Foundation, but after leaving the Parks Dept as it's Supt he profited from a consulting contract with the Parks Foundation by creating a very simple report that he could have written in a few days.

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 1:15 p.m. Inappropriate

Thanks - concise comment and to the point.

Lily32

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 3:22 p.m. Inappropriate

For me it's not about the money - I've voted for every parks levy. It's about taking away my voice/my vote. If MPD is voted in, we can never vote again on what happens in our parks. Very undemocratic.

alyne16

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 6:05 p.m. Inappropriate

Got my ballot in the mail today. Can't wait to vote NO on Prop 1 -- a terrible way to fund parks.

Lincoln

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 8:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Great,

It's time for accountability as well as more funds for our wonderful Parks that need to be better maintained.

Whoa

Posted Thu, Jul 17, 10:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Over the past nine months, I attended nearly every meeting of the Parks Legacy Committee. Listening to the comments by the PLC in the very early meetings gave me pause. They weren't looking for ways to cut costs further, or ways to operate more efficiently -- they were specifically looking to raise more money, largely to fund an enormous deferred maintenance backlog of some $267MM. When one of the Seattle Parks managers was asked about whether there had been an external audit of exactly how the current levy funds had been spent, he said that sadly, the auditors had been a casualty of budget cuts and no, there had not been an external audit for at least six years. When asked how he would cut costs further, he made a rather flippant comment to the effect that Seattle has the Ferrari of park systems in the USA, and you don't take a Ferrari to Sears Automotive for maintenance. Really? A research study handed out by an attendee at one PLC meeting showed Seattle to be in the top five in two cost of operations categories, even though Seattle is 21st in city size. I guess we're already getting that Ferrari service.

So, I guess there is just no way to pay for the current level of parks, let alone buy 15 new parks (what the current MPD proposes), or to actually catch up on all of the deferred maintenance (still no explanation of how we get $267MM in arrears on maintenance while getting the best service in the country). Just saying.

City Council likes the MPD only because it gives them an additional taxing base that won't stop their plan to offer Universal Pre-School, a Waterfront Park, and whatever else crosses their mind as a good use of my money. The best thing about an MPD from their perspective is that once we vote it in, we can NEVER vote it out (read the statute, that's what it says). So, even though they promise to start at $132/year in additional taxes for parks ($0.33/$1000 for a $400,000 home), they actually can raise the rate to $0.75/1000, or $300/year for the average $400,000 home, with absolutely no input from the citizens of the MPD (again, it's in the statute).

This whole charade strikes me as a way to get more tax dollars without having to tell the populace what they actually are getting with those tax dollars. In contrast, the current system, a levy every six to eight years provides at least some level of accountability and the city has to at least pretend to be interested in what I think of how they are going to spend my tax dollars.

Here are ways to solutions:
Have an external audit of SPRD and tell the citizens if they have been good stewards of our current tax dollars and how or what could be fixed to make the operations more efficient or better for all of us.
Have an interim levy to fund SPRD at the current level, or even slightly above, and
Approach the WA Legislature and find ways to amend the current MPD statute so that an MPD doesn't need to be permanent, the MPD board must be independently elected, and citizens must have the right to vote on tax increases.

As things stand today, I'm voting NO on Prop1 -- no accountability, no taxability.

AerieView

Posted Fri, Jul 18, 7:17 a.m. Inappropriate

Seattle Park District proponenets say that if the proposed measure passes, it will not do away with Seattle Parks & Recreation. Why do we need two taxpayer-funded parks departments?

Posted Fri, Jul 18, 8:44 a.m. Inappropriate

Me Most Seattleites love their parks and will pay for them with a "Levy". Levies name each project to be financed , ensure funding for neighborhood parks , are transparent and give residents control and
To letters@seattletimes.com
Today at 1:06 PM
Most Seattleites love their parks and will pay for them with a "Levy".

Levies name each project to be financed , ensure funding for neighborhood parks , are transparent and give residents control and oversight.

An MPD doesn't have these "safeguards".

An MPD ISN'T A LEVY. It's a permanent, separate, taxing authority which can raise taxes up to 75 cents per thousand dollars of assessed value.

If you vote for the MPD, you vote to PERMANENTLY INCREASE your property tax-by up to 21%- and you aren't assured funding for any particular projects.

You're giving Councilmembers a "blank check"-permanently-and citizens can't dissolve the MPD.

Only the Seattle City Council could dissolve the MPD. That's unlikely, because each councilmember earns up to $10,000 more per year as an MPD boardmember.

Don't be misled by claims that you'll only pay $4 more-monthly- for a $400,000 home.

Our current levy is 19 cents per $1,000.

City Council is starting the MPD at 33 cents per $1,000 -to get votes. But, your vote allows them to raise that amount to 75 cents anytime ( by giving 180 days notice to themselves) without asking taxpayers.

Since City Council would also be the MPD Board they just notify themselves. "Conflicts of interest" are inherent .

The current property tax lid is $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. An MPD gives City Council PERMANENT AUTHORITY to collect an additional 75 cents per $1,000 value.

The $3.60 + 75 cents is equivalent to a 21% property tax increase.

Your vote is simply about how to best finance our wonderful parks.

LOVE AND SUPPORT SEATTLE'S PARKS. VOTE NO ON THE MPD. TELL COUNCILMEMBERS YOU'LL VOTE FOR A FUTURE LEVY SO THAT YOU'LL KNOW

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 2:27 p.m. Inappropriate

I am a strong "No" vote on Prop 1. However, I wish people would stop saying "each councilmember earns up to $10,000 more per year as an MPD boardmember." because it's not true. Making an inaccurate factual statement undermines the rest of your well-stated points (that are all by themselves far more than sufficient to vote "No").

louploup

Posted Fri, Jul 18, 9:02 a.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 Fri, Jul 18, 2:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Voting NO on this proposition is not the same as opposing more funds for parks or creation of a municipal park district.

Let's take the time to get this right because it may be with us for a long time.

There is no need to rush. Any urgency is specific to this particular flawed proposal, not to increased park funding or to the idea of having a better structured MPD.

I'd vote for a better structured MPD or for a similar sized levy, but will vote against this proposal.

Voting NO would allow those who prefer an MPD to come back with an improved proposal offering more accountability and perhaps more closely defined limitations. And if they can't or won't do that there can be a levy and perhaps more careful spending of general fund dollars.

It doesn't take a doctorate in political science or an MBA to understand the lack of accountability in the present proposal would be likely to be troublesome.

City Council members who would govern the presently proposed MPD would not be judged solely on park issues or increased in park taxes and their past record on district park issues under the present system is not great.

The large size and appointed nature would make the proposed large (15 or so people) advisory committee essentially unaccountable. The public would have little control of this committee because members would be appointed. Because of the size and structure it would likely to make muddled and poor recommendations and decisions.

Citizen

Posted Sun, Jul 20, 10:38 a.m. Inappropriate

"Voting NO on this proposition is not the same as opposing more funds for parks or creation of a municipal park district."

Actually, the combination of the financial crisis (reducing property tax valuations) and the 1% limit on property tax growth has put the Parks Department in a funding squeeze, with costs (for health care, etc.) outrunning the cost of living. Voting no is effectively a vote to continually reduce funding over time for our parks while demands on our parks will only continue to increase due to our city experiencing a population boom.

Property taxes are entirely appropriate when funding our parks, in that well maintained and operated parks enhance the property values in surrounding neighborhoods.

If you are a Seattle property owner (rather than simply an anti-tax zealot who very likely doesn't even live in Seattle), supporting adequate funding for our parks is simple common sense.

In reality, a vote against Prop. 1 is a vote to lower your property value by an amount much greater than the parks district will ever collect from you, even IF the City Council should allow the maximum rate of assessment, in that it guarantees the continuing degrading of both our park resources and surrounding property values.

Posted Mon, Jul 21, 12:37 p.m. Inappropriate

I and many others would vote for a better designed MPD or for a large levy and expect and hope one or both would come later if this proposal fails.

To repeat:

"There is no need to rush. Any urgency is specific to this particular flawed proposal, not to increased park funding or to the idea of having a better structured MPD."

Many of the people who oppose the present MPD proposal would agree with your belief that park funding is a good investment and good use of property taxes. That includes quite few whose experience as park activists has made them wary of the City Council's ability to provide good oversight or use a blank check prudently. Many of these proposal opponents have each contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time to Seattle Parks, have lead others to contribute thousands more, or have administered grants and private donations creating hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of park improvements.

I'd be glad to pay via property tax up to the top level in the MPD proposal if it was spent well on parks. However that's not to say I'd oppose seeing at least some funding via other means such as developer impact fees or better use of general fund dollars.

Citizen

Posted Thu, Jul 24, 3:48 p.m. Inappropriate

A "large levy" might not be possible:

1. The state constitution limits the sum of regular property tax levies, except those levied by a port or public utility district, to 1% of the "true and fair value" of all property. A 60% vote is required to exceed this limit (with such referred to as "excess levies").

2. State law limits total non-excess levies to 1% ($10 per $1,000) of assessed value, with the city limited to a levy rate of $3.375/$1,000 and the aggregate of all taxing districts other than the state and certain special districts to $5.90/$1,000, with parks and recreation levies the first to be prorated if the latter is the case. This limit cannot be exceeded even by public vote. An MPD, however, approvable by majority vote is not subject to the city limit and will not be prorated if the aggregate non-state limit is exceeded.

3. State law limits annual growth in property tax revenues (not rates) essentially to 1%. This limit can be lifted by a majority vote, although the rate is still subject to the two prior limits.

See:

http://www.washingtonpolicy.org/publications/brief/property-tax-limitation-washington-state

http://angrytransitnerd.com/blog/2013/10/13/funding-transit-or-everything-you-never-wanted-to-know-about-property-taxes-in-washington-state/

Posted Fri, Jul 18, 8:17 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's vote NO and then ask for and MPD proposal with an independent commission accountable to voters!

Whoa

Posted Sun, Jul 20, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

Please explain why a separate parks commission would be more accountable to voters than our directly elected representatives?

Are port commissioners more accountable? You might as well use a dart and board to elect them, for all the electorate knows about them.

The new council districts will make council members more accountable to local neighborhoods and their residents than any generally elected parks commission will ever be. A separate parks commission will also add an additional layer of cost that we can ill afford.

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 12:56 p.m. Inappropriate

Ken Bounds and his cohorts would like you to believe that voting for a Parks District is as simple as deciding whether you are for or against funding our parks. Many of the statements Bounds makes are simply not true and the political process to get this measure on the ballot was rift with misrepresentation, misinformation and manipulation.

The 267 million dollars deferred maintenance is because Parks administration chose to spend the money elsewhere, like giving the top 25 employees a raise during the recession. Before giving parks twice as much money as they got in the last levy and the power to triple our property taxes, parks should be audited and learn how to stick to a budget.

If people would read the 40 page document outlining how the money would be spent, they would see that a large percentage is going to buy more land, develop more parks, create new programs and hire more employees, which means they will need even MORE money in the future. Plus there is no guarantee the City Council will spend the money on what the advisory committee suggested since investment initiatives are basicly "proposals: Your property taxes are going to skyrocket and your hard earned money will go to pet projects like the Waterfront Park. Citizens will have no control over how their money is spent like they do with a levy.

Proponents of Prop ! continually push the equal opportunity button. Community Center hours are based on usage not income level. Laurelhurst, Magnuson, Miller and Belltown, which are in high income neighborhoods, have reduced hours. Jefferson, Rainier and Loyal Heights which are in low income neighborhoods are open earlier and close later. Rainier got a new swimming pool last year.

If you check out the list of endorsements for the Parks District and do a little research, you will find that they are mainly uninformed individuals, party hacks following the herd, or organizations who will benefit financially, especially the zoo and aquarium which are are among the top 5 contributors and would receive millions of dollars if Prop 1 psses. The Seattle Business District endorsed Prop 1 because they recently received money from the Parks Foundation. If you checked into it you would probably find other instances similar to this.

As for the Parks Foundation; they are the biggest contributor and the most powerful and influential force behind the Prop 1. Membership includes the socially elite of Seattle and big business. The blueprint for a Parks District was written by Ken Bounds in 2012. Sally Bagshaw is not only a member of the Parks Foundation but a big donor as well. One of her pet projects, Smith Cave Park, will receive millions of dollars if Prop 1 passes. Thatcher Bailey, director of the Parks Foundation, was a member of the advisory committee which was selected by Bagshaw.

The Parks Foundation spent a lot of money for a phony telephone survey that was released to the media saying citizens of Seattle would support a Parks District when in reality 80% of the people who attended the public meetings voted for a levy. A complaint was filed with the Seattle Ethics and Election Committee over this underhanded ploy. Opponents of Prop 1 had to take the city to court because the ballot measure wording did not clearly state that "a parks district could levy taxes above current limits state law imposes on Seattle."

This is a David and Goliath scenario. Opponents of Prop ! have no big donors, no social register supporters, no politicians but they are not alone. Early on many organizations and individuals questioned the ramifications of a parks district. A recent endorsement by the League of Women Voters proves that opponents of Prop 1 have credible support. Check out Our Parks Forever for other endorsements.

All of this information is public record.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION 1

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 1:09 p.m. Inappropriate

Isn't it the City Council that will function as a parks commission? If you don't like decisions made by council members or think they're not being accountable to their constituents, vote them out, which should be easier with the new council districts.

The cost per $400,000 of assessed value will be about $4 per month more than what the expiring parks levy currently collects. Those conflating the two are trying to confuse, not clarify, the issue.

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 2:50 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's see whether it's easier to vote them out. I'm certainly willing to try, but giving them more power and less accountability doesn't accomplish that. Probably the opposite.

simorgh

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 5:36 p.m. Inappropriate

What makes you think a parks commission would be more accountable or easier to vote out than the port commission, for instance? With the latter, one might as well vote using a dartboard.

Voting someone out means your votes outnumber those who want to vote them in. That's how democracy works: majority rules, not minority rules. The new council districts should make it easier to vote a council member out, depending on the district, of course.

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 5:06 p.m. Inappropriate

You can take this for what it's worth or not as usual:
Your Seattle Parks Department does NOT do parks as well as they could if they tried. What can we call Sculpture Park but STUPID? No seating, no shade, gravel walks, an understatement to the Olympics. How can anyone enjoy the view? Dog pee lawns. Ground cover making lawn recline viewing impossible. Worst of all, waffle-butt bright orange lawn seating in one single row. Wow. Thanks a lot. Seattle Parks Dept minds are insane. Every single sculpture mounted there is improbable.
Hammering Man asks to be moved to Gas Works Park.

Wells

Posted Sat, Jul 19, 5:44 p.m. Inappropriate

Um, the Olympic Sculpture Park is operated (and was designed and built) by the Seattle Art Museum...

The Hammering Man sculpture is outside the downtown SAM (unless you're referring to the version outside the Blue Moon)...

Posted Sun, Jul 20, 12:25 p.m. Inappropriate

Many of us love and use Seattle's parks and want to finance them with our property taxes.

But, many of us who have owned our homes for many years ( and are subject to huge inflation values), retired persons and seniors on fixed incomes, low and moderate income homeowners are sincerely and genuinely concerned about "being taxed out of the homes we also love!

The issue has to do with the CUMULATIVE IMPACTS of our property taxes.

In addition to the facets of an MPD concerning lack of accountability,
its permanency, ability to raise taxes without a citizens' vote, the lack of a list of projects that are assured to be financed, conflicts of interest within the City Council,etc., there is the fear not being able to pay greatly increased taxes that are based on assessed value-rather than on your purchase value.

California's Proposition 13 gave purchasers the confidence that they could stay in their homes-indefinitely-because taxes are collected based on the price that was paid to purchase the property.

Taxes based on the purchase price are the amounts that tax authorities assume the homeowner is competent to pay.

I am able and willing to pay taxes based on the price I paid to buy my property 26 years ago (and even an additional amount based on a small inflation factor).

Proposition 1 is asking me to accept a possible 21% property tax increase if I vote in favor of its creation.

A 21% tax increase-based on the inflation value of a home where I want to continue to live and won't realize a profit until I move or die-is untenable!

It would be more fair if the City of Seattle collects additional taxes on the sale/transfer of a property and gave long-term owners a "reprieve" during the time they want to remain in their homes.

To be clear:

The current property tax lid is $3.60 per $1,000 of "assessed value".
(Included in that amount is the 19 cents per $1,000 of value we pay for the existing parks' levy.)

Now, City Council is asking us to vote to approve payment of up to 75 cents per $1,000 of "assessed value" EXTRA to fund a permanent MPD.

In November, we will be asked to vote on a huge levy to fund universal pre-school.

That money will be included within the $3.60 property tax lid.

Thus, THE MPD ASSESSMENT WILL BE AN ADDITIONAL TAX WHICH REPRESENTS UP TO A 21% PROPERTY TAX INCREASE.

$3.60+ up to 75 cents equals a 21% property tax increase.

If you love Seattle's parks, want to finance parks, and still want to be able to afford your home.... VOTE NO ON AN MPD AND TELL CITY COUNCIL TO PUT ANOTHER PARKS' LEVY ON AN UPCOMING BALLOT!

Posted Sun, Jul 20, 1:23 p.m. Inappropriate

I voted No on this.
I would vote Yes on a levy that was primarily to fund parks maintenance to catch up on the backlog.
This isn't it. It is a slush fund.

Mr Baker

Posted Mon, Jul 21, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

"But, many of us who have owned our homes for many years ( and are subject to huge inflation values), retired persons and seniors on fixed incomes, low and moderate income homeowners are sincerely and genuinely concerned about "being taxed out of the homes we also love!"

If a senior or retired due to disability and making less than $35,000/year, you qualify for property tax deferral or exemption. That is a better approach, it seems to me, than lowering property taxes for all to levels the poorest could afford to pay. See:

http://www.kingcounty.gov/Assessor/TaxpayerAssistance/TaxRelief.aspx

Posted Sun, Jul 27, 11:08 a.m. Inappropriate

What you say about property tax deferral or exemption is true. However, with the $35K ceiling on income, it probably benefits very few since those making that kind of money have likely already been forced to sell and move out by rising costs of everything else. I don't have any evidence for this, it's just my gut feeling, but I'd be interested to see numbers for this if any exist.

mspat

Posted Thu, Jul 24, 4:19 p.m. Inappropriate

I would also vote for a levy focused on parks maintenance. I fear the MPD will instead fund the Zoo, Aquarium, Waterfront Park, and buy very expensive half-blocks in Belltown and Capitol Hill, and not really leave very much for maintenance. I'm afraid the Downtown Seattle Association and the big donors to the Zoo and Aquarium and the downtown developers will hold all the cards when dealing with the City Council. The folks in the neighborhoods who would like to see the park buildings painted and the water fountains working will get shorted. And even with the MPD, the city General Fund will continue to be the biggest part of the Parks budget, but it's likely to be capped so that growth can go to other constituencies. Then the MPD tax will have to be raised to keep up. I'm undecided - someone tell me where I'm wrong.

Posted Fri, Jul 25, 2:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Vote no on prop 1. Wait for a levy in 2015 and vote yed.

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