Why the parks district vote has become a referendum on trust

The timing of Seattle's plan for parks funding has made it more of a lightning rod than it needed to be.
Artists' conception of the Seattle waterfront.

Artists' conception of the Seattle waterfront. City of Seattle

The controversy surrounding the latest parks funding effort is creating lots of bad blood between people who traditionally work together to fund and take care of our parks. Why is this happening? It’s a question that deserves some analysis so we can avoid this in the future.

Facing the question may also help us craft a new proposal if the current Proposition 1 fails on the August 5 ballot. While it’s hard to know how the small percentage of actual participants in a primary will vote, the controversy is probably not helping the Yes side as a confused or distrustful voter is usually a No vote.

While there are many reasons for distrust and confusion, the primary fault probably lies with the architects of the political strategy. I have no doubt that the polling showed widespread support for a levy renewal. That support likely fell when two factors were added: the creation of a new permanent taxing district that can raise taxes without a public vote to a maximum of 75 cents per $1,000 of a home’s value, and putting control of that district in the hands of the Seattle City Council.

These two components create doubt in even the most ardent parks supporter. Proof that the political strategists and pollsters know this is easy to see. Right out of the gate, supporters wanted the ballot language to portray this proposal as a levy renewal. Opponents successfully petitioned for a change in the language to reflect the governance change and the creation of a new taxing district under state law. In numerous op-eds from supporters — including Councilmember Mike O’Brien, former Mayor Mike McGinn, former Councilmember Richard Conlin and Councilmember Sally Bagshaw — the proposal is presented as a small levy increase over the current level. The average cost is presented as about $4 per month on a $400,000 house (by the way, where are these $400,000 houses?).

While I’m sure the campaign is following the advice of pollsters and smart political advisers, the strategy has engendered distrust and skepticism among many who might otherwise be supportive. A major governance change needs more time to engage voters and develop support. From the beginning, this process has been ushered quickly to the public with a campaign based mainly on: Vote for parks! It’s for the kids! It’s for social justice and sustainability!

Added to these positive mom-and-apple-pie messages is the more negative message that anyone who questions this governance change is a Tim Eyman supporter or a Tea Partier. I never realized the League of Women Voters, which questions this change, was such a right-wing organization.

The opposition has some extreme accusations as well: This is money for greedy downtown developers and the money will all be used for the new waterfront park that only rich people will like. The council will use the taxing district to build stadiums and sell off public parks. While technically true under the state RCW that creates the authority, the fears are probably overblown. But these fears play into the often-used theme of downtown versus the neighborhoods.

This opposition strategy also reinforces the worry of some that the new council district elections next year will add gas to the anti-downtown fire.It is inevitable that this will be a point of debate, but I hope people will understand the economics of the city and that a strong and healthy downtown and new waterfront will benefit all of us regardless of where we live. (Full disclosure: My father, Charley Royer, has been volunteering for several years on the Central Waterfront Plan and is a supporter of Prop. 1.)

But the biggest problem for supporters of Prop. 1 is still the City Council. Passage of district elections last year by such a wide margin, as well as the defeat of an incumbent mayor, should have signaled that there is discontent in the city’s electorate. And while it is always the goal of departments to get out of the general fund where they must compete for funding, there is always the suspicion that it is really just a way to put stuff on levies that everyone likes. Then the council can use the general fund for all kinds of other programs that the public may not support. It is hard for the council to say no, so for the council the more discretionary funding, the better. (I wrote about what I call “a la carte government” here in 2010.) 


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Comments:

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 7:14 a.m. Inappropriate

Well-written piece, and carefully analyzed. Nonetheless Jordan Royer stops short of the obvious conclusion. VOTE NO!

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 5:51 p.m. Inappropriate

More a referendum on whether we're willing to pay for essential services...

Underfunding the Parks and Recreation Dept. by millions of dollars, which is the reason for this measure, will cost Seattle residents and property owners much more money than this measure will ever collect.

Our parks (including the Zoo and the Aquarium) are part of the reason close to $6 billion is spent and close to $500 million in local/state taxes are paid by visitors to Seattle every year. Direct earnings from tourist industry employment in Seattle is $2.5 billion/year.

See: http://www.visitseattle.org/About-Us/Visitor-Impact.aspx

Posted Sat, Aug 2, 6:29 p.m. Inappropriate

"Our parks (including the Zoo and the Aquarium) are part of the reason close to $6 billion is spent and close to $500 million in local/state taxes are paid by visitors to Seattle every year."

Only a very small part. If a tourist wishes to visit a top notch zoo on the west coast they will likely go to San Diego. If they want to visit a top notch aquarium they will go to Monterey or Newport OR. The new waterfront park will likely generate tourist revenue so perhaps we can pay for it with a hotel tax.

WSDW

Posted Mon, Aug 4, 4:12 p.m. Inappropriate

I'll vote for $.75/1000 in ongoing operating levy, provided it is within the City of Seattle levy lid, and not a separately created municipal corporation as a parks district that exists outside of that levy lid and required periodic votes of the public.

More importantly, is that the new parks district has broad powers to spend all the money on tons of things that have nothing to do with parks as they exist in Seattle today.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 9:54 p.m. Inappropriate

Very nice article.

I'm beyond disappointed by the backers of this proposal. The lack of courtesy and respect to individuals has been staggering. Indicating that individuals are connected to Tea Party and being associated with Eyman was beyond disturbing; I don't ever recall this level of aggression. My respect for some of these individuals is gone.

It should also be noted that this initiative can raise taxes to $0.75 on $1000 assessed property value. The cost of living is going up in Seattle and this fee might be beyond the ability of some. What did I see on the YES ad? Something about the initiative costing the same as a box of cereal each month. The initiative wouldn't give the ability to raise tax to $0.75 unless they wanted to use funding.

We were told we could simply: Vote-out Councilmembers. Right. Who has the time and resources.

Trust your elected representatives..they tell us. Right. How is Bertha doing.

The Zoo funded this initiative to the tune of $45K and they will be rewarded with millions of dollars. For this, shouldn't we have expected to be a bit more transparent:

http://us3.campaign-archive1.com/?u=3423a302db117195a68a55081&id;=2e265f0b5a&e;=c9e43aaec0

I also understand there were issues with the voters guide. Perhaps the lesson is : Honesty is the best policy.

I'm voting NO and I"ve encouraged others to do the same.

Watching

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:03 p.m. Inappropriate

Hint: If you want people to support your initiative--treat them nicely.

Watching

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 7:33 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm voting No because the proponents haven't made the case that the promised improvements to park management is worth the hike in property taxes, even if it's "only" $4 a month. As a Seattleite born and raised, a lifelong resident, and an in-city homeowner since 1996, I've grown weary of the constant calls for more money to pay for projects with only marginal benefits, if any. The property tax burden is squeezing me and many others to the point of deciding to quit the city because we can no longer afford to live here. Send us a parks measure that SAVES us money, cuts our taxes, and improves parks, and I'll vote Yes.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, that sounds great! Where is the mythical city we can all live in, where we cut taxes but get more public benefits for our reduced responsibility as citizens?

Mickymse

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Since when has Seattle ever cut taxes?

Simon

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Yes, that sounds great! Where is the mythical city we can all live in, where we cut taxes but get more public benefits for our reduced responsibility as citizens?

We could start by emulating how an ACTUAL region finances light rail, and then eliminate the abusively-steep .9% sales tax and car tab tax Sound Transit imposes. If we cut those taxes and implemented a "best practices" light rail financing plan we could do what you suggest (cut taxes and get more public benefits):

http://www.transportation-finance.org/projects/hudson_bergen_lrt.aspx

What's that got in common with the financing plan Sound Transit's board began setting in to place several years back? Absolutely nothing. What do you think, Michael Taylor-Judd? Isn't that a FAR better way to finance transit? If we emulated that people here would pay significantly less taxes and get light rail.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 10 a.m. Inappropriate

Please go to http://www.seattle.gov/parks/legacy/ and click on the interactive map of park projects near your house. By and large, it really is basic maintenance stuff. HVAC (which will save money), roof repairs (which save money), irrigation and drainage (which allow fields to stay in use for more days), electrical and plumbing replacements which should prevent major failures later. I convinced myself, after looking at the annual budget which is also on that page, that the MPD funding will improve my local parks and improve my life at very modest additional cost. I don't want to see Parks buy lots of new sites, build a professional sports stadium, or spend outlandish amounts on downtown parks. I think there is sufficient control over that in the published budget and the normal workings of representative democracy.

Two questions for which the opponents have not given me much response: We already spend $89 million in General Fund money, allocated and supervised through the budget process by the City Council. Why is representative democracy OK for that money, but direct democracy is absolutely essential for additional money? And related: How has the levy funding process improved or even changed the selection or administration of Parks funding? The levies are constructed by the same cast of characters who are involved in General Fund parks budgets: Council, Mayor, Parks Dept., Board of Parks Commissioners, various citizen advisory boards and interest groups, Parks Foundation, etc. Where is the value-add for formulating and running levy campaigns every six years?

Posted Sat, Aug 2, 6:31 p.m. Inappropriate

Why can't we pay for this with an increased levy. If we are going to have a MPA then we need to vote for the people who run it that than have it operate as an arm of the City Council.

WSDW

Posted Mon, Aug 4, 4:22 p.m. Inappropriate

The projects they want to spend on isn't the issue.

The tax increase isn't the issue. I'll pay.

It's the creation of the MPD, and its broad power under the RCW and the fact that they can then change what it will be spent on at-will and increase the property taxes at-will.

Let's look at Seattle City Light. Its a separate legal entity like the MPD. The City Council had Seattle City Light pay for municipal street lighting, and electricity for those lights, even though in every city without its own public utility, that is paid for from the General Fund. More importantly state law says that what fees are charged to the customers of the utility can only go for expenditures necessary to maintain the infrastructure required to procure and deliver kilowatts to paying customers. The only recourse Seattle ratepayers had after the City Council said they didn't see a problem with that or a violation of state law, was to sue. The Plaintiff's one. I don't want to rely on my fellow citizens to file a lawsuit to make the MPD follow the law.

Also the MPD can spend the money much more broadly than a public utility can. So look to the Council to start offloading all kinds of general fund spending onto the MPD. Parks need police and fire right? Why not have the MPD kick in for its pro-rata share of fire and police responses? I can see all kinds of opportunity for mischief making here.

Posted Mon, Aug 4, 4:37 p.m. Inappropriate

The more you look at this and other levies, they're just general tax increases with the catchiest label the "progressives" can devise.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 8:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Thank you for a clear assessment - I agree strongly that the political strategy here has not been convincing. On the other hand, I think there's a reason to bring Tim Eyman into this - not to smear people by labeling them as Eyman supporters, but to recognize that he has permanently changed the terms of debate and created an expectation for public votes on all taxes that is now widely accepted. Coupled with initiatives that place a stranglehold on local governments' abilities to raise general purpose taxes, he's contributed to the current crippled state of local government finance, where bonds or special tax districts are the only method available to raise needed funds. In Seattle, the general fund has become a zero-sum tug of war between roads, social services and police; while management of other city budgets and capital programs has been delegated to boards and stakeholder groups, or mandated through project lists included in bond measures.

All of that has had several perverse results in my opinion. Bond measures tend to be developed politically by stakeholder committees to include popular projects rather than boring things like operating and maintaining. To make ballot measures appealing, promises are inflated through borrowing, which results in far more of our overall tax dollars being sent to Wall Street for interest payments. And the city council plays a diminished role in sizing, balancing and prioritizing the overall city budget because so much of it is balkanized or committed.

I don't think that's how government should work, which is why I'm in favor of giving the city council the ability to tax and spend for parks, and to be held accountable for their decisions. I think that's how representative government should work. Having said that, I also agree that this is too convoluted an argument to expect voters to absorb and agree to over a short campaign for a primary election, and too big an issue to solve effectively through a single vote. If it fails, I hope we'll try again more convincingly with something more than a levy attached to a capital project list that doesn't provide for ongoing needs.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 9:06 a.m. Inappropriate

You must be new around here, Rob. The "expectation for public votes on all taxes [for popular things] that is now widely accepted" was initiated by the bond lawyers in town in the late 1960's, and they've been fostering it since. It is they who have pumped out that message in the media since then that new-tax ballot measures always are good, worthwhile things to vote for. Moreover, the democrats in control in Olympia for over a generation adopted numerous statutes calling for votes on tax issues. Those are the reasons why the government heads here push tax hike votes several times a year every year.

The start of this lousy form of governance was old-Metro (and its 11 proposed tax hike votes). That model was expanded, and we've been forced to vote because of the statutory forms of the city and county TBDs, the Pike Place Market PDA, the stadium authorities, Sound Transit and the monorail authority, etc.

The tax pimps around here and their democrat handmaidens are behind all of those. To the extent Tim Eyman calls for votes on tax measures he's 100% in agreement with the agenda of that interest group. That reality is screamingly-obvious to anyone who has been around here for a couple of decades. the private-firm lawyers in Seattle who have public-sector clients get richer off of ballot measures calling for higher taxes and Eyman makes money off of promoting ballot measures: their interests dovetail perfectly.

Creating stand-alone taxing districts has been the state democrats' bread and butter for decades. They enacted the enabling statutes for those, and their local functionaries pimped those ballot measures good and hard. Absolutely NOTHING would have prevented the state legislature from the 1960's onward from delegating progressive taxing authority, LID authority, etc. to existing local units of government to provide adequately for transit, parks, etc. Problem is, the bond counsel at the private law firms wanted what their sugar daddy Goldman Sachs wants: separate, siloed tax streams they can use to secure bonds.

What line of work are you in, Rob? You seem oblivious to the realities of public financing practices around here. Are you being consciously obtuse about those? Are you still in college or something? You come across as blissfully unaware of how different things are here than in the rest of the country in this way.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 7:20 a.m. Inappropriate

According to his LinkedIn account, Rob Fellows now is in charge of toll policy at WSDOT.

Here's his past employment --

___________

Transportation Planner IV
King County / Metro
January 2003 – January 2007 (4 years 1 month)

Lead planner responsible for long range planning for transit in King County. Work included developing the six-year transit development plan, waterborne transit policy, mitigation plans for major construction projects, public-private partnership initiatives for the South Lake Union area, and assisted in development of the 2006 “Transit Now!” ballot measure.

Senior Supervising Transportation Planner
Parsons Brinckerhoff, Inc
January 2001 – January 2003 (2 years 1 month)

As a consultant, managed or contributed to a variety of transportation planning efforts including those listed below plus the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, a transit funding study for Tenn. DOT, and transit IT assessment in Austin, TX.

Projects include:

Deputy Project Manager: Sound Transit Technology Plan
Conducted day-to-day project management to develop the Sound Transit (ST) Technology Plan and a Regional Technology Plan to define projects and funding priorities to allocate the ST regional technology fund and prioritize candidate multi-agency technology partnership initiatives.

TCRP Geometric Guide for Transit Facilities on Streets and Highways
Helped prepare a geometric guidebook for transit facilities located in public rights of way. Compiled and edited existing guidance, and proposed best practices for coordinating plans between transit and roadway agencies and making collaborative project decisions.

____________________

No wonder he likes pointing the finger to blame bad transportation and transit policies AWAY from where that blame lies: the democrats around here and in Olympia who set those bad policies and hire ineffective blowhards.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 9:18 a.m. Inappropriate

Rob Fellows is an EXPERT on tax-revenue diversion schemes like the one the new proposed “parks” taxing district would engage in. That shell game involves one taxing district handing tax revenue over to their friends at another municipal entity to spend.

Hey Rob: provide links (if you can) showing how “transparent” and “accountable” the tax-revenue diversion schemes you were involved in are:

– how many hundreds of millions of dollars has Sound Transit diverted to each of the state and King County; and

– how many hundreds of millions of dollars have each of the state and Sound Transit paid to your former employer Parsons Brinckerhoff?

We'll take a look at the webpages you provide the URLs to, and see if the existing tax-revenue diversion schemes pass the smell test. That should indicate whether this new parks taxing district's similar scheme makes any sense. Fair enough?

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 5:45 p.m. Inappropriate


Hey Rob Fellows:

Why are the plans for the Sound Transit/WSDOT I-90 work AND WSDOT's SR-99 AWV replacement project so messed up? PB is behind both of those!

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 2:34 a.m. Inappropriate

Rob lives off the taxpayers at the Washington State DOT, an agency that never met a highway project it could perform competently and within budget. But he's all in favor of every tax dollar he can get his grubby hands on!

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 6:23 p.m. Inappropriate

Rob Fellows:

Just admit the truth . . . the democrat leadership designed and adopted the statutory schemes calling for public votes on large regressive tax hikes. Its political base wants those. That bad governance form -- featuring excessive regressive taxing dedicated to particular spending categories -- is abnormal compared to how other states operate and it isn't serving the public well here. NONE of that is because of anything Tim Eyman did.

The closest thing to this parks taxing-entity scheme is "Bridging the Gap", where the city council distributes some of the property tax revenue it collects to Metro. Specifically, the city council has been taxing people here and handing money over to the county for “additional” bus service for four years.

How has that "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue diversion process been playing out? Has it been successful? Here are some of the obvious questions about it:

-- how much of the Seattle-only "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue has been handed over by city employees to Metro;

-- what has Metro done with all that property tax revenue (which additional bus trips -- routes and times -- were purchased with that money); and

-- what safeguards does Metro have in place to ensure that the new money from Seattle property owners increased Seattle-only service and was not considered when service plans for non-Seattle parts of the county were drawn up?

Answer those questions. You worked at Metro, you know where that information would be on the website (if it is there).

The city council now wants to tax more for parks. We want to judge how well it is doing with the comparable "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue diversion plan.

If you don't mind, provide cites to sources at the city's websites and at Metro's websites that might indicate whether the city council can implement tax revenue diversion schemes in an open, transparent manner that ends up benefiting more than a handful of the "little people" it is targeting with the new taxes.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 9:25 a.m. Inappropriate

Must ... Not ... Feed ... Trolls ... !
(But I had nothing to do with Bridging the Gap.)

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 10:02 a.m. Inappropriate

I'm asking you to address very legitimate concerns. Do more than call me a derogatory term -- respond in a cogent manner.

crossrip

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 11:11 a.m. Inappropriate

Must ... not ... tolerate ... stupid government officials

NotFan

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

Now, now . . . Rob Fellows certainly is not stupid.

He does like acting evasive and calling people derogatory names though, especially when they ask questions about taxing entities here paying each other and Parsons Brinckerhoff vast sums.

The transit and roads officials around here move between Parsons Brinckerhoff and public employment with great fluidity. Paula Hammond now works out of PBs Seattle office. Jared Smith was the mayor Schell's point man on light rail in the late 1990's. He went to PB, then Murray hired him last year to advise the city full-time on the waterfront projects. Rob Fellows fits that pattern as well.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 8:46 a.m. Inappropriate

It's a bit more than "$4 per month." The measure's language calls for a levy of $0.33 per $1,000 AV for ten years. On that mythical $400K home, the cost would be $132 per year or $11 per month. The rate on the expiring levy is $0.18 per $1,000.

Between the establishment of an essentially unaccountable taxing mechanism, the lack of an adequately detailed financial plan, and the less than forthright campaign waged by the proponents, I, too, am voting no.

tifoso

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 5:12 p.m. Inappropriate

The ballot measure that you are voting on is for a permanent tax up to $.75/$1000.... the proposal is to start at $.33/$1000, but that can be increased up to $.75/$1000 with the simple provision of 180 days notice that that's what the MPD Board (City Council) has decided to do. You are not voting on $.33/$1000. If the proposition was in the form of a levy, you could hold the City accountable for $X/$1000 for Xyears and AB&C; expenditures. There are NO details in Prop 1 that we can legally hold the City to.

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 11:41 a.m. Inappropriate

It includes $7/month ($400K home) from the expiring parks levy. $11 - $7 = $4/month in new taxes.

Under the ILA that will take effect with the MPD:

"Parks [and Recreation] would conduct a community-oriented process to determine spending priorities every 6 years through the life of the Park District. The park district governing board, after considering the recommendations from the public process and the Citizens’ Oversight Committee, would determine the spending levels and updated Prioritized List of Investment Initiatives for years 7 through 12 as part of the 2021 budget process. This process of adjusting the spending levels (with annual inflation adjustments) and a revised list of investment initiatives would continue for the life of the park district. Under the proposed ILA, annual park district budgets would be consistent with the then-current six-year spending plan."

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 8:50 a.m. Inappropriate

The election may well be about trust, but the real issue is governance. It makes no sense to have a separate parks district overseen by the city council. It suggests a simple ploy to wring more money out of taxpayers. Why not just float a funding package? If the idea of a parks district makes sense, it should have a separate board. One of the purposes of an incorporated city government is to unify all these services under one government and tax structure--but lately the city itself has been trying to peel off its responsibilities largely to lessen its financial burdens. But that is short-sighted. Balkanizing the city's services may make financial sense in the short-term but it's no way to govern.

Mikos

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:20 p.m. Inappropriate

Because the City Council does not currently have the capacity to propse a levy at this amount along with the other needs we have... If voters say No, a future levy will be for LESS funding for Parks.

Mickymse

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 5:18 p.m. Inappropriate

According to the Dir of Finance in a presentation to the Legacy Cmte, there is ample available funding for a levy in the $36-40mill range.... yes, less than the MPD proposal, but more than the current levy.... That could cover all of the high priority items. It might not be a bad idea to fix what's broke in Parks with a levy (starting with an external audit) and spend the time to fix what's broke with the governance under an MPD. Gee, everyone might win with that approach!

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:29 a.m. Inappropriate

Same proposal and same issues of governance and trust last year in Vancouver, Washington. The Council would act as the "Parks Board" and consensus was that it would use the "Parks Revenue" to reduce general funding for parks and move the general funds to other projects it considered higher priority, possible safety and roads.

The ballot proposal was overwhelmingly defeated. And if I lived in Seattle I would vote against it for the same reasons. And I really value my parks.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Jordan nails the issues and concerns here. I strongly support parks and have volunteered and given money both to support parks and and parks levies. However, I am voting NO on this ballot issue.

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 12:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Seattle parks are disappointing. Sculpture Park for instance: gravel walkways straight as an arrow, no shade trees, lawns used more by dogs than people, ground cover where lawn would be ideal, no seating other than bright orange waffle-butt stackable chairs, absurd scuptures. The Waterfront plans follow the Sculpture Park model: stark modernism, lack of shade trees and seating, absurd overlooks sans amenities that make scenic views enjoyable. Seattle Arts and Parks Departments employ a Salvador Dali surrealism akin to class warfare: If you don't like these dubious sort of park elements, you must be one of the ignorant and unsophisticated lower-class.

Wells

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 12:47 a.m. Inappropriate

The best thing that could happen to the sculpture park would be if some vandals from Aberdeen would blow it up.

NotFan

Posted Sun, Aug 3, 8:10 a.m. Inappropriate

The sculpture park is owned and operated by the Seattle Art Museum. The works in it are privately owned but open to the public. Sorry you don't like it, but don't use it as a stick to beat the Parks Dept.

srdm

Posted Mon, Aug 4, 4:34 p.m. Inappropriate

The museum got it from the city. This is the city's doing.

NotFan

Posted Wed, Aug 6, 7:04 a.m. Inappropriate

Yes, the city gave the museum a superfund site.

srdm

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 10:53 a.m. Inappropriate

One of the reasons the suspicion and confusion abound about Prop 1 is no one in the media - including you, Jordan - give much credence to the law the Council unanimously passed and the Mayor signed stipulating how the MPD would function - levy a tax rate and get out of the way; own no property, have no staff; identify specific projects, programs and maintenance that is funded by the MPD for the first six years (list created by the citizen legacy committee); create an ongoing citizen oversight committee (similar to the ones that exist for prior levies) to monitor the MPD funds and develop a new six year plan; annual performance audits; and every action of the City in expending MPD funds would be governed by existing laws and the City Charter. This basically sets up an additional $.33/$1,000 of new General Fund dollars dedicated exclusively to parks. I find it amazing that so little faith is placed in the legislative acts of our Councilmembers. While I think that speaks to the distrust you highlight, it would have been great if you would have at least provided the information included in the law that expresses not only Council intent but also the law of the land when the voters voted. Changing a law that is a companion to the ballot initiative would likely cost more than one Council member their job! The Times won't even mention the law. Once the public reviews the full meal deal - ballot measure and companion ordinance - then they can weigh whether or not it's a good deal.

twain

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 11:13 a.m. Inappropriate


You've GOT to be joking! Everybody knows that when the city councilmembers impose taxes for singular purposes all accountability and transparency goes out the window. That's why they set up those lousy financing schemes.

Big fan of this plan for the city council to start taxing "for parks" are you? Go ahead and address some very relevant issues then about how well the city council has been doing with its new property tax just "for transit". Let's see if you have any clue about these things, or whether you just are blowing smoke.

The city council has been taxing people here and handing money over to the county for “additional” bus service for four years. Some "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue from Seattle property owners has been handed over for some indeterminate set of "additional bus trips".

How has that "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue diversion process been playing out? Has it been successful? Here are some of the obvious questions about it:

-- how much of the Seattle-only "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue has been handed over by city employees to Metro;

-- what has Metro done with all that property tax revenue (which additional bus trips -- routes and times -- were purchased with that money); and

-- what safeguards does Metro have in place to ensure that the new money from Seattle property owners increased Seattle-only service and was not considered when service plans for non-Seattle parts of the county were drawn up?

The city council now wants to tax more for parks. Go ahead: address the issues above, and provide cites to sources at the city's websites and at Metro's websites that might indicate the city council can implement tax revenue diversion schemes in an open, transparent manner that ends up benefiting more than a handful of the "little people" it is targeting with the new taxes. You can do that, right?

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:22 p.m. Inappropriate

Ummmm, troll much? This took me 30 seconds to pull up: http://www.seattle.gov/transportation/bridgingthegap.htm

Mickymse

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:32 p.m. Inappropriate

Following that link takes you to a page that does not address ANY of the three issues my posting above identified.

Nothing on that webpage 1) specifies how much of the Seattle-only "Bridging the Gap" tax revenue has been handed over by city employees to Metro, 2) identifies what Metro did with all that property tax revenue (which additional bus trips -- routes and times -- were purchased with that money, or 3) identifies any safeguards Metro has in place to ensure that the new money from Seattle property owners increased Seattle-only service and was not considered when service plans for non-Seattle parts of the county were drawn up.

Try reading what I posted more slowly, and think before you post flippant retorts.

You come across as a know-nothing smartass, Michael Taylor-Judd.

crossrip

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

Hallelujah!!! The facts - thank you Twain! For those of you in doubt - please read!!!

beep1

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 11:43 a.m. Inappropriate

The disinformation of the "Seattle Parks for All " campaign (the advocates for Proposition 1) is stunning.

All along, spokespeople for that group have tried to give the impression that Proposition 1 is "just a renewal" of our current parks' levy and is as benign as all other levies we've approved.

That is not the case. As has been stated many times by people who prefer a levy because of its list of projects, accountability and citizen involvement and oversight characteristics, A MPD/SEATTLE PARK DISTRICT IS NOT A LEVY.

It is a totally new-but permanent-taxing authority which can quadruple the amount of taxes you now pay for parks.

They don't have to ask you to do so.

I just received a robo call recently. I'll quote:

"Seattle Proposition 1 will renew the expiring levy with a permanent, dedicated funding source..."

This call is definitely meant to infer that a levy is being renewed.

To quote from Pro Prop. 1 mailer:

"The current parks levy is expiring. Let's renew our commitment......"

All of the campaign's statements have been carefully crafted to persuade voters they are voting to either renew-or create - a levy.

Please don't be persuaded by this disingenuous campaign. Learn the facts. Learn the characteristics of an MPD and how your "yes" vote is basically a vote to allow yourself about a 21% total, permanent, property tax increase!

Vote "NO" on Proposition 1. Then contact City Council and tell them to put a levy on a 2015 ballot.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 12:24 p.m. Inappropriate

As long as you acknowledge that that levy will be for LESS funding than is currently proposed... and will continue to be burdened by all of the problems inherent in the current levy funding system.

Mickymse

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 4:05 p.m. Inappropriate

There are NO PROBLEMS WITH OUR CURRENT LEVY! Any problems are inherent because of the projects our "City Officials" selected for funding.

I'm all for the "maximum" levy amount. I believe it was presented at "Legacy Committee" meetings to be about $48 million dollars.
Approximately 90% of Legacy meeting attendees supported a levy and were opposed to an MPD.

Let's do a levy in 2014 and re-evaluate in a few years-after we've assessed the performance of our new, district selected City Council.

We can then choose between another levy or a different MPD version that includes the "safeguards" that numerous parks' advocates are requesting.

Posted Sun, Aug 3, 2:16 p.m. Inappropriate

the major issue with the levy from 2008 was that it had NO money in it for Maintenance and Operations. Curious to hear your solution on that with a 2015 levy because there will NOT be enough capacity there to address the very legitimate backlog of M&O.;

beep1

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 1:17 p.m. Inappropriate

McGinn on Publicola repeatedly calls the MPD a levy. Not sure if that is an indicator of his confusion or straight up dissembling.... (and with Publicola that is generally just difficult to discern)
http://www.seattlemet.com/news-and-profiles/publicola/articles/why-i-m-voting-for-parks-even-though-the-opponents-have-a-point-july-2014

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 12:48 a.m. Inappropriate

Dissembling? McSchwinn? Come on, everyone knows he's a god damned liar. That's why we canned him.

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 1:34 p.m. Inappropriate

Clear-headed analysis. Thx. Except for assuming that issue is "trust". Yes it is also that but also "competence." I do not "trust" City Council to be "competent."

---

Personally, I woke up to Prop 1 just recently when I received a mailer which alerted me that parks are good, so are kids, and that I should vote for Prop 1. It was insultingly dumb, dishonest and slimy.

The honest way to handle Prop 1 should have been "We need more $$ for parks. We need to create new governmental organization to avoid levy lid. Then we can raise taxes."

When I started to look into the issue I realized that this was a "Robert Moses/Power Broker-style" operation -- create a new organization to raise taxes; Moses did that over and over again -- and its focus was probably to raise $$$ for the Waterfront Park Monument.

And of course once I started thinking about the Waterfront Park I thought of the lack of foresight by our City Council in supporting the Tunnel, which conveniently-enough is right smack dab right in the middle of the Waterfront Park. So it is hard not to make the connection:

Prop 1 --> Waterfront Park --> $125 million hole in the ground --> Foolish Tunnel --> Foolish City Council (and Mayor who also supported the Tunnel.)

It's hard not to see the connection.

It told me more than enough so I have voted against Prop 1 and urge everyone else to do the same.

Do we need to fund parks? Yes and Prop 1 can come back and I am sure they will considering the honey pot at stake) and do a more honest job.

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 1:49 p.m. Inappropriate

Once you wake up to this crap -- like I did during Mayor McNothing's tenure -- you tend not to go back to sleep. So keep watching. I guarantee that, if you do that, you're going to see just how incestuous, corrupt, and anti-taxpayer the "progressives" who run Seattle's city government are.

Before you know it, you'll be voting against every levy no matter what. These people have plenty of money for every boondoggle. They only cry poverty when it's something they didn't want to do, like fix the streets, or when trying to establish a new slush fund, which is what tax levies are always about, either directly or indirectly.

Stay awake!

NotFan

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 2:01 p.m. Inappropriate

The Interlocal Agreement (yes - the fine print!!!) is written very well and provides accountability including a citizen oversight committee. Having sat on that committee before, I can attest that there is scrutiny on projects and a high level of accountability. And Jordan has it right that polling did show support for taking care of our parks by funding operations and maintenance. The reason why a Parks District is before the voters is because a Levy does not allow us the funding to do just that - take care of what we have. I will be voting YES on Prop 1 in support of our Parks!

beep1

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 2:30 p.m. Inappropriate

Are you being sarcastic? Or is your reading so selective that you missed "This agreement may be terminated by either party upon the provision of one hundred and eighty (180) calendar days’ notice."?

louploup

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 11:45 p.m. Inappropriate

So - would the city council terminate this agreement as the city council, or as the parks district? Why would the city council terminate an agreement with itself?

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 9:13 a.m. Inappropriate

To avoid/void terms of the ILA. E.g., raise the tax rate, enter in public-private partnership, myriad reasons.

louploup

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 1:21 p.m. Inappropriate

The City Council would terminate the agreement with the parks district board. That the two bodies comprise the same individuals is not legally relevant (and no, that's not sarcasm, just reality).

sarah90

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 3:33 p.m. Inappropriate

While I certainly understand a view that asks, 'Why on earth do we micromanage every expenditure when we elect people to govern?' and I am a proponent of our civic responsibility all of us have to fund the social good, my no vote is a reflection of enough is enough of two things:

1. It is past time for public revenues to be generated by those who benefit the most. It has been far too long that costs are socialized and benefits are privatized. Yes, I am talking about tax reform.

2. Further this RCW, in particular, has far too many opportunities for further (be it by liberals or conservatives) privatization of the public realm. Councilmember Sawant's rant against and vote against confirmation of our new Police Chief was based on her interpretation of 'run like a business' which had nothing to do with increasing profits. It is disingenuous that she does not oppose Prop 1 when state law will allow 'public good' to be interpreted to provide increased profits for certain private entities - something that is liberal/corporate business as usual in Seattle.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 7:27 p.m. Inappropriate

Too often "we" suffer from the shortsighted-malady. Let's not make this mistake with the MPD which establishes a permanent agency. Every effort must be made to make any permanent legislation as near perfect as possible. There are many known and acknowledged problems with the MPD, as defined by the state statute that allows for its creation. Attempts were made to address many deficiencies in the non-binding companion ordinance. The problem is just that, it is non-binding. Andy as Jordan suggests, most people bristle when they are told they should just trust the City Council.

Can't we take one step at a time? Why must we rush into this? This is not an emergency that can't be dealt with by a 6 or 8 yr levy. We need a levy that addresses the highest priorities. Do a thorough performance and financial audit of the parks department and make adjustments in management accordingly. Then work on creating an MPD proposal that addresses citizens concerns regarding genuine accountability based on binding operating regulations.

Posted Tue, Jul 29, 11:56 p.m. Inappropriate

I think the thesis of this article is the important take-away. There is a good debate needed about how to provide on-going operating and maintenance funding for parks rather than to continue passing capital improvement levies. But getting there requires an open public process and transparent communications rather than a hurried vote during the dead of summer. If this vote fails, I hope everyone will dust themselves off, read this article, and start the hard work of communicating, debating, listening and convincing that's needed to try again.

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 12:56 a.m. Inappropriate

Yep, you and your loathesome "progressive" kind hate the taxpayers, and can't ever accept a verdict. Fellows, do us all a favor. Get the hell out of here, and take your 100 favorite government parasites with you. This city would be so much better off if you weren't here. How about California? I think you'd be appreciated in a place with our sales taxes and Oregon's income taxes, don't you? Come on -- it's your dream, so why not chase it?

NotFan

Posted Wed, Jul 30, 11:31 a.m. Inappropriate

Good points and an interesting discussion - thanks.

One note - the analysis in the Seattle Times today really shows the opponents went overboard in their scare tactics flyer - unfortunate as a straight-forward analysis would easily show the issues with the ballot measure.

No need to stoop this low. http://seattletimes.com/html/localnews/2024193629_parksneedle1xml.html

Treker

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 2:28 a.m. Inappropriate

Now we KNOW you're a government puke!

NotFan

Posted Thu, Jul 31, 8:40 a.m. Inappropriate

No. Just a well informed voter. If you managed to keep up in the back and forth on this you'll note my earlier statements backing a NO vote on this one. But it doesn't excuse using typical scare tactics to try an increase the vote. You might actually read the link provided.

Carry on with the continued drama, however. Your niche as the CrossCut Village Idiot was solidified about 100 posts ago.

Treker

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