Counterpoint: Seattle can do better than Prop 1's transportation plan

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Suzie Burke

Seattle voters are deciding on Proposition 1, a nine-year $930 million measure for transportation projects. Below, Suzie Burke argues for a no vote; Ref Lindmark's argument for a yes vote is here

As a second-generation Seattleite, and a small business owner, I support efforts to keep Seattle affordable and strongly encourage Seattle voters to vote "no" on Seattle Proposition 1.

We need to keep our city affordable for all, to stay in the city that we like this city to be. Nothing is more important than keeping Seattle affordable - for renters, homeowners and all small business owners that want to stay in this city and keep our businesses open and operational. To be able to do that, I want you to Vote No on Prop 1, and its nearly $1 billion levy that significantly increases property taxes to pay for unnamed and undefined transportation projects.

We do need transportation improvements, but we must do them the smart way. Levies are meant to fund capital projects not maintenance work.  Maintenance was meant to be covered by the general city budget, but the budget of the Seattle Department of Transportation only covers its personnel, payroll and benefits. Is our city so poorly managed that we can’t fund maintenance projects without a special funding source? Where do our current real-estate taxes go?

Prop 1 has no breakdown of spending – no identified projects. They do not intend to spend this $930-million blank check on specific items that voters have identified as necessary. We deserve to get more bang for our property tax bucks, before we hand over this kind of money.

If we were to wait one year, we will have seven Seattle City Council members that represent the seven districts of our city. They will be able to bring to the table projects identified by the citizens of their districts as the highest priorities. Next year, the Department of Transportation has promised to deliver the first ever Master Freight Plan, which will identify ways to better move trucks on our streets and to our businesses. Both of these coming changes would contribute to a better, more reasonable and more responsive list of projects for keeping Seattle moving.

With Prop 1, the relief for motorists, pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders will be minimal. The burden of higher taxes on homeowners, renters and business owners will be heavier. Renters and homeowners alike pay property taxes, although homeowners more likely see the bill. Renters may only feel the increase when their rent goes up. They will also feel the increase when favorite restaurants, retailers and service providers pass on the higher taxes and higher rents with higher prices.

The Seattle-King County League of Women Voters has urged a no vote on Prop 1, and in its position paper they quote, ‘we are concerned about the ability of even relatively well-off Seattleites to remain in their homes,’ due to levies pushing property taxes to unmanageable levels. Renters may be able to move with ease. Small businesses have the hardest time relocating, and may just close as their taxes rise. If we do all move, where will the jobs, the people and the soul of our city go?

Worst of all, the higher property taxes demanded by Prop 1 will hit hardest the poor, the elderly and the working families. Some people may be able to make more money to cover the higher cost of living in Seattle, but low income earners, senior citizens on fixed incomes and young families with children can’t simply increase their hours to cover this levy – a levy increasing 58 percent over the last. Also, the people who need property tax exemptions (senior/disabled and/or veterans) do not get them under Prop 1.

Prop 1 bumps up the amount of money being spent on transportation, but who knows what we get for it. This proposition lifts the tax limit for a levy -- it is the largest property tax levy in Seattle’s history -- and it delivers nothing but a ‘trust us’ from our lawmakers about where the money will be spent. Prop 1 is offered as a replacement to the Bridging The Gap levy, which promised to cut the maintenance backlog in half and didn’t. It also promised not to fund, or back-fill funding, of Bertha and the Aurora tunnel. This one doesn’t.

Accountability matters. So does affordability. My parents were born and raised in Seattle, and I’ve been able to raise my children here. Let’s keep Seattle affordable for our children and our grandchildren, and for the businesses that employ them and the ones they may start. Let’s keep Seattle affordable for every one of us. I urge you to vote no for Seattle Prop 1.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Suzie Burke

Suzie Burke is a land owner in the Fremont area of Seattle. She is a proponent of small business, manufacturing, and the maritime industry, with a strong belief in neighborhood involvement."