Monday, April 7, 2014

Important Public Hearing Tonight On Future of Community Centers and Programs Offered

Seattle Parks for All

Bill Keller, with the Associated Recreation Council (ARC),  a committee that advises Parks and Recreation on a variety off issues, would like to let the community know about tonight's important City Council public hearing regarding the possibility of establishing a $54M Parks District aimed at restoring programs and community center hours, as well as attending to the $270M major maintenance backlog. 
Currently, Community centers are currently open at 50% of their capacity and Parks faces a $270 million parks maintenance backlog.
The Laurelhurst Community Center became a "limited use" center in 2011 with total hours cut back to just 25, open from 9-2pm on weekdays and running with a staff of four.
Several NE Seattle residents told us that they oppose the "Park District" idea as homeowners in NE Seattle could see their taxes go up by four times if the resolution passes tonight.
NEDC  and the Seattle Community Council Federation  voted to support continued parks levies and to oppose the Park Districts as will be proposed tonight. The same  resolution was also passed by a 90% vote of the 46th Legislative District in favor of a parks levy but opposing an MPD.
Here is the resolution passed by the 46th District Democrats for some of these reasons:
  • A Parks Legacy Committee has been convened and has met for the past eight months to consider funding mechanisms for ongoing support of Seattle parks when the current levy expires, including a short-term levy, a mid-term levy, a permanent levy, and a Metropolitan Parks District; and
  • The latter two funding options represent permanent taxes which would never again come before the voters for approval, review, or input; and
  • Periodic public review of taxing authority is an essential part of the democratic process; no other mechanism insures this degree of accountability.
  • We express our support for a short- or longer term parks levy (but not a permanent levy) and express opposition to a Metropolitan Parks District, as currently proposed. 
Bill said that creating a Parks District "will provide stable, predictable funding for Seattle Parks and Recreation." Currently there are 17 other cities that have Park Districts including Tacoma. Many have been implemented in the last several years and have been highly successful, Bill added.
The meeting takes place at 6pm at Council Chambers, City Hall (600 Fourth Avenue). 
Abigial, who works for the campaign told us that:
A Parks District is a proven way to deliver stable, sustainable funding for our Seattle parks, ballfields and community centers. If approved at the ballot this August, Seattle voters would establish a separate taxing district, with its own dedicated funding, that would be spent on supporting the maintenance, upkeep and operations of our more than 6,000 acres of City parklands spread over more than 450 separate parks, our 26 community centers, 185 athletic fields and more than 120 playgrounds. 
The District would be administered by the members of the City Council acting as Parks District Commissioners, with strict oversight and accountability measures included to ensure that the funds raised are spent wisely and with substantial citizen input. Seventeen other cities in Washington State, including Tacoma, as well as major cities around the country, have already created successful and thriving Parks Districts. It is time for Seattle to do the same. 
Funding raised through the Parks District will address critical park and community center operations and programs all across Seattle, as well as major maintenance projects alike leaky roofs, ageing boilers, and critical electrical upgrades. Funding will restore staffing, hours, and programs at community centers for kids and seniors; provide cleaner restrooms and trash pickup; acquire new parks and open space; and protect habitat to meet demands of a growing and increasingly diverse city. In addition, the funds raised through the parks district will provide funding for major maintenance at the Woodland Park Zoo and the Seattle Aquarium.

City Council needs to hear that the community wants to restore equal access to recreation opportunities.We need everyone who cares about restoring access and opportunity to Seattle Parks and Recreation programs and facilities to attend tonight. Your voice needs to be heard now and will shape Parks and Recreation opportunities for the future.  Get involved.  Let the City Council know.  Now is the time.


For more details about the recommendations, go here and here.

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