Friday, August 1, 2014

Vote By Tuesday On Whether To Allow City To Create A New Metropolitan Parks District Raising Residents Taxes

Ballots are due by 8pm on Tuesday and include an important issue, Proposition 1, proposing a new taxing authority, called the Metropolitan Parks District, (MPD) to fund parks and having the same boundaries as the City's, and be governed by the City Council.

The district would have a Citizens Oversight Committee to advise the council, with four members of the Park Board plus seven additional community members.   The City would continue to use general fund revenues to pay the lion’s share of parks costs, and would continue to allocate money at 2014 levels plus inflation.

The Laurelhurst Community Club, which unanimously opposes the measure, said that if the proposal passes, the MPD would no longer allow city residents to vote on parks levies, as the  new taxing jurisdiction board would have the taxing authority. 

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.

The Laurelhurst Community Club said:
LCC loves its parks and has consistently supported park levies over the years.  LCC is concerned about the lack of accountability with the Metropolitan Park District (MPD) and the hefty tax increase that could reach 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The Laurelhurst Blog has received emails from many Laurelhurst residents who said they oppose the "Park District" idea as homeowners in NE Seattle as everyone in the area could see their taxes go up by four times if the Proposition passes or up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value on the city’s property owners.
NEDC, Seattle Times, the League of Women Voters, and the Seattle Community Council Federation  also oppose the Parks Districts and  support continued parks levies , as well as the majority of the 46th Legislative District who are also in favor of a parks levy but opposing an MPD for 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.
The "Our Parks Forever Group," made up of long-time Seattle residents and Parks advocates, recently sent out a mailer saying:
The same City Government that that neglected parks for years now wants voters to approve a new tax that give them twice as much money and the power to raise rates without voter approval.
Our parks have always been funded as part of the General Fund – our City’s “Family Budget” and Levies.  This budget gives citizens the power to ensure neighborhood parks remain a priority for Seattle. 
Now, the City Council wants to move the care and feeding of our parks to a new Metropolitan Park District which will hold exclusive powers forever and can without a public vote - add new taxes to property tax bills, raising the cost of living for all Seattle residents.  
The solution is to keep our Parks in the City’s general fund budget to ensure the Department is accountable to all of us. 
We need to start building thoughts around, what's next such as saving our vote  for a levy in 2015.
We owe it to Seattle!  No blank checks! Retain our right to vote!  Demand real accountability!  

Here are some recent articles from media outlets: 
Seattle Ballot Measure Divides Parks Advocates

Prop 1 Seattle Discussion - Seattle Times

How Do We Pay For Beloved Seattle Parks - Seattle P-I

Voters can mail in ballots through the U.S. Postal Service, using a first class stamp with a postmark of 8pm Tuesday. 
Ballots can also be dropped off at a ballot drop box, with the closest one located at Magnuson Park, available 24 hours a day and until 8pm on Election day.


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