He Said/She Said: Do We Need a New Agency to Maintain Local Parks?

He Said/She Said: Do We Need a New Agency to Maintain Local Parks?

“He Said/She Said” highlights some of the most vigorous civil debates that take place in Go: South Seattle’s Comment section. The dialogue that occurs here between friends, neighbors and engaged citizens is one of the features that makes GSS such a valuable community resource. GSS does not necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

Next month, Seattle voters will decide on Proposition 1 — the formation of the Seattle Park District, a metropolitan parks department charged with funding, maintaining, operating and improving parks, community centers, pools, and other recreation facilities and programs. Its board would comprise the Seattle City Councilmembers. The District could levy property taxes, currently limited to 75¢ per $1,000 of valuation; and could contract with the City to perform certain functions. The change that can never be erased or modified by Seattle taxpayers.

Mark B: “Our parks system is one of our greatest democratic institutions,” Not if this passes and there is NEVER EVER another vote on it. And of course it is endorsed by the City Council. they would be in charge of it. (And they have done such a bang up job with the parks so far, right?) There is no way I feel that the City Council should be rewarded more money and more power for an epic failure. So I will vote not only no, but hell no.

HBK: I will be voting YES on Prop 1. It provides stable dedicated revenue for parks throughout the city, including neighborhood parks in Southeast Seattle. The levy approach requires politically popular projects to make sure it passes. The result, not enough funding to take care of neighborhood parks. Prop 1 creates a dedicated funding source to take care of neighborhood parks. Endorsed by Pramila Jayapal, 37th District Democrats, ECOSS, King County Labor Council, Seward Park Audubon Center, Seattle Human Services Coalition, El Centro de la Raza, Neighborhood House and dozens more. Please vote YES for Parks on Prop 1 to take care of parks in Seattle, including in the fast growing Southeast part of the city.

Dorothy Driver: Just one question re: Proposition 1 and Metropolitan Parks Department. Why do we need to establish a new department? Can’t we just vote on funding projects with the existing Seattle Parks Department? Have measures for funding budgets for the Department failed so often that we are now facing large deferred maintenance issues or did the existing Park Department not ask for enough funds? Just wondering how we got here and the logic behind the need to create a new department to solve the deficit issues. Thanks for any clarification.

Real Rainier Valley Girl: I’ve voted for every parks levy that the City Council has put before us. I have done so with the knowledge that the Parks Department might propose another asinine project like contracting from a foreign company to operate a zip line in bucolic Lincoln Park for a whopping $60K a year, roughly 1½ times the salary of the department’s superintendent. (Note to residents: The department might come back with another project in bucolic Seward Park, Golden Gardens, or the Arboretum)…

The Council trusts us to approve the capital funds but not the operating costs. Clearly, maintenance and operations of the parks and facilities needs to be addressed. I don’t want to go Tim Eyman here, but I don’t want to give the Council a blank check. Doing so would give the city the authority to raise taxes anywhere from 33¢ to 75¢ per $1K of assessed property value per year. How does we – particularly those with fixed incomes – budget for property taxes without knowing if it’s going to be a 33¢- or 75¢-year? Come to us with an initiative with accountability and predictability, and we’ll talk.

SolvayGirl: I have to agree with the nay-sayers. I refuse to have a City department able to raise my property taxes without some input from me. Seattle property taxes are already high (thanks to Washington’s regressive tax system). I love the parks. The City needs to address the backlogs as Mark noted, one levy at a time. We will approve; we almost always do.

Tom T: The bottom line here is that the City Council can’t effectively manage basic services – like parks – within its budget. Over the years the levy has been a hail Mary pass that has allowed the council to not deal with its ability to manage within constraints. As folks have mentioned, there has been continuous or near continuous approval of the levies. Now, that level of accountability is unacceptable to the council so the proposed parks district adds another layer of accountability abstraction such that there in no accountability nor any ability of the people to ever free themselves of this structure. Regardless of how you feel about parks, please don’t vote in this park monarchy. It’s a slippery slope at best that continues to make Seattle unaffordable.

BAHF: If our parks are neglected then what do well maintained parks look like? Do they have 24K gold toilets in the restrooms? Our parks are beautiful and while I am sure there is maintenance that gets put off, our parks are more than clean and enjoyable with the exception of our nasty downtown parks with all the druggies, but that is a SPD issue, not a maintenance issue. Could it really be that Seattle needs the money to correct the poorly designed, former reservoir parks? Or could it be that the City wants yet another way to dig into our pockets with no oversight or accountability? Something else?

No matter the reason this is a bad idea. Tax payers are tapped out. I agree that they are good for the community.Yes we all love parks, so much so that I would be willing to rally my neighbors, pick up my own tools and maintain my neighborhood park rather than put it in the hands of government to rob me of my hard earned money and still not produce the promised results. THAT is what communities do, they work together and get results. So let’s say voters do approve this. The back log is 267 million now so how much will it be when they ask for nor money in 3 or 5 years? I am sick of Seattle leadership playing on the kind nature of its residents. Parks, kids, transit are always approved. Then Seattle and its associates mismanage or divert money, NEVER does what is promised then comes back with its hand out. WAKE UP PEOPLE OF SEATTLE, we can take care of our own communities 10 times better than government can. Vote NO on Prop 1.

Neale: The new Park’s District, controlled by the City Council, will have the right to raise taxes without the accountability of coming to the public for a vote. Over the years the Council has been proposing to voters that they tax themselves to acquire new park land and new things on that park land like playfields, playgrounds, etc. They have not been asking voters to also approve operating money to pay for the additional personnel, utility, and ongoing maintenance costs. This is not responsible, and I am not going to reward it by giving them the authority to raise taxes by moving the parks into a separate legal entity, controlled by the Council, that does not have to be accountable to voters about the taxes they collect and spend.

I support parks. I am adult enough to agree with the Council if they say, “We have acquired and built new parks and playgrounds with the capital money, now please tax yourself to pay to operate it.” But the Council seems to only trust voters to approve capital mone, not operating money. I trust them to come to me for additional taxes. It keeps everyone accountable. It keeps voters accountable to pay to operate what they have directed the Council to buy, and it keeps the Council and City accountable for spending the money in an efficient manner to operate those same parks. I am not willing to give the Council a blank check, which is what this measure does.

What do you think? How do you plan to vote on Proposition 1?

The view from Seward Park through the lens of Diana Vergis Vinh.

 

 

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