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King County parks levies | A reluctant yes, twice
Officially, King County voters have a choice to support Proposition 1, the 5-cent renewal levy for park maintenance, and Proposition 2...
Officially, King County voters have a choice to support Proposition 1, the 5-cent renewal levy for park maintenance, and Proposition 2, another 5-cent levy to capture more parks and open space and expand Woodland Park Zoo programs.
But really, there is no good choice. Voters casting August primary ballots have to vote yes on both, though the reason why they have to is unsettling. Consider this a tepid endorsement of both.
When King County first asked voters to support a park-maintenance levy in 2003, the county was experiencing significant financial problems, and was sloughing off ownership of parks and swimming pools to local cities. The idea was to shift costs of maintaining facilities to places where people use them most.
At the time, this editorial page lamented the four-year length of that levy and the tendency for county officials to come back later and argue the levy is a must-have renewal. The county did that and more, now seeking a six-year renewal for maintenance plus another six-year levy to buy more open space.
One campaign press release even threatens voters regarding the maintenance levy: "If that is not renewed this year, much of the system would face the threat of being shut down for lack of funds."
This is no way to run a county. The county has undertaken several measures to improve overall funding for parks, which were previously supported by the general fund. But, the public is left to pay taxes on a budget item officials figure voters will readily approve.
Still, the reasons to vote for the levies outweigh the aforementioned bad vibes. King County residents, hemmed in by rapid growth and development, need open space and parks and maintenance funds to support them. Most parks are crowded and heavily used. Northwesterners love the outdoors, parks, open space. There truly isn't enough parkland for all the people who have moved here and all who have lived here a long time.
So, a no-choice choice. Our community would be foolish not to invest in future park acquisitions because land prices keep going up.
The two levies, each costing an owner of a $400,000 home about $20 a year, add to the growing tax burden and sticker shock as other money measures come to the ballot.
Voters should hold their noses and say yes twice to Propositions 1 and 2.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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