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Originally published Wednesday, November 2, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Guest columnist

Proposition 1 will help improve the lives of veterans

Last year, the number of King County residents living in poverty increased by 40 percent. More than 8,000 men, women and children now lack...

Special to The Times

Last year, the number of King County residents living in poverty increased by 40 percent. More than 8,000 men, women and children now lack stable housing, with many sleeping in parks and under bridges. Reservists and National Guardsmen and women are deployed to the Middle East, with families left behind struggling to make ends meet.

Here in King County, we face growing demands to provide services for the thousands of veterans returning home and the 190,000 veterans living here; increasing numbers of our parents and grandparents growing older and needing care; housing for homeless families, veterans and individuals; and shrinking budgets to cover the costs.

In the past four years alone, King County government has cut more than $137 million in order to balance the budget. This leaner, bare-bones government cannot sustain additional cuts while holding human services harmless. State law mandates that counties provide services to veterans in partnership with the federal and state government.

Counties, since the Civil War, have been required to provide immediate and emergency services for veterans after return from deployment, as well as services, housing and care for indigent veterans. Given that one-third of King County's homeless adults are veterans, we are clearly not meeting our responsibility to our veterans. We must act now to ensure our returning veterans have the support and services they need to return to their lives here in King County.

Proposition 1, the Veterans and Healthy Communities Levy, will provide funding to significantly improve the lives of many people living in King County. At a cost to the average homeowner of only $15 a year, Prop. 1 will generate more than $13 million annually to pay for services that help our veterans and most-needy. This is a small sacrifice to veterans who have risked their lives for our country.

A Seattle Times editorial suggested instead a $1 million budget-allocation increase, a merely symbolic gesture considering the need ("Vote 'No' on Prop. 1 property-tax increase," Oct. 28). We can do better than that for our veterans and needy residents, and will with the passage ofProp 1.

We have the opportunity in the next six years to provide more than $80 million to shelter domestic-violence victims and their children, provide at-home care for seniors, treat and support our returning veterans and those who have served in prior conflicts, fund after-school and mentor programs for kids, and much more.

The Veterans and Healthy Communities Levy will make significant strides to improve the lives of our neighbors. The levy will fund direct services provided by nonprofit organizations and it will have independent oversight with annual updates on its effectiveness.

Religious leaders, veterans, human-services providers, Democratic and Republican elected officials and community leaders agree that together, we can make a real difference in the lives of our neighbors and friends by supporting the Veterans and Healthy Communities Levy.

King County residents care about each other. A yes vote on Prop. 1 ensures we can continue to turn lives around and build better families and communities.

The Rev. Dr. Sanford Brown is the executive director of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. The levy proposal was placed on Tuesday's ballot with the support of 12 members of the Metropolitan King County Council.

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