Satisfying Seattle's passion for parks
The people of Seattle love their parks. As members of the Seattle City Council, we frequently hear how important parks, open space and community centers are in the lives the people of Seattle.
Special to The Times
The people of Seattle love their parks. As members of the Seattle City Council, we frequently hear how important parks, open space and community centers are in the lives the people of Seattle. We hear from seniors and children, athletes and amblers, community groups and businesses. They all tell us parks and recreation programs are essential to their lives.
This is the primary reason the council is considering a Parks and Green Spaces Levy for the ballot this fall. After eight years, the current Pro Parks Levy will expire in December. The levy has been a great success: It enabled the city to acquire 42 acres of open space, including 15 new neighborhood parks, and funded 70 park-development projects, including habitat restoration, athletic-field improvements and city trails.
Seattle's passion for parks was confirmed by a recent poll commissioned by the City Council: 67 percent of respondents wanted to spend their hard-earned dollars for more open space. The City Council would not be doing its job if we did not respond to such clear interest from the voters. On April 21, we established the Parks and Green Spaces Levy Citizens' Advisory Committee to develop a list of potential park, recreation and open-space projects to be funded by a continuation of the levy.
As the City Council considers a new parks levy, quality of life will also be at the forefront of our minds. By design, Seattle is working for more housing within the city limits in order to protect Puget Sound's forests, farms and wildlife. In return, we must offer residents more green space and better facilities for recreation, contemplation and getting outdoors.
Consider an example: Recently, the city of Seattle acquired almost an acre of open space for a new park in Ballard at 7028 Ninth Ave. NW at a cost of $3 million. In recent years, this venerable Seattle neighborhood has been a focal point of dramatic growth in multifamily and commercial development. Yet Ballard lacks parks! When the community learned that this property — which could have been the site of 12 new houses — was available, the city was able to respond quickly, mostly with Pro Parks Levy funds.
Levy funds have also inspired donations from private foundations, businesses and other governments. The Counterbalance Park, now under construction at the base of Queen Anne Hill, is a former gas station that will be transformed into an urban oasis because $300,000 in Pro Parks Levy funds attracted more than $1.13 million in private donations.
We are mindful that our city — like the rest of the nation — is in a time of economic uncertainty. We know property taxes are a concern to many voters. That's why we are proud the city portion of your property taxes actually decreased by $4 million last year, due to the expiration of the Seattle Center/Community Centers Levy and other factors. We don't lightly propose continuing taxes; nor do we do so automatically. For instance, there is no expectation that two recent ballot measures — the Library Bond and the Fire Facilities Levy — will be renewed.
Yet in order to make major capital improvements in our current parks or purchase new land, the city will need to supplement regular revenues by asking voters to renew a parks levy. A carefully crafted parks levy will help maintain Seattle's livability at a modest cost per household.
The City Council will continue to thoughtfully and carefully explore new parks and green-space funding with our citizens, and will make a decision in July about proceeding with a levy this year. We are committed to making sure Seattle has the parks and environment the people of Seattle value, and to making sure that any proposal is affordable and responsible. Let's work together to create the truly green Seattle future.Tom Rasmussen is chair of the Seattle City Council's Parks and Seattle Center Committee. Richard Conlin is council president and chairs the Council's Environment, Emergency Management, and Utilities Committee.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
Sam and Sara Lucchese create handmade pasta out of their kitchen-garage adjacent to their Ballard home. Here, they illustrate the final steps in making pappardelle pasta.
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