Pro/Con: Vote yes on King County Proposition 1 to replace Youth Services Center
Show your care for children and families by voting for a new juvenile-justice center and approving King County Proposition 1, a nine-year $210 million property tax levy.
Special to The Times
WHEN a toddler is abused or neglected, when a child is charged with a crime, when a teenager has run away from home, families are brought to a building whose decrepit condition screams, "We don't care about you." That's not right.
Some 40-year-old buildings have a useful life ahead — but not the Youth Services Center. It needs $20 million in system upgrades just to be habitable. Toxic contamination has already cost millions. As with a car, you can sink a lot of money into a junker, but it would be throwing good money after bad. One member of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce called it "the worst public building in the county, by far."
Voters will have the chance to replace the buildings with King County Proposition 1, a nine-year $210 million property-tax levy.
The water is brown and unfit to drink. The rusty pipes leak. The basement floods and entire wings are shut down due to mold and unsafe conditions. The heating and air conditioning systems barely work.
The waiting room is a bullpen. Families and children summoned to the courthouse are herded into a single large room, where they do not have enough places to sit and there are no private rooms to discuss the most intimate family issues with attorneys. The room is not safe because it is way too small, and the packed quarters can escalate tensions in already tense dependency calendars and other volatile family court cases.
Too few courtrooms mean too many delays. A routine criminal case can be delayed eight to 12 months while awaiting courtroom space. If waiting months to discipline a misbehaving child doesn't work in your house, why should it work in a courthouse? Many of the rooms where judges preside are too small for all parties to be able to sit in and listen. Many rooms were not even designed to be courts.
The center is a bad neighbor for the Squire Park community. It's surrounded by a sea of asphalt, yet parked cars spill out to neighborhood streets. It has the curb appeal of a warehouse.
The current building is an enemy to practices we know work better. A new center will better protect the safety of youth who must be detained there, and provide room for modern approaches that move young people out of the criminal-justice system and provide help for families — juvenile drug court, parent-to-parent mentoring programs, therapeutic services for youth.
With Proposition 1, the county will reduce the overall cost of development, and better serve the neighborhood, by selling a portion of the land along the sidewalks for restaurants, stores and housing.
Construction of a new justice center cannot be paid for out of existing funds. The general budget can support current operations. Because of a past voter-approved initiative, the state is limited to property-tax increases to 1 percent a year, and voters must approve property taxes for major new projects one at a time. This is one of those times.
The cost for a home worth $350,000 is $25 per year, $2 a month, or 7 cents a day, for nine years. It's a modest sum for an essential need.
When families are struck by a crisis that requires court intervention, they should be able to go to a building that works for them, for their children, and for the community. The current dilapidated structure works for no one.
You can change that by voting yes for Proposition 1, the Children and Families Justice Center.Dow Constantine, top, is King County executive. Dan Satterberg is King County prosecuting attorney.