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How KIRO Radio hosts will vote on Seattle’s parks proposition

Proposition 1, to create a Parks District, on the August 5 primary ballot has tempers flared. (MyNorthwest file)

Tempers are flared in Seattle over a proposition on the August ballot that would create a park district.

Proposition 1 says the new district would fund, maintain, operate and improve parks with city councilmembers at the helm.

The district could levy property taxes, currently limited to 75¢ per $1,000 of valuation.

We asked our local talk show hosts (and one non-resident who’s dedicated to dissecting local politics) what they think about the potential Seattle Park District.

Tom Tangney:

KIRO Radio’s Tom Tangney is a native Seattleite who rides Metro buses everywhere (he doesn’t have a driver license) and loves to critique films. He co-hosts the Tom and Curley Show weekdays 9-12 p.m.

“As park funding ballot measures go, Proposition 1 is a little trickier than most, at least for those of us on the left. Normally, anything to do with parks is a slam dunk. This time out, support comes with a cost, and I don’t just mean financially.

“The best thing about Prop. 1 is that it establishes a steadier stream of financial support for our parks, which is almost always a good thing for a liberal. But it does so at the expense of considerable citizen input, something that Seattle activists don’t give up lightly. By making this newly created Metropolitan Park District work at the behest of the Seattle City Council, average citizens won’t have as much control over where the money would go as they do now with the once-every-six-years levy system.

“The problem with the present system, though, is that it’s not working very well. Thanks to the inadequate support from the present levy, the city now has a huge parks maintenance backlog ($267 million). Establishing the Metro Park District would almost immediately double revenue for the parks, with property taxes jumping from 19 cents to 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. (It could jump as high as 75 cents, but the Council insists it’s sticking to the 33-cent mark.) Seattle parks need that money.

“In the end, I decided that Prop. 1 is a lot like the vote on the Seattle Commons park in 1995. Back then, in a close vote, a coalition of the far left and the anti-tax crowd scuttled a grand visionary approach to our fair city, a park that would have stretched from downtown all the way to Lake Union. It remains one of the worst decisions Seattle voters ever made. Creating a Metro Park Board has none of the majesty of the Seattle Commons project but I hope this is one parks vote that survives another mini-revolt on the left.”

Jason Rantz:

KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz lives in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood, loves to use rideshare and attend rock shows and Sounders matches. Rantz hosts the Jason Rantz Show weeknights 7-10 p.m.

“I think parks and open space can be a very important part of a community, but this particular plan gives entirely too much power to the City Council to tax Seattlites without actually hearing from us. There’s little accountability with Prop. 1 and I don’t trust councilmembers like Mike O’Brien to work on behalf of all our community members (just special interests).” Read more of Jason’s opinionhere.

Dori Monson:

KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson actually doesn’t live in Seattle, but his show (weekdays 12-3 p.m.) is dedicated to dissecting local politics. Dori has three children and is a heavy parks user.

“I grew up in the city and have spent an enormous amount of time in Seattle parks. This parks proposal is insane – but the insanity of Seattle residents’ insatiable desire to tax themselves is one of the reasons I moved out of the city.

Right now, for the owner of a $500,000 home in Seattle, the parks tax can be as much as $95/yr. If this proposal passes, that will skyrocket to as much as $375/yr. And overseeing that taxing authority will be an unelected newly created board. Unlike a levy, where the voters can demand accountability, if Prop One passes the voters will have no say going forward in how much they’re taxed and how the money is spent.

And, like most taxes, the parks tax isn’t about its stated purpose (maintaining our parks). It’s about shoring up a government bureaucracy that is out of control. There are 25 Seattle Parks employees making over $100,000/yr.

Beautiful parks are part of a great city. But Seattle homeowners are already taxed plenty. City leaders should prioritize parks with the massive amount of tax money they already collect. If I still lived in the city, I’d be a no vote. But, as I said, Seattle voters seem to never see a tax they don’t love.”

The full proposition reads:

The City of Seattle Proposition 1 concerns formation of the Seattle Park District, a metropolitan park district.

This proposition would create a metropolitan park district under Chapter 35.61 RCW, called the Seattle Park District, to fund, maintain, operate and improve parks, community centers, pools, and other recreation facilities and programs. Its boundaries would be the City of Seattle’s boundaries and 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.

Ballots are due Tuesday, Aug. 5.

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