(Wallyhood reader Antoinette Angulo offers this explanation and endorsement of Prop 1. Ballots due by August 5th.)
What is Prop 1?
Proposition 1 will create a stable revenue source that will direct dedicated funds to support the maintenance, upkeep and operations of our more than 6,000 acres of City parklands spread over more than 450 separate parks, our 26 community centers, 185 athletic fields and more than 120 playgrounds. Prop 1 would create a park district, which would levy $.33 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is equal to an increase of $4 per month from the expiring parks levy. The park district would be overseen by the City Councilmembers, soon to be elected by district themselves. Prop 1 is quite simple; it creates a new revenue source and all current rules that apply to the operations and maintenance of Seattle parks would still apply. The Mayor will continue to propose park budgets, the Council will approve them and the Parks Department will administer our system of parks that is consistent with City policy and administrative code.
There is more citizen oversight and opportunities for public comment built into this than any other funding proposal in the past. In addition to the Seattle Parks Board oversight responsibilities (also created by the City Charter), a Community Oversight Committee shall be formed to provide advice to the Mayor, City Council, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation and to provide oversight of the projects, programs and services undertaken jointly by the City and the Seattle Parks District. Implementation of the Seattle Park District will also mandate annual performance audits of the Parks Department.
How does Prop 1 differ from the levies?
Levies have served Seattle reasonably well, but they have shortcomings and there have been significant changes in the last decade. First, I-747 (Tim Eyman’s effort to limit taxes to 1% increase per year) means that our city budget is growing slower than the rate of inflation, resulting in a decline in real dollars each year. With the Great Recession, our parks suffered a 33% reduction in budget over the last six years, resulting in $267 million in deferred maintenance. Finally, levies are constrained and Seattle is approaching the limit of what we can levy. A park district allows us to fund parks in a stable way, without competing with human services, education, transportation and other worthy causes that rely on levies. Prop 1 addresses these challenges using a state authorized funding mechanism. Just as fees and general funds flow into the budget process, so too would funds from the park district.
What will Prop 1 do?
If passed by the voters, Prop 1 will dedicate nearly 2/3 of the funding to “fix it first” – investing in our existing parks and community centers to make sure they meet our needs for the long run. (Remember the $267 million backlog in deferred maintenance?) As any homeowner knows, there is always a list of repairs. The same is true for our parks, even more so. We will see and feel some of these improvements in Wallingford. There is funding in Prop 1 for repairs and maintenance on the Burke Gilman Trail, Meridian Playground, Gas Works Park, and nearby at Green Lake and in Woodland Park.
Other dollars are invested in programs for kids and seniors, to ensure everyone can afford to participate in public sports leagues and community centers activities. Funding parks for all is very much in line with the Department of Parks and Recreation’s values: Access, Opportunity, and Sustainability.
Consider this: kids need activities – especially when school is out in the hot summer. If kids can’t afford to participate in programs at public community centers, they will find other things to do – sometimes to our collective detriment. Research and common sense shows that well-maintained, affordable parks and community centers are also a public safety strategy.
In addition to repairing parks and community centers across the city, Prop 1 will also invest in new parks. Opponents – and there is an organized opposition – claim to be “standing up for the status quo.” In some neighborhoods that may be fine, but in others that means closed community centers, major repairs, deferred expensive public sports leagues and unaffordable programs. Seattle is better than this. The City’s Race and Social Justice Framework will also be applied to the Seattle Park District. Prop 1 will ensure that kids in South Park have as much access to park and recreation programs as kids in Laurelhurst.
If Prop 1 passes, it will represent the most progressive investment in parks in Seattle since we hired the Olmsted brothers more than 100 years ago. After nearly a year of public process, that’s why it is endorsed by the Municipal League, The Stranger, Mayors Murray, McGinn, Nickels, Schell, Royer and Rice, the 43rdDistrict Democrats, and over 70 non-profit organizations in our City including the Sierra Club, El Centro de la Raza, Forterra, King County Labor Council, Sierra Club, Seattle Human Services Coalition, Washington Conservation Voters, and Senior Services. Can you think of another issue where this is true?
Seattle is currently the fastest growing large city in the U.S. It is totally unacceptable that we don’t have the financial ability due to past taxing constraints on our city budget to provide our citizens with a park system they want and deserve. Proposition 1 is our opportunity to ensure we have safe, inviting and healthy parks for everyone in our City to enjoy. Seattle loves its parks.
I urge you to vote Yes on Prop 1, to take care of our neighborhood parks and community centers. This is our single best chance to invest in parks for the long term. As a homeowner in Wallingford, I will happily pay it forward for future generations to come. Join me.
Your Wallingford neighbor
PS If you want to get involved in making history and preserve our park system, please share on Social Media:
- Take a photo of your ballot – after voting YES ON PROP 1 – and post to FB.
- Follow the Seattle Parks For All campaign page and share posts.
- Take a selfie in a park and post it to FB
- Post “I just voted YES ON PROP 1 to renew our commitment to Seattle’s neighborhood parks – Please join me! #VoteYESforParks” on Twitter
(Photo by Ramanathan Kathiresan)