Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat gets it half right when it comes to special levies:
If you’re feeling fatigue at all this, council members say: Blame Tim Eyman. The property-tax cap inspired by Eyman forces the city into paying for services “a la carte,” one special request at a time. They said constantly asking for more money creates a perception that taxes are high, but they remain about average for a big city.
“The reason we keep going back to this well is because of Tim Eyman,” Burgess said.
Except other local cities have figured out how to survive under Eyman’s boot heel without being in a perpetual state of need or crisis. Bellevue, for instance, has only one special levy, a parks tax that passed six years ago.
Um, so here’s the thing, Danny: We’re not Bellevue. Or Renton. Or Issaquah. Or Zillah for that matter. We’re Seattle. Which means we have different values and different needs than other cities. I don’t expect Snoqualmie, for example to feel it necessary to raise taxes to buy back in-city bus routes. But then, Snoqualmie’s not nearly as transit dependent as Seattle is. So if they don’t want to pay extra to preserve Metro, that’s up to them. But Seattle is different.
Do you think other cities are magically spending money more efficiently than Seattle? No, they’re just making the political decision to provide fewer public services. Should Seattle reject universal preschool simply because none of our neighboring cities pay for it?
The point to remember, and it’s one I’ve emphasized repeatedly, is that none of these special levies and transportation benefit districts would have been necessary without Eyman’s initiatives. The whole purpose of these initiatives was to force the funding of public services to a la carte public votes. And with the sole exception of universal preschool, all of the levies we’re being asked to approve are to preserve existing services, not create new ones.
Seattle is not a high tax city. Never has been. So rather than comparing ourselves to how other King County cities tax themselves (none of which compare to Seattle in any way), we should be focusing on what we need, what we want, and what we can afford.