If Parks Opponents Are So Brazenly Lying about Their Math, How Can You Trust Any of Their Other Claims?

If there’s anything that pisses me off more than lying in politics, it’s a political lie that is easily refuted by math. Take, for example, this whopper from a recent No on Park District campaign mailer:

No on Parks Lies

“Your property taxes would increase by 20%!” Omigod, that’s awful! If my $4,448 property tax bill were to increase by 20 percent, it would cost me an additional $890! That’s outrageous!

But it’s also bullshit.

In fact, if Proposition 1 passes, my property tax bill would only increase by about 60 bucks. That’s because the current Parks Levy of $0.19 per $1,000 of assessed value would bump up to $0.33, a $0.14 increase. And $0.14 is only 1.36 percent of the total $10.29168 per $1,000 of assessed value property tax that most Seattle homeowners are paying in 2014.

That’s a 1.34 percent increase, not the absurd 20 percent that parks opponents preposterously claim.

And even if the mayor and the city council are evil bastards who are just totally fucking with us—as the parks opponents seem to imply—and they immediately levy the full $0.75 per $1,000 the RCW allows, your property taxes would still only increase by 5.4 percent. That’s not nothing, but it’s still far short of that bullshit 20 percent claim.

So how do these lying liars justify their lying lie?

Carol Fisher, vice chair for Our Parks Forever, said the group based its numbers on Seattle’s levy cap of $3.60 per $1,000 assessed value. The park district would, in essence, add a maximum of 75 cents to this cap, she explained, which is how the group calculated the 20 percent increase.

Except that’s not what their mailer says. “Your property taxes would increase by 20%!” the lying liars claim in big bold print. But it won’t. Because that’s just a big bold lie.

So if they’re lying about something as easily refuted as math, how can you trust any of the other assertions they make? (Hint: you can’t.)

Comments

  1. 1

    michaelp spews:

    I do love that Carol Fisher and Don Harper are so entrenched in their inability to accept facts as facts that when presented by their supporters at the Seattle Times, they *still* say their claim is accurate!

    Their campaign: You can’t trust the government. Their campaign tactics: Lie.

  2. 3

    Devin spews:

    Goldy, where do you find your comprehensive property tax rate information? I’ve been googling around like a mad man but have yet to see the final property tax figure for Seattle residents with added county and district data added in.

    I’ve never seen the 10.29xxxxx figure you posted.

    Keep up the good work though. Love it.

  3. 4

    Doug spews:

    So the “levy cap” is the amount they are allowed to increase the property tax in a given year, right?

  4. 7

    spews:

    @4 It’s complicated. There are two different limits. One is the “statutory cap” on the maximum millage: $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value. The other is I-747’s 1 percent lid on the dollar amount total regular levy revenue from existing construction within the taxing district can rise within any given year. The expiring parks levy is a “lid lift” in that it allows the city to exceed I-747’s absurd 1 percent lid by the dollar amount approved by voters. But the rate derived from the regular levy plus lid lifts must still fit within the $3.60 per mille statutory cap.

    The best thing about the property tax is that it makes budgeting easy, in that it raises a specific dollar amount. A dollar amount is approved, and the assessor adjusts the rate each year to raise that amount given currently assessed property values. I property values go up, the rate decreases, leaving more room under the statutory cap. But if property values go down—as they did during the Great Recession—then the rate rises, potentially running into the cap. That’s why the city must keep keep reserve levy capacity—Seattle currently levies $2.90 per mille, leaving $0.70 in reserve—so that it can budget with certainty that the levies will raise the dollars expected.

    What the MPD does is shift a portion of parks funding off the city’s regular levy capacity and on to the $0.75 per mille authority granted MPDs. This in turn will create room for other lid lifts like universal preschool. But to be clear, I-747’s 1-percent revenue growth limit will still be in effect, so any use of this additional lid-lift capacity will still require voter approval.

    I should probably explain this in post.

  5. 9

    Theophrastus spews:

    @8 astroturfing and sock-puppetry just means your website is getting traction. i overheard just yesterday a local electronic media person say they wanted to quote your site but somehow their prissy standards wouldn’t let them utter “horse’s-ass” – hah.

    next-up: Goldy accepts CNN interviews and interns.

  6. 10

    spews:

    @9 The media is always free to cite HASeattle.com — that domain resolves to Horsesass.org just fine.

    As for next-up, I’ll be on KING-5 morning news tomorrow morning at around 6:45am to chat about Tuesday’s primary.

  7. 11

    Devin spews:

    @6 or just Goldy,

    Thanks! Am I reading this right? Does this indicates that Seattle has a lower property tax (per $1,000 in assessed value) than Kent or Maple Valley?

    Is that just because of our higher property values?

  8. 13

    j-lon spews:

    Look, you can hit the numbers argument all you want, but you still haven’t addressed the accountability issues.

    Many people don’t care about the numbers and would happily pay the money, even the larger sums being bandied about by the right-wingers, if the accountability was better.

    We’ve had some discourse on my neighborhood listserve about this. Everybody is a democrat, as far as I can tell. Some of these folks are very big parks proponents. Neighborhood activist types.

    Nevertheless, there’s a lot of discomfort with the way the accountability works, and this has put some folks into a very ambivalent position on prop 1.

    You need to stop sidestepping that issue and address it head-on. Make the case. Why is accountability not a big deal here?

    It’s not self-evident. It’s not just a red herring issue brought up by people who don’t want to pay more taxes. It’s a real issue for many people who want to make sure that this money makes its way to the right stuff.

    Whatever its flaws, the levy process has been an exercise in direct democracy. If you aren’t giving people all over the city some benefit, then you won’t get the votes and you won’t get the money.

    Proposition 1 will radically change that dynamic. An autonomous parks board, would be somewhere in between prop 1 and a levy. It would be more of a representative democracy approach than are levies, but it would have a tighter focus (and more clear accountability) than giving the same power to the city council. Why is this a bad idea?

    Stop side-stepping. Make the case for why the current proposal is superior to a system with a board of parks commissioners?

  9. 14

    spews:

    @13 Bullshit! Nobody’s side-stepping the “accountability issue” because there is no accountability issue. As I’ve written repeatedly, parks will be managed by the mayor and the council exactly the same way they are managed now, accountable to voters as always. In addition, there would be a citizen’s advisory board, plus dedicated money for performance audits. So if anything, an MPD with the associated interlocal agreement would be more accountable.

    Now if you’re arguing that the current system—parks run by an elected mayor and council—is accountable enough, I’m not sure how you fix that by rejecting Prop 1 and sticking with the status quo?

    Prop 1 is little more than an accounting maneuver that allows the city to tap in to unused taxing authority given to MPDs. That’s it. Nothing else much changes.

  10. 15

    sally spews:

    A citizens advisory board is just that: advisory. It has no power whatsoever. Citizens DO have power when they vote on levies for specific purposes. They will have NO power when the spending of money on parks is exercised by the Council on whatever projects they wish “parks” to encompass.

  11. 16

    spews:

    @15 So if the council is SO IRRESPONSIBLE that you can’t trust them with money, why are you voting for the status quo that leaves them solely responsible for the money?

    This accountability argument is nonsensical. The governance structure doesn’t change at all. You’re all just making shit up because you oppose higher taxes—and maybe your scare talk is working—but it doesn’t make it honest or right.

  12. 17

    michaelp spews:

    @15 – do you have such little faith in the ability of citizen oversight? That’s kind of a slap in the face of the numerous residents who participate in such groups across the city and, more importantly, not based in fact.

    For instance, the current Oversight Committee made recommendations for the Opportunity Fund projects – and they were adopted by the City Council. It’s an advisory role, but one that elected officials take seriously.

    You are making statements as if they are factual, but not providing a single piece of evidence to back up your assertions.

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