What’s more important? UPDATED

This stuff bugs the hell out of me:

With rising condo towers and disappearing green space in Seattle, City Council members say the city needs more parks. A levy aimed at building new parks expires this year, and several on the council say the public would support renewing it.

But there’s one member of the public who does not support it — the mayor. Every voter-approved city levy since 2001 has originated with him. The City Council approved putting those levies on the ballot, but Mayor Greg Nickels proposed the property-tax increases, organized supporters and raised the money to fund the campaigns.
[…]

“We believe that this data indicates there is in fact pretty strong public support,” said Conlin. After eight years, the expiring $198 million parks levy has not met all of the city’s needs for community centers and parks, said Tom Rasmussen, chairman of the parks committee. Neighborhoods such as Belltown still need a park, he said.

Council members are now putting together a 20-member advisory committee to come up with a list of parks projects the public wants funded.

It makes me crazy that my neighborhood, neglected and ignored Belltown, is being used to justify millions in taxes that will ultimately benefit lots of other neighborhoods. Such was the case during the last parks levy. The project list shows just a single project in Belltown. Of course, Belltown has been promised a community center for years. What assurance do I have that another levy will get around to building it?

And what about my basketball court?

Meanwhile, for similar dollars per household, Sound Transit wants to build light rail north, east, and south. When surveyed, most folks around here find transportation to be a more pressing concern. While I’m concerned about not having a basketball court, the region’s economy doesn’t rest on my hook shot. (We should all be glad that it doesn’t.)

This is a city that does important small things (plastic bags) and important big things (fighting climate change). Raising everyone’s property taxes NOW, in the same year Sound Transit could very well go to the ballot with a transit-only package funded by a sales tax, isn’t a great idea. See the update below.

If renewing the parks levy is so important, why don’t they already have a project list compiled? Here’s my plan: Find ten really important, we-can’t-live-without-them projects, and go to the voters with that list. In fact, combine it with funds dedicated for the remodel of the Seattle Center. (That might be the least appealing public space in the city, and could use some new resources.)

A while back, a prospective city council candidate went down to City Hall to find out what the council’s priorities were. They gave him a binder full of hundreds of “priorities.” Of course, if you have a hundred “priorities,” you don’t have any.

City Council candidates, when they stand for election, like to talk about making transportation a priority. This year, they can really do it.

UPDATE

I get email clarifying the tax issue:

Just to clarify, the Council is not looking to raise anyone’s taxes –
any levy that the city council is considering will cost the same or less
to taxpayers (when combined with the Mayor’s Pike Place Market levy) as
they’re paying now for the current Pro-Parks levy.

Comments

  1. 1

    Gumby spews:

    What is the pressing need for parks? It seems like everytime Sound Transit is held back from expanding light rail, another local government comes in with lower-priority spending plans. Between the city and King County, it’s a circus of pet projects.

    This is getting silly.

  2. 2

    busdrivermike spews:

    Sorry, the economy is going tits up, so no park for you will.

    But cheer up, when the economy gets going again, land will be too expensive for a new park.

    You see, in Seattle, it is lose/lose.

  3. 3

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Spending another $200 million on parks and recreation centers makes a lot more sense than dropping $500 million on a basketball palace you have to pay big bucks just to sit in. I’m mystified, though, how you buy a $28 billion light rail system for the same taxes that pay for $200 million of park improvements. I’d like someone to explain that to me so I can try it in the stock market — you know, buy $200,000 of stock for $200.

  4. 4

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    That should be $28,000 of stock for $200. Even though I’m only a rabbit living in a free hole in a public park, I can normally that in my head, but it didn’t look right so I whipped out my Bill Gates Calculator.

  5. 6

    Hannah spews:

    Will,

    You wrote “for similar dollars per household, Sound Transit wants to build light rail north, east, and south”

    How so? ST1 was $18 billion, parks levy is $198 million, big difference, therefore there is nothing similar about those numbers what so ever. Besides, with all the concrete in Seattle, we need open parks, green space. The reason we are called the “Emerald City” is for the green, we are losing it daily and kids have no park space to actually get some outdoor play time. If we keep slamming more concrete, what name will we use instead of “Emerald”?

  6. 7

    Perfect Voter spews:

    RR @3, they aren’t the same taxes. The Sound Transit tax base is regional (urban and suburban parts of the 3 largest counties) and the Parks tax base is the City of Seattle only. Oh, and ST is nowhere near a $28b system. Sounds like a number plucked out of the air.

    Our local economy is not suffering like some parts of the country. The biggies, MS, Amazon, Starbucks, even Boeing, are not laying off. But to be sure, the sensible thing would be to give ST a clear shot in November. Every year we delay light rail expansion adds hundreds of millions to ultimate costs.

    Seattle’s parochial interests can wait a year, with many fewer repercussions than a ST delay. We either have priorities or we don’t. Time will tell if our City Council will do the right thing.

  7. 8

    Hannah spews:

    @7 – Unless Boeing gets the tanker deal, there will be a minimum of 700 layoffs, so it could get ugly here.

  8. 9

    Gumby spews:

    “I’m mystified, though, how you buy a $28 billion light rail system for the same taxes that pay for $200 million of park improvements. I’d like someone to explain that to me”

    Don’t bother trying to understand or explain RogerRabbit’s bogus figures. His real goal is to remain ignorant on the subject of transportation.

    And I would hate to have somebody take that away from him.

    Plus, if you do waste your time, and try to use REAL figures, and REAL math, Roger just sticks his head back in that hole in the ground. Plus, he gets confused.

    Gotta love Roger’s never-ending grudge against people who have jobs to get to…

    Ah, if only we all could be pensioners. No more traffic jams, no more buses stuck in traffic. What a wonderful world it would be if everybody was unemployed!

  9. 10

    Gumby spews:

    “How so? ST1 was $18 billion, parks levy is $198 million, big difference, therefore there is nothing similar about those numbers what so ever. ”

    Hannah, this might be kind of difficult for you to understand, but bear with me for a second:

    A hundred bucks is a hundred bucks.

    Figured it out yet?

  10. 11

    SeattleMike spews:

    Parks? Nickels cares little for parks, as evidenced by his championing the continued illegal use of Seacrest Park in West Seattle as a transit hub rather than as a recreation facility. Using the park for the Water Taxi is in direct violation of Seattle Ordinance 118477:

    ——
    BE IT ORDAINED BY THE CITY OF SEATTLE AS FOLLOWS:

    Section 1. All lands and facilities held now or in the future by The City of Seattle for park and recreation purposes, whether designated as park, park boulevard, or open space, shall be preserved for such use; and no such land or facility shall be sold, transferred, or changed from park use to another usage, unless the City shall first hold a public hearing regarding the necessity of such a tranaction and than enact an ordinance finding that the transaction is necessary because there is no reasonable and practical alternative and the City shall at the same time or before receive in exchange land or a facility of equivalent or better size, value, location and usefulness in the vicinity, serving the same community and the same park purposes.
    ——–

    The Water Taxi was run as a “test project” for several years to get around this. The city has done a docking study that shows that Seacrest is not a safe or suitable facility for the Water Taxi; and the use of the fishing pier and SCUBA diving facilities have been limited during Water Taxi operations (the very recreational uses that the park is supposed to serve). The Water Taxi has now been turned over to King County, and it is still using a Seattle City Park as a transit hub.

    The city needs to get the docking facility built and get the Water Taxi OUT of the park.

  11. 12

    Hannah spews:

    @10 – so the average household will pay, just as an example, $100 per year extra in property tax for either project? Over the same length of time?

  12. 13

    Mark The Redneck-Patriot spews:

    Go for it hyphen-name. Prove to us you really can tax yourself into prosperity. Go further… abolish all private property within the city of seattle and have the gummint own all of it.

    FUcking idiot…

  13. 14

    michael spews:

    Am I the only one that read “20-member advisory committee” and just about died laughing. Big advisory committees are what you convene when you want study something to death and make it go away.

  14. 16

    spews:

    Will and the rest of the downtown denizens DO need parks and meeting places and schyools and the other things A CITY IS SUPPOSED to provide.

    So why hs the city allowed Vulcan et all to get way with building all this stuff, increasing MY taxes but NOT including parks and stickball and skate board and schools IN THE COST OF CONSTRUCTION?????

    Will has a great case. Belltown is a town made out of high priced but proletarian dorms. It is sterile because nobody planned nothin! The cold streets are badly in need of places HUMANS and, yes, progeny of humans AKA kids can ride a swing or climb a climbing wall or take a class in coastal art.

    I tend to side with Will that Conlon has a hole in his pocket. These spread-the-pain-initiatives rarely address the local needs of the city and certainly should not address the newly built pied a terre of the folks who can afford $1M for an 1100 squ ft condo.

    Add to this the fortress like construction fo some of these buildings, esp 2200, and the idea of “community” becomes hard to imagine.

    TAX THE DEVELOPERS!

  15. 17

    spews:

    Will .. another problem with all this new construction is the obsession designers have of being inhospitable to street people. Our new UW complex is a prime example. The architect laid out a large and rather promising interior courtyard at 815 Mercer St. Howsoever, the landscape designers have carefully laid the place out so as make it minimally attractive for anyone who might want to spread a blanket, pop the lid of a beer or two and feast on Ezell’s . or, for that matter, minimally attractive for the bag lady with her train of Safeway carts.

    There MUST be some alternative, some choice other than street level sterility.

  16. 18

    Jared spews:

    Good point, SeattleJew. To make the city – especially downtown – a more attractive place for people to live (rather than paving the Cascade foothills), the city needs to attract a lot more street people. Can we get some prostitutes back, just to add an extra dose of “culture.”

    MarkTheRedneck is a sick racist fuck. But people like SeattleJew (if he’s serious) do an excellent job of making his argument for him.

    Take a walk down to 3rd and Yesler, or 5th and Jackson, or anywhere on the side streets of Belltown. Or, hop a ride on the 13, 15, 7 or 3, and I can guarantee you sterility ain’t gonna be a problem around here anytime soon.

    The notion we need more drunks roaming the streets has got to be one of the most absurd things I’ve read on HA for a long time.

    I like the idea of the landscape architect playing the role of jackbooted fascist thug.

  17. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @9, 10 — Okay, I’ll play along. Let’s use Sound Transit’s phony cost of $11 billion. To raise this amount from 1.2 million households at the rate of $100 per year, you have to collect the tax for 91.66 years. Conversely, to get $11 billion in 30 years at $100 per year, you have to collect it from 3,666,667 households — which exceeds the entire population of Washington State. I’m sorry dude, but the numbers don’t work, and I can’t make them work, and neither can you.

    I’ve had light rail lovers bash my math about 100 times on this blog, but I have yet to see 1 explanation — which is all I’m asking for — of how you get somewhere between $11 billion and $28 billion for light rail by collecting somewhere around $100 to $120 a year from each household in the Sound Transit taxing area for 30 years.

    Let’s try this another way. Let’s assume about 1.2 million households in that area. (That’s too high, but I’m allowing for some population growth over the 30-year life of the tax.) Let’s say you collect $120 a year from each household, which by the way is no trivial amount for some of those households. You get $144 million a year from that tax, and over a period of 30 years, you get $4.32 billion — which is not even remotely close to even the lowball $11 billion figure. There is no fucking way you get different numbers, no matter how many times you run the calculation, or how many different calculators you do it on, unless you’re pressing the wrong keys. I defy anyone to demonstrate a mistake in these calculations.

    Where does the other umpty billions of dollars come from? Uncle Federal? Space aliens? It’s obvious the only way you can get from here to there is by funding most of the project from some funding source other than the ST-2 tax.

  18. 20

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Hannah, pay close attention to how their responses will (a) criticize me and (b) re-assert that light rail can be built with a $100 to $120 yearly tax per household but (c) never show you the math work that supposedly makes this possible.

  19. 21

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    @10 “A hundred bucks is a hundred bucks.”

    And a hundred bucks buys you a $4.32 billion light rail system, give or take a few hundred million.

  20. 22

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    The trouble with the assertion in #10 is these guys aren’t asking for a $4.32 billion light rail system.

  21. 23

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    These light rail fanatics are as intractable as the rightwingers and just as full of shit. Light rail just doesn’t make sense in Seattle from a cost-effectiveness standpoint because of our geography and geology:

    “The cost of light rail construction varies widely, largely depending on the amount of tunneling and elevated structures required. …

    “Seattle’s new light rail system is by far the most expensive in the U.S. at $179 million per mile, since it includes extensive tunneling in poor soil conditions, elevated sections, and stations as deep as 180 feet below ground level. …

    “Over the U.S. as a whole, excluding Seattle, new light rail construction costs average about $35 million per mile.”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L....._operation

  22. 24

    spews:

    @18 Jared

    I work in SLU and drive through Belltown frequently. Only a provincila froma back woods town would think of Belltown as “lively.”

    I gre wup in Boston and yeh downtownhad whores and the T statetions smelled oy your wine. BUT the streets were full of folks enjoying the shoppping, parks (the commons), kids in catholic school unhiforms, kids in kids clothes, etc.

    OK I am an alter kacher, BUT …come wwith me n my magic arpet and visit even small cities in Europ … Maastricht, Gotebgorg, not to mention Amsterdam or even London nd Paris … they all “work” too.

    Let mer put it anotherr way bubbelah, why in all hell would I/shoulfd I pay MORE taxes do Vulcan ad another billion or so to Paul Allan’s pocket change if Paultown, Allanville, Bell Town, etc are NOT going to make this a better city?

  23. 27

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Well, I don’t see any explanation here by the rail fans of how we’re gonna pay for an $11 billion-plus system with a tax that can raise only $4-plus billion, so I guess they don’t have one.

  24. 28

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I think they also overestimate the general public’s willingness to pay taxes for something they don’t intend to use. The Seattle Monorail was popular as long as the people voting for it had a loophole they could use to dodge the tax. When the Legislature closed that loophole, voters killed the Monorail. Light rail is in a somewhat different situation, but the Seattle Monorail Project also experienced unrealistically low cost estimates and overenthusiastic revenue estimates, and the corrosive effect that had on the project’s finances — and public support — should not be lost upon light rail supporters. They ignore these risks at their peril. Before light rail can be built here, much more needs to be done to reduce costs, provide necessary adjuncts like adequate parking at boarding stations, and find a fair way to pay for the system. Unless these things are done, it’s unlikely to acquire the public acceptance need to win at the polls.

  25. 29

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    What might make more sense is building light rail in the path of future development where land is still relatively available and relatively cheap — and flat. High-speed light rail with limited station stops makes the most sense for covering the long-distance segments of an exurban commute. If, for example, light rail can transport commuters from Marysville, Everett, Monroe, Tacoma, Puyallup, and Federal Way to transfer points where commuters than get on express buses for the rest of the trip to downtown Seattle, you could provide commuting times from these outlying communities that people could live with and at the same time slash the cost of building the lght rail segments by avoiding the expensive urban segments that require tunnels and elevated tracks.

  26. 30

    Dog-Parks-For-All spews:

    Will,
    did you remember to vote yes for King County Parks Prop 1 and Prop 2 last August?

    If you did, then on behalf of all of us wealthy, suburban eastsiders too cheap to pay for our own parks, I’d like to thank you for your generosity in agreeing to pay those property taxes for the next ten years funding my equestrian trails, dog parks, and outdoor amphitheaters.

    So sorry to hear about your little basketball court problem. What can I say?

    Despite your generosity, the King County Parks Citizen Oversight Board (COB) just simply doesn’t agree. They feel they’re already spending enough money in the city on the zoo (mostly so they have convenient parking for their SUVs). The COB doesn’t feel that open space funding for Seattle will be the highest best use. COB members feel the city is too dirty and too crowded to make good use of beautiful open space. And it is a well established fact that people who live in the city are less sensitive and thus less equipped to fully appreciate open space.

    They know you’ll understand. And in 2017 when the next set of County Parks ballot measures come up, they know you’ll vote yes.
    Won’t you?