You’ll Never See “Pick Up After Voters’ Lazy Asses” on a Parks Levy

Your Seattle Parks & Recreation dollars at work!

Your Seattle Parks & Recreation dollars at work!

Yesterday morning I tweeted out a photo of an overflowing trash can at a neighborhood park, admonishing my fellow Seattleites to hike out your own garbage when the park trash can is full. Because honestly—be a mensch. Well, this morning my dog and I arrived at the park to see a Seattle Parks & Recreation pickup truck driving away, and the weekend’s mess completely cleaned up.

Your tax dollars at work!

I mention this because one of the memes in every anti-tax campaign is that government needs to prove that it can be less wasteful with taxpayer money before we give them any more of it—and when we hear that relentlessly coming from the likes of the Seattle Times editorial board, what they really mean is “fuck those lazy, overpaid, unionized public employees.” You know, the lazy, overpaid, unionized public employees whose job it is to pick up our trash.

The problem with increasingly relying on voter-approved levies to run our parks is that these levies must be written in a way to attract voters, and “Pick up the trash after voters’ lazy asses” is not exactly a winning bullet point. Yet routine maintenance is the bulk of what the parks department does. And so rather than writing budgets based on what our parks really need, we’ve been writing them based on what might appeal to voters at the polls—and that, along with our city’s structural revenue deficit, is what has led to the parks’ $270 million deferred maintenance backlog.

Let’s be clear: voter-approved levies represent a relatively new way of funding our parks. Seattle’s first parks levy wasn’t until 2000, and that maintenance backlog has exploded since. So how’s all that “direct democracy” working out for you, Seattle?

If anything, Seattle voters have had too much of a say in how we run our parks, not too little. Give our parks department the stable revenue it needs to do the unsexy everyday work of maintaining our parks. Vote “Yes” on Prop 1.


  1. 1

    seatackled spews:

    It would be cool if some of those lazy, overpaid union workers stopped picking up the trash at the Seattle Times.

  2. 2

    MikePhoto spews:

    The P-I just called the No on Prop. 1 campaign ‘The Dirtiest”:

    –Dirtiest Campaign: Without challenge, the prize goes to opponents of the city’s Propostion 1, which would create a Seattle Park District with limited authority to maintain, operate and improve Seattle’s parks, pools, community and recreation centers.

    A group called “Our Parks Forever” have worried voters by using a fake “911″ number — 206-911-911 — for their robo calls. The robo call message makes wild charges, such as saying Park District directors — the Seattle City Council — will do things like “build stadiums” if voters say yes.

    The campaign may work, especially with a below-the-belt bid by The Seattle Times to link Prop. 1 to problems at the Woodland Park Zoo. If so, some local cartoonist should depict supporters — as the Washington Post’s Herblock once drew Richard Nixon — emerging from a sewer.

    (And I got essentially bupkis for support on my “YES” message pointing out the fraudulent 911 Caller ID shit over at the Times Editorial page. Yet every Eyman-supporting, anti-tax, anti-parks poster managed to get pats on the back from every other one of their ilk. The main type of response I got was “The yes campaign used robocalls, too”, yet nobody bothered to answer if I asked if they had done it legally, or completely illegally like the NO campaign.)

  3. 3

    MikeBoyScout spews:

    I was going to try and comment and then I read the nail on the head comment @1. :-)

  4. 4


    I volunteer in a small park in NW Seattle. We tabled at a neighborhood event last weekend, and had some pro-Prop 1 materials on the table. Several people were adamant no, one person was an adamant yes. One person said she was on the fence, but I convinced her to vote yes.

    So, I think if it loses, it’ll be a landslide — and it will also be like when Seattle voted against the Bogue plan, or voted against the Olmstead Brothers plan. Or when we — myself included — voted against the Seattle Commons.

    If it wins, it’ll be close, maybe even dependent on late returns like Sawant v. Conlin.

  5. 5

    ChefJoe spews:

    Umm, by the looks over the overflowing trash can, are you sure a significant part of the problem was the idea that everyone would take their trash with them if we stop collecting it ? Wildlife (even birds) will scatter trash pretty quickly if it’s just set outside the can.
    Officials at Seattle’s parks department want you to take home your sandwich wrappers, your apple cores and plastic forks, dirty diapers and cracked Frisbees and water bottles. Take them home, and put them in your trash can, because Seattle is cutting back.

    Seattle is converting more parks to “pack it out” parks, with no trash cans, in a budget-cutting move the city hopes will morph into an all-out culture shift.

    The concept isn’t new. The city quietly started removing trash cans in 2001, eventually ending trash service at 25 of the city’s more than 400 parks.

    In 2008 alone, the city removed about 350 garbage cans across the system, and “no one even noticed,” parks spokeswoman Dewey Potter said.

  6. 6

    Lack Thereof spews:

    My wife spent a couple years volunteering for the Parks Department before becoming completely disillusioned with the whole volunteer organization. Things like spending months working on rehabilitating a grove of native trees only to have Parks come in and clearcut it all because the neighbors were afraid the homeless would camp there. But I digress.

    A large part of that volunteering is weeding invasive plants, and picking up trash. So much trash.

    It’s not so much that the trash cans get full, it’s that people just don’t give a fuck. The trash never makes it to the can. People go for a picnic, or bring in some fast-food, and just toss their trash on the ground, just leaving it where ever they finished eating.

    People will come in with a couple paper safeway bag, pull out some take-out boxes, leave the chicken-bones on the ground, leave the empty safeway bag on the ground, leave the take-out boxes with scraps of food on the ground, and the empty chip bag and soda bottles too.

    A volunteer spends all weekend cleaning up a park, and after a couple picnickers, it looks like it was never cleaned.

    But, you know, don’t worry, Parks Department will have an employee out to empty the trash can some time next week….

  7. 8

    Puddybud - The ONE and Only spews:

    Puddy wonders were these park goers Seattleites, you know the ones who vote for Jim McDimWitt types? Low information voters who are unable or unwilling to “park”their trash!

  8. 9

    Emily spews:

    If the trash can gets pretty full, crows can fish the trash out and scatter it all around, looking for food. I’ve seen them do it. Humans can make a mess, too, of course, but a trashy park doesn’t necessarily prove that the humans are at fault.

    And like Goldy, I see park employees emptying the trash cans every day.