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.