In a five-months-early preemptive strike, the Seattle Times' editorial board has come out against the proposed August parks levy, which would create a new metropolitan parks district—a taxing district, encompassing the entire city, with an ongoing property tax overseen by the city council.
The predictably anti-tax edit board argues that the city wants to "dive into the candy dish of levies" by "go[ing] far past maintenance by adding new parks and a catalog of new parks programs."
Well, yeah. That's exactly what it would do. That's because the last time we passed a levy, it was 2008—the height of the Great Recession—and levy supporters didn't want to ask voters to pay for more than park acquisition. As a result (and a bad one, I would argue), that year's levy included no funding for basic parks maintenance and operations, meaning that our parks system has had half a decade to fall into disrepair.
The levy proposal on the table this year would right that wrong. That takes money, and this year's levy would, indeed, be larger than previous levies. The new proposal would cost a typical homeowner about $168 a year for a total of $54 million, or twice the amount of the measures voters passed in 2002 and 2008. However, that's not taking inflation into account, which the Seattle Times fails to mention. For a parks system that isn't falling apart, that price seems like a bargain.
The Times' other objection is that the parks district would exist in perpetuity (one reason supporters rightly refer to it as a "sustainable" funding source.) That objection is pretty dubious coming from an editorial board that has argued—over and over and over—against funding so-called "basic services" like parks and libraries with short-term property tax levies, saying they should instead be funded by longer-term, sustainable funding sources.
That's exactly what the parks levy is—and exactly why it makes all the sense in the world to vote "yes" in August.