Guest Op-Ed: Vote No on Permanent Metropolitan Parks District

Opponents of August park ballot measure say we need a more accountable parks policy.

By Don Harper and Carol Fisher June 17, 2014

Seattle loves our parks. That is why the campaign, Our Parks Forever, has been created. Our Parks Forever is a grassroots effort fighting to preserve citizens’ voice and their vote on the direction of Parks. The chair and vice-chair of Our Parks Forever, Don Harper and Carol Fisher, are dedicated parks advocates and have volunteered thousands of hours to Parks and Recreation.  Between them they have helped raise more than two million dollars for parks.

A Seattle ordinance for the creation of a Metropolitan Parks District (MPD), known as Proposition 1, will be on the ballot this August. While it will take only a simple majority to form an MPD, we will never be able to vote to dissolve it. State law (Washington RCW Chapter 35.61) limits the content of the ballot measure to four things: (1) the name shall be the Seattle Parks District,  (2) the board of directors shall be the Seattle City Council (unlike the separately elected board in Tacoma), (3) the boundaries of the Parks district will be the boundaries of the city of Seattle, (4) the tax rate will be up to $0.75 per $1,000 of assessed value, which is about $100 million per year in new taxes or up to four times the current levy.

An MPD as it does not serve the citizens’ democratic process. The levy process, unlike the permanent and irrevocable tax of an MPD, provides periodic review and approval of Parks’ performance.

We oppose Proposition 1 and the creation of an MPD as it does not serve the citizens’ democratic process. The levy process, unlike the permanent and irrevocable tax of an MPD, provides periodic review and approval of Parks’ performance. Unlike the MPD, a levy includes named projects that are not just campaign promises. The levy process keeps the mayor and the City Council accountable to the voters. 

Supporters of the MPD claim that the interlocal agreement (ILA) guarantees accountability. Yet you do not get to vote on the ILA and therefore it is not a binding contract with the voters. The ILA can be changed or terminated by City Hall after the people’s vote and before the MPD can begin collecting taxes in 2016.  That is not guaranteed accountability! 

The Parks District is forever. This is not just about the current city council or the mayor. The MPD is afforded very broad powers with little accountability to the citizens. Since the citizens of Seattle can never vote for the dissolution of an MPD, without accountability as strong as the RCW that creates an MPD, we must vote no on Proposition 1.

An MPD can, by law, sell our parks, privatize our parks, buy land, build stadiums, finance private projects, spend all the money on a waterfront park zone, give our tax dollars to private administered institutions – yep, all without our votes.

Vote NO on Proposition 1. Work with us to create a binding and accountable levy.  Continue the proud tradition of sustaining our parks with levies as we have done successfully for over 100 years.  Help us preserve the citizens’ right to vote on taxes and programs that are the lifeblood of our parks.

Don Harper and Carol Fisher are Chair and Vice Chair of Our Parks Forever, respectively.  Don is on the Queen Anne Community Council and serves as the chair of its Parks Committee.  Don is currently on the steering committees for improvements at Kinnear Park and Smith Cove Park.  Don is also the volunteer treasurer for the Seattle Peace Theatre and was for seven years on the citizens advisory committees for the 2000 and 2008 Parks Levies.  Carol Fisher is vice-chair of Our Parks Forever and is the President of Lifelong Recreation Advisory Council. Carol and her dog are a certified therapy team and volunteer at the VA Hospital.

Editor's Note: Earlier this month, we ran a guest Op-ed in favor of the parks district.   


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