Opposing sides of Best Starts for Kids (King County Proposition 1) give their views on why the measure should or should not pass in November.

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By Dow Constantine and Calvin Lyons
Special to The Times

A critical issue on this year’s ballot could have a major, positive impact on our community’s future. Best Starts for Kids (King County Proposition 1) needs your vote.

By approving this measure, we will help improve the health and well-being of our King County community by investing in children and youths, our greatest resource for the future.

As that old oil-filter TV commercial said, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” Its point rings true: A wise investment up front can help avoid much greater costs down the road. Investing in today’s youths through Best Starts for Kids is one of the wisest choices we could make to not only promote their lifelong success but also reduce future costs to taxpayers.

Today, 75 percent of King County’s general-fund budget is spent on the justice system, including police, courts, lawyers and jails. Best Starts for Kids would put resources into proven and promising strategies to help prevent these negative and costly outcomes, and would put kids on a path to becoming successful contributors to our community.

For just more than $1 per week for the average homeowner, we could provide programs that are based on science and proven to work. Funds would be targeted to prevention and early intervention to help all kids grow up healthy, arrive at kindergarten ready to learn, do well throughout their school years and enter adulthood with every prospect of success.

It all starts at the beginning, with support for a healthy pregnancy and birth, and continues with parental and newborn support — such as regular home visits by a nurse who helps mom and dad do the right things to promote their baby’s positive brain development, while combating adverse childhood experiences like domestic violence and homelessness.

Best Starts for Kids would make the most effective tools available to every parent and caregiver in our community, so they can help our young people grow into the talented, creative and motivated workers we need to move our region forward.

This isn’t just theory. Research by Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman shows that investing early in a child’s development — starting with prenatal services — delivers by far the greatest return throughout life. And the University of Washington’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, through careful study of the brain biology and behavior of thousands of very young children, has developed a framework of key developmental milestones and optimal caregiver strategies. Best Starts relies heavily on this groundbreaking local scientific research.

Children born today will become the workers and the entrepreneurs, the leaders and the visionaries of tomorrow. Our community and region should strive to ensure opportunity for every child. The more that we help the next generation succeed, the better off we will all be.

The Best Starts for Kids levy is our chance to promote a brighter future for our kids and our community. Please support that future with your vote.

Dow Constantine is the King County executive. Calvin Lyons is president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of King County.

By George W. Scott
Special to The Times

It is impossible to fault the intent of Proposition 1; the flaws are in its execution.

It’s billed as a “new approach.” In fact, it supplements the budgets of many existing agencies, of which some already operate millions above past funding levels.

Meanwhile, King County has failed to perform some of its basic duties. Even as property tax revenue has increased, the King County Sheriff’s Office has seen staff reductions.

And while most government budgets are definite, and represented as a budgetary “line item,” roughly half of Best Start for Kids would pay for “strategies;” and, in the case of one category, “kids” includes adults up to age 24.

Two advisory committees are mentioned, without spelling out their makeup. No list of cities and agencies to benefit is given. In practice, County Executive Dow Constantine, author of this levy, would decide — after the tax increase is passed.

The bottom line is the six-year-levy raises more questions than it answers.

As to accountability, how are the dozens of new entities and providers involved to be audited?

The state already offers services to deal with some of the same youth problems and has grown its budget from previous levels to pay for some of the same service areas. How would these overlapping state and county services be coordinated?

A 3 percent figure used to offset inflation is absent for the last three years, yet higher inflation is anticipated.

What precedents or studies are cited to prove an expenditure of this magnitude would reap equal rewards?

This proposal once again relies on increasing the property tax. But what about the maintenance and upgrade of the county’s 181 bridges as well as the County Courthouse, which may need $150 million in repairs, or more if that project is delayed?

Voters, who may feel moved to support this proposal, should reject Best Start for Kids and the council should consider a revised, prioritized package perhaps one-half its present size, which would provide an adequate database as to its success.

The proposition assumes success without any precedents and ignores the future. It is not sustainable, and virtually guarantees another new levy “to make good the investment.” It is unstable government by proposition.

George W. Scott served in the Washington state senate and was chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. He also was vice president for external affairs at Rainier Bank and Washington State Archivist.