It does not take a political wizard or even an election to prove that King County voters love parks and open space. Ask for money for park...
It does not take a political wizard or even an election to prove that King County voters love parks and open space. Ask for money for park maintenance or acquisition of new parkland, and voters can almost be taken for granted.
That is pretty much what happened with the two county parks levies that sailed through this week. Voters said yes to Proposition 1, to continue a park-maintenance levy begun in 2003. They said yes again to Proposition 2, a new levy to purchase additional park and open space and expand programs at Woodland Park Zoo. Yes, yes, everyone take a bow and gush over how much we need parks and how much we use them. It is all true, but that doesn’t make it any wiser that the county has become dependent on levies to run its park system. This new funding approach is now all but permanent.
When King County came to voters in 2003 with the first park levy, the attitude was more sympathetic toward a county stymied by recession and struggling to pay for parks. Elected officials asked voters to approve what many figured was a temporary, emergency solution to park funding.
The fear at that time expressed by this editorial page, was that the maintenance levy would become a permanent way of funding parks, with less reliance on the general fund.
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Four years later, the voters have spoken. They are willing to tax themselves to continue to maintain King County’s impressive system of parks. They understand land prices are rising and also are willing to pay extra to secure new parkland.
Nobody disputes the need. Our cities and suburbs are becoming more dense all the time. The public values the relief that comes from spending time outdoors.
The vote Tuesday, though, makes clear that parks will be funded much like emergency medical service, in levies that return to the ballot every few years. Elected officials don’t have to make other, unpleasant budget cuts. A one-time bailout has become a regular new funding policy.