Annex North Highline/White Center?

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On Monday, March 28, the Council adopted Resolution 31283, postponing a decision on a North Highline annexation vote until early 2012.  I had recommended sponsoring a vote in the neighborhood in 2011, as has been requested by a number of people in North Highline, but the majority of the Council believed that there are too many financial uncertainties to be able to move forward this year.  It is not clear what the Council will decide next year. Epitomizing the ambivalence on the Council, the lone opposition vote on the resolution was cast by Councilmember Godden, who had been one of the strongest supporters of annexation in the past, but whose concern about finances outweighed her previous feelings. I support annexation because the benefits are many and well worth the manageable costs.  It makes sense from an environmental and policy perspective.
  • A core principle of growth management is that unincorporated areas should become part of cities.  Experience from other urban areas indicates that the larger percentage of the metropolitan population that is in the center city, the more successful the metro area is in making good decisions about transportation and land use.  This is Seattle’s last opportunity to add an increment to our population by annexation.
  • The people of White Center are just like the people of Seattle.  There’s an artificial boundary, which many would like to see removed.  They are like the immigrants whom we all welcome to our country – and just like immigrant populations, we should let them in, knowing that they will contribute to the wonderful mix that Seattle is, just like we brought in Georgetown and South Park, or Broadview and Ballard, in years past.
  • It’s a wonderful community, with a tremendously diverse population, the rebuilt Greenbridge (a mixed income community like our SHA projects), some great parks, a multicultural business district, the new home of the Technology Access Foundation, and a major investment by the Casey Foundation.
  • Public safety and business development issues are harder to address because Roxbury is an artificial boundary that divides this business district.  Policing resources are dramatically less on the south side of Roxbury and southward, putting the safety of Seattle residents at greater risk.  Law enforcement in white Center as a whole would be much more effective if it were uniform throughout the neighborhood.  Arbor Heights will get better fire service from the North Highline fire station than it currently gets from our Seattle fire station.  The many immigrant communities in North Highline will be in the same governmental unit as the other members of their community in Seattle.
  • In addition to being another great neighborhood for Seattle, this area has great potential for development and/or redevelopment.  The business district could become another Ballard or Lake City, with mixed use buildings and vibrant business activity.
  • Our constituents are not just the people who happen to be in Seattle at any one time.  Most families move every few years, and, if they stay in the area, may shift from Seattle to Renton to Redmond to White Center.  We have to think about making the region successful and working to secure a better life for all of the people in the Seattle area.
  • We should be clear that none of our residential neighborhoods pay for themselves.  If money is our only concern, we should immediately start deannexing many of our neighborhoods.  Georgetown, Lake City, Broadview, Beacon Hill, they are all money pits.
  • Seattle works because we take the revenues generated by downtown and the Duwamish Manufacturing Center and use them in other places.  We know we have many things we would like to do, but that we also are a relatively wealthy city with a stronger budget than most.
While I respect the concerns of my colleagues, in the long run costs are manageable.  Our Central Staff review noted that “. . . the City could manage to the annual operating expenses indicated on the lower-end of the range. . .” of approximately 1.8 million per year. Given the level of variability in our budget and the likelihood of overall economic improvement by 2013-2014, this is a manageable number. I hope that we do have more certainty in 2012, and that Seattle does move forward with this unique opportunity.  We will never know what the people of North Highline want unless we give them the chance to vote on their destiny.