Our new legislative assistant, Alberta Bleck, attended the Magnolia Queen Anne District Council meeting on January 13 in Bayview Manor. Below are her thoughts from the program. Alberta will be contributing on a semi-regular basis as a guest blogger for the Bagshaw office. If there are any other topics you would like to see covered on this blog, let us know!
On Monday, January 13 I had the pleasure of attending the monthly Magnolia Queen Anne District Council. The meeting was well organized and inclusive, and I was inspired by the civil and constructive tone taken by all participants. The meeting, ably chaired by Lauren Balter, touched upon several important topics affecting the Magnolia and Queen Anne neighborhoods, as well as the city as a whole. A good portion of the meeting was devoted to a presentation on the Parks Legacy Plan and proposed Metropolitan Parks District (MPD), a topic that has been on our minds for the past several weeks.
Parks Legacy Plan Discussion
Deputy Superintendent of Parks Eric Friedli and Former Parks Deputy Superintendent Ken Bounds provided the group some background on the Parks Department’s financial shortfalls, which lie in the areas of operations and management. Funding cuts to parks in the General Fund, and well as the lack of levy money allocated to addressing operations has left Seattle’s parks with a 267 million dollar deferred maintenance backlog. Several ideas have been put forward on how to address this alarming gap. Eric and Ken focused on the concept of a Metropolitan Parks District (MPD) which has the advantage of providing a stable source of parks funding, something that has not been achieved with the short-term levies that have funded parks in the past. Additionally, while levies have limits on how much they can raise in revenue, the MPD inter-local agreement would have the potential to raise up to 54 million dollars for parks in the future (75 cents per $1,000 assessed).
Don Harper, the Queen Anne Community Council Parks Committee Chair, then presented several objections to the MPD. Don’s argument against the inter-local agreement rested on the issue of accountability. While short-term levies are approved directly by voters, the City Council would determine future funding levels for parks. Citizens would be one step removed from funding decisions, and would only be able to express their approval every four years when they voted for their City Council representatives. Another point raised was that the passage of district elections may have significant effects on the City Council going forward. Several people expressed the opinion that the MPD should be delayed until the effects of the new district system were more fully understood.
This is a hot topic that both the Parks Legacy Citizens’ Advisory Committee (PLCAC) and my colleagues and I will debate in our discussions about a possible ballot measure funding Seattle’s parks. It was great to see a detailed and nuanced conversation about this complex topic between leaders of the charge and concerned citizens at this early stage.
The first meeting of 2014 Select Committee on Parks Funding will be held on Monday, January 27, at 2:30 p.m. or after Full Council. Check out the agenda here:
Safeguarding Seattle’s vibrant parks system is an issue that the Bagshaw office is deeply committed to. We welcome input from anyone interested, and encourage you to get in touch by email (Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov) or by phone, (206) 684-8801.