On May 20, King County voters will be asked for a small property-tax increase, around $14 a year on a $300,000 home, to fund county parks maintenance. It's an investment that's easy to support.
King County's 25,000 acres of parks are a treasure worth paying for. They include beloved, well-known facilities like Marymoor Park, Cougar Mountain, and the Burke-Gilman Trail, as well as hundreds of playfields. For years, we paid to maintain these parks with our property taxes. Then came Tim Eyman and his tax-cutting initiatives that severely chopped revenue for county government. Other factors have piled on to create a situation that both conservatives and liberals agree is a real budget crisis at the county.
The county parks department has responded by cutting costs, giving parks and pools away to cities, and expanding entrepreneurial initiatives. But it hasn't been enough. King County Council Budget Chair Larry Phillips, D-Magnolia, warns that the county's budget problems are so dire that without the levy's money, parks will be shut down. That would be an unacceptable diminution of our quality of life.
Opponents argue that the county needs to do more to get its labor costs under control in all departments. It's a point with which we are sympatheticprivate- sector workers are not enjoying the salary increases and benefits packages that county employees reap. That does not, however, justify going after a parks system that has responded to the budget crisis in a fiscally responsible fashion.
Others say that those of us who live in cities should not share in the costs of county facilities. That is shortsighted parochialism. We willingly pay taxes for state and federal parks much farther afield than Marymoor or Cougar Mountain. We all live in King County. We must all help bear the county's costs.
If any doubt remains in your heart, take a ride on the Burke-Gilman to the Sammamish River, let your dog run at the Marymoor off-leash area, go for a swim at the King County Aquatic Center, or take a hike up Cougar Mountain. Life in King County would be less livable without these places. Vote yes on Tuesday, May 20. Seattle Weekly Editorial Board