No proponent for Prop 1 Parks responded to our invitation to share their views with voters. Lynda Wilson, who wrote the statement against Prop 1 Parks in the voter pamphlet submitted the following text:
You have your ballot in hand. Now is the time to pick up your pen and cast your vote! I would like to persuade your vote on just one issue. That would be the formation of the new Metropolitan Park District. It is a new taxing district with many powers.
The City of Vancouver is asking voters to approve a property increase of $.35/$1000 of assessed value to begin with. What is nowhere to be found on either the ballot or the Explanatory statement is that they have the ability to increase this amount to $.75/$1000 of assessed value at anytime they want, without your vote. That is more than double the amount they are originally asking for. And don’t forget, this is a permanent tax. So, between now and well, forever (since once a tax is implemented, they rarely ever go away), the probability of this increase is great.
Another misnomer is the fact that this is additional money for the parks. It simply isn’t. This levy will raise approximately $4.5 million. They will reduce the amount being currently slated for parks in the general fund by this amount, which then frees up that amount in the same general fund for them to use any way they wish to. Basically, the people are funding the general fund by increasing their property taxes. There is no accountability to the taxpayer in the use of general funds. There are no promises as well. They may suggest they will use the money for one thing or another, but the composition of the Council changes with every election along with the decisions of how to spend that money.
The City Council will be the commissioners of this district. At some point, the job of commissioners will go to another board. The concern here is that this board could be appointed rather than elected. The City Manager has indicated that this would not occur. But the RCW 35.61.050 (5) states otherwise, “Metropolitan Park Districts created by a vote of the people prior to June 13, 2002, may not change the composition and method of selection of their governing authority without the approval of the voters.” As with the interpretation of many of the Revised Codes of Washington, you must read what it isn’t saying. This MPD is being formed well after 2002, therefore, the next board can be appointed. There is no accountability to the voter with an appointed board. You can’t vote out this new board if they decide to spend the park funds in a way the voters do not agree with. Taxation without representation comes to mind.
This MPD can also use eminent domain (the taking of property without your consent for public use) to purchase, acquire, and condemn land for public parks, boulevards, aviation landings or playgrounds. They can go into debt by issuance of general obligation bonds to acquire all of the previously mentioned entities, all without your vote.
The City recently had their own Community Resource Team study the sustainability of the Vancouver Fire Department (VFD). Their own financial projections found it clear that fiscal challenges are only going to get worse. They said, “First and foremost they want to convey to the City Manager a sense of urgency” that they need an increased level of dedicated funding and cost reduction to sustain these resources.
The VFD is currently staffed at a lower level than other fire departments and their facilities are inadequate and likely to fail in a major earthquake. Their study indicated that 74 percent of the calls made by the VFD are medical calls. It is important to us all to have an ambulance come when they are called. Why didn’t the City Council come to the people to fund the VFD rather than parks? Currently, grants are what fund much of the VFD. Fire District 6 was shut down over a year ago. They received a grant, which gave them the ability to reopen it. Those funds are gone and District 6 is scheduled to shut their doors again leaving that district with less protection. Thirteen firefighters will again, lose their job and the people lose their services.
The City is required to protect the public. They are not required to provide nice swimming pools and tennis centers. We should be funding the vital public services before parks. Let’s vote no on Prop 1, MPD.
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Related COUV.COM article: Waste Connections supports greater taxing authority