April may not seem like an elec­tion month, but in Wash­ing­ton, it’s actu­al­ly one of two times dur­ing the year when local juris­dic­tions may sched­ule spe­cial elec­tions, most often for the pur­pose of send­ing the vot­ers a levy for their consideration.

This year, the nine-mem­ber King Coun­ty Coun­cil has opt­ed to place a propo­si­tion on the April 2015 spe­cial elec­tion bal­lot to address a cru­cial need: the aging of the region’s emer­gency pub­lic safe­ty radio network.

The unfor­tu­nate­ly-num­bered King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion #1 (iden­ti­cal in char­ac­ter to many past propo­si­tions that have appeared on bal­lots in pri­or years) would slight­ly increase prop­er­ty tax­es to allow the coun­ty to replace crit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment used by first respon­ders that is at the end of its use­ful life.

Cour­tesy of the Yes on Propo­si­tion 1 cam­paign, here are some basic facts about the levy that every King Coun­ty vot­er ought to know:

  • A YES vote for Propo­si­tion 1, the Emer­gency Pub­lic Safe­ty Radio Net­work Replace­ment Project, will allow King Coun­ty to replace our dan­ger­ous­ly out­dat­ed emer­gency radio net­work sys­tem that police, fire­fight­ers, Medic One and emer­gency first respon­ders all use to answer emer­gency calls.
  • The cur­rent emer­gency radio net­work is decades old, has dan­ger­ous gaps in cov­er­age in pop­u­lat­ed areas and was designed to serve a much small­er area. This puts the pub­lic and first respon­ders at risk. It needs to be replaced.
  • The cur­rent net­work was designed in 1992 to serve King County’s small­er pop­u­la­tion. Over the years, our pop­u­la­tion has steadi­ly increased and res­i­dents are liv­ing in areas they didn’t before, which cre­ates cov­er­age chal­lenges for the cur­rent network..
  • The improved net­work will pro­vide essen­tial equip­ment our first respon­ders need to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing life-threat­en­ing emer­gen­cies. With­out this net­work, pub­lic safe­ty will be at risk.
  • A yes vote would replace radios used by first respon­ders to com­mu­ni­cate dur­ing crises, upgrade equip­ment in King County’s 9–1‑1 call cen­ters, increase reli­a­bil­i­ty, and pro­vide greater cov­er­age for radio communications.
  • When callers dial 9–1‑1, oper­a­tors use the radio net­work sys­tem to ensure that local emer­gency respon­ders are sent to the callers’ cor­rect location.
  • Our com­mu­ni­ties are safer when our emer­gency per­son­nel have reli­able tools.The emer­gency radio net­work is used dai­ly. It is a crit­i­cal tool that is used by fire, police and EMS to do their jobs on every call, every day.
  • The improved net­work will be avail­able to city, dis­trict, and coun­ty first respon­ders – expand­ing cov­er­age across all of King County.
  • The levy will only be col­lect­ed long enough to pay for the project – nine years at most. It will cost the aver­age home­own­er just over $2/month to fund this net­work. A nom­i­nal fee for the added safe­ty and secu­ri­ty it will pro­vide to all King Coun­ty residents.

King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion #1 enjoys strong sup­port from may­ors, fire com­mis­sion­ers and law enforce­ment chiefs across King Coun­ty as well as coun­ty elect­ed lead­ers, includ­ing eight of nine coun­cilmem­bers, King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine, and King Coun­ty Sher­iff John Urquhart.

There is no active cam­paign oppos­ing Propo­si­tion #1, but rep­re­sen­ta­tives of King Coun­ty Fire Com­mis­sion­ers’ Asso­ci­a­tion have weighed in against the levy due to con­cerns that pas­sage of the levy could neg­a­tive­ly affect rur­al fire dis­tricts’ abil­i­ty to main­tain staffing and ser­vice lev­els in the event of an eco­nom­ic down­turn. The ordi­nance adopt­ed by the coun­ty acknowl­edges as much (PDF):

State­ment of Facts

  1. If the fund­ing mea­sure is put on the bal­lot and approved by the vot­ers, fire dis­tricts’ levies may be reduced and ser­vices diminished.
  2. The King Coun­ty coun­cil finds that any reduc­tion in fire dis­trict staff or ser­vices result­ing from the PSERN levy would be con­trary to the pub­lic inter­est. This fund­ing pro­pos­al is intend­ed to address con­cerns about pro­ra­tioning of fire dis­trict levies dur­ing the term of the pro­posed levy.

Fire com­mis­sion­ers Mark Thomp­son and James A. Fos­sos are con­cerned that the lan­guage of Sec­tion 5 of the ordi­nance do not go far enough to pro­tect rur­al fire dis­tricts. In their state­ment against Propo­si­tion 1, they write:

If prop­er­ty val­ues drop, fire dis­tricts could pos­si­bly be in a neg­a­tive finan­cial posi­tion and need to lay off fire fight­ers dur­ing the nine year term of the PSERN (radio sys­tem) levy.

Lay­ing off fire­fight­ers is unac­cept­able, espe­cial­ly when a com­pre­hen­sive pro­ra­tioning pro­tec­tion plan could have been imple­ment­ed by the Coun­ty Exec­u­tive to stave off any pos­si­ble staffing reduc­tions by impact­ed fire districts.

While we would like to see the coun­ty do more to pro­tect rur­al fire dis­tricts,  Propo­si­tion #1 deserves our sup­port. Rejec­tion of this levy would pre­vent the coun­ty from get­ting start­ed on replac­ing its share of our region’s crum­bling emer­gency radio net­work. That would be a bad outcome.

Rur­al fire­fight­ers can’t do their jobs very well if they can­not reli­ably com­mu­ni­cate with each oth­er and their chiefs. Rec­og­niz­ing this fact, many fire com­mis­sion­ers have endorsed Propo­si­tion #1 in spite of the con­cerns expressed by Thomp­son and Fos­sos, and we at NPI join them in urg­ing a yes vote.

Bal­lots for the April 28th, 2015 spe­cial elec­tion have been mailed by King Coun­ty Elec­tions. Please vote yes on Propo­si­tion #1 and ensure your bal­lot is post­marked by April 28th or deposit­ed in a drop box by 8 PM that same day.

Sample ballot for April 28th, 2015 special election
NPI rec­om­mends a yes vote on King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion #1. Above is a sam­ple bal­lot indi­cat­ing how to vote.

Vot­ers who would like more infor­ma­tion about the project that the levy would fund should call or email David Mendel, Emer­gency Radio Sys­tem Project Direc­tor. He can be reached at 206–263-7942 or david (dot) mendel (at) king­coun­ty (dot) gov.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

Adjacent posts

3 replies on “Live in King County? Vote Yes by April 28th, 2015 to upgrade our region’s emergency public safety radio network”

  1. The medi­an home val­ue in King Coun­ty is cur­rent­ly $421,700 per Zil­low, which puts the cur­rent cost to the aver­age home­own­er at $2.46 per month. The King Coun­ty Asses­sor’s office fore­casts that the total assessed val­ue of prop­er­ty in King Coun­ty (exclud­ing new con­struc­tion) will increase by 51.29% over the next 9 years, rough­ly 5.7% per year. Assum­ing that medi­an home prices con­tin­ue to rise 5.7% per year over the next 9 years, the cost to the aver­age home­own­er will be $3.83 per month by year 9:

    Year 1: $0.07/$1,000 x $421,700 = $29.52
    Year 2: $0.07$/$1,000 x $421,700 x 1.057 = $31.20
    Year 3: $0.07/$1,000 x $445,737 x 1.057 = $32.98
    Year 4: $0.07/$1,000 x $471,144 x 1.057 = $34.86
    Year 5: $0.07/$1,000 x $497,999 x 1.057 = $36.85
    Year 6: $0.07/$1,000 x $526,385 x 1.057 = $38.95
    Year 7: $0.07/$1,000 x $556,389 x 1.057 = $41.17
    Year 8: $0.07/$1,000 x $588,103 x 1.057 = $43.51
    Year 9: $0.07/$1,000 x $621,625 x 1.057 = $45.99

    Accord­ing to King Coun­ty’s web­site, “The fore­casts are con­struct­ed with a 65% lev­el of con­fi­dence. This means that there is a 65% chance that actu­al rev­enues will exceed fore­cast­ed, and only a 35% chance that actu­al will fall below forecasted.” 

    The cost to the aver­age home­own­er will be just over $2 per month for the first year only. After the first year, the cost to the aver­age home­own­er is pre­dict­ed to increase by 5.7% per year.

  2. I agree there should be a radio upgrade for emer­gency first respon­ders. But prop­er­ty tax only goes after home own­ers & build­ing own­ers. All King Co res­i­dents should pay. A coun­ty sales tax, 911 tax added to pow­er bill or oth­er tax­a­tion that impacts all res­i­dents inside of King coun­ty should be vot­ed on instead of this cur­rent Levy. As it is right now if a prop­er­ty crime hap­pens, the police are most like­ly not going to show up to take the report. And if they catch the per­son doing the crime, they are plan­ning a catch & release for all King Co crim­i­nals in down­town Seat­tle. Keep the jails emp­ty, but have world class com­mu­ni­ca­tion. I would rather have a run down radio net­work that kept crim­i­nals behind bars.

Comments are closed.