NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Voters in NPI’s hometown of Redmond easily rejecting public safety and parks levies

Sig­nal­ing that they may not be hap­py with how the Bicy­cle Cap­i­tal of the North­west is being run, vot­ers in NPI’s home­town of Red­mond are eas­i­ly defeat­ing two levies that were placed on the August Top Two bal­lot by the Red­mond City Coun­cil with the sup­port of incum­bent two-term May­or John Marchione.

The first levy, Propo­si­tion 1, would have raised funds for pub­lic safe­ty. The sec­ond levy, Propo­si­tion 2, would have renewed and expand­ed an expir­ing parks levy.

As of last night, Propo­si­tion 1 (pub­lic safe­ty) was fail­ing 53.36% to 46.64%. Propo­si­tion 2 (parks) was fail­ing by an even wider mar­gin, 54.46% to 45.54%.

Few­er than six thou­sand votes from Red­mond res­i­dents have been tab­u­lat­ed so far, but this elec­tion has seen very low turnout, and it’s unlike­ly that either levy will make up the dif­fer­ence by the time the elec­tion is certified.

Both levies were opposed by sev­er­al for­mer Red­mond elect­ed lead­ers, includ­ing Rose­marie Ives (a four term may­or) and Jim Robin­son, a coun­cilmem­ber and for­mer can­di­date for may­or who lost to Mar­chione eight years ago.

There was no orga­nized cam­paign against the levies, but the argu­ments made by Ives, Robin­son, and Richard Grubb in the oppo­si­tion voter’s pam­phlet state­ment nev­er­the­less appear to be car­ry­ing the day over those made by the Yes cam­paign, which did print up yard signs and dis­trib­ute mate­ri­als urg­ing a Yes vote.

Of Propo­si­tion 1, the no side argued:

Politi­cians often exhib­it some skill in devel­op­ing spe­cious ratio­nales for increas­ing tax­es but “they can­not escape the numbers.”

Over the past four years, tax­pay­er fund­ed prop­er­ty tax­es to the city have increased by $4,000,000. For that same peri­od, sales tax rev­enue to the city has increased by near­ly $5,500,000. Giv­en oth­er sources, the city’s over­all rev­enue for the same peri­od has increased by $14,750,000 or more than 10%.

These amounts of increas­es should sure­ly be enough to run a city gov­ern­ment whose house is in order and whose may­or has said “we must live with­in our means.” Let’s take the may­or at his word.

The Yes side coun­tered:

Your invest­ment of a $138.32 per year for the medi­um priced Red­mond home is an effi­cient way to save tax­pay­er mon­ey by avoid­ing cost­ly replace­ment of street infra­struc­ture and nip­ping prop­er­ty crime in the bud before it has an oppor­tu­ni­ty to flour­ish. This smart invest­ment in safer streets and crime pre­ven­tion ensures a healthy and secure com­mu­ni­ty for your fam­i­ly and gen­er­a­tions to come.

With respect to parks, the No side argued:

As long-term, com­mit­ted park sup­port­ers, we find it hard to vote against parks. But it is not hard to oppose a tax increase when funds have been mis­di­rect­ed to a mega project at the expense of neigh­bor­hoods. To date, the city has spent $23,968,811 on a two-acre down­town park sur­round­ed by near­ly un-nav­i­ga­ble traf­fic, lit­tle park­ing and is unlike­ly to be used on a reg­u­lar basis by the wider com­mu­ni­ty. This huge out­lay when the City already has a 16 acre munic­i­pal cam­pus and park­ing garage just two blocks north is fur­ther evi­dence of mis­di­rect­ed spend­ing and reshuf­fled priorities.

Fur­ther­more, the city plans on spend­ing an addi­tion­al $12,387,462 to build the park and $85,000 annu­al­ly for main­te­nance. Dol­lars are not unlim­it­ed. Spent one place, they become unavail­able to oth­er neigh­bor­hoods and Idyl­wood, our only lake­front park.

The Yes side argued:

Idyl­wood Park on Lake Sam­mamish gets improve­ments to ease con­ges­tion and make your day at the beach more pleas­ant. Park­ing will be less chal­leng­ing in sum­mer weath­er when thou­sands of out­door lovers vis­it our beau­ti­ful water­front com­mu­ni­ty park.

Neigh­bor­hood walk­a­bil­i­ty and recre­ation are improved by Propo­si­tion 2. New parks in South­east and North­east Red­mond are cre­at­ed from unde­vel­oped park­land. Overlake’s West­side Park gets a new play­ground and oth­er improvements.

The levy main­tains fund­ing for youth pro­grams and main­te­nance. Park main­te­nance and secu­ri­ty is increased at Grass­lawn, Idyl­wood, Hart­man, Per­ri­go, and Ander­son Parks in sum­mer months.

Propo­si­tion 2 enables a num­ber of projects for parks and trails near you. The Grass­lawn pic­nic shel­ter will be replaced, the Far­rel-McWhirter eques­tri­an are­nas resur­faced, and path­ways ren­o­vat­ed at Reser­voir and Cas­cade View Parks.

For the last few weeks, Red­mond’s local news­pa­per, the Red­mond Reporter, has print­ed sev­er­al duel­ing let­ters urg­ing a yes vote and a no vote, respectively.

It appears to us that the yes side may have been ham­pered by a fail­ure to explain exact­ly what vot­ers would get for their mon­ey by approv­ing the levies, par­tic­u­lar­ly the pub­lic safe­ty levy. In our expe­ri­ence, when the dots aren’t con­nect­ed for vot­ers, they are more like­ly to vote no. It is help­ful when a levy only funds one project or set of inter­con­nect­ed projects because it makes it eas­i­er to explain.

Con­sid­er the excerpt­ed state­ment above. It leaves much to the imag­i­na­tion. What new parks are being devel­oped, and where? How would park­ing at Idyl­wood be improved? What does ren­o­vat­ing path­ways mean?

If peo­ple can’t visu­al­ize it, they may not vote for it.

Pol­i­tics at the city lev­el in Red­mond have been some­what sleepy for a num­ber of years. Remark­ably, Red­mond has­n’t had a con­test­ed race for city coun­cil since 2011, and has­n’t had a con­test­ed race for may­or since 2007.

This year, how­ev­er, May­or John Mar­chione is fac­ing a strong chal­lenge from small busi­ness own­er and gov­ern­ment effec­tive­ness advo­cate Steve Fields, who is mount­ing an ener­getic, grass­roots cam­paign focused on con­ver­sa­tions with voters.

Whether the fail­ure of the levies will sig­nif­i­cant­ly impact the may­or’s race is unclear. Can­di­date elec­tions have very dif­fer­ent dynam­ics than bal­lot mea­sures do.

If Red­mond vot­ers do want to make a change in lead­er­ship this Novem­ber, their only option will be to replace Mar­chione, because no one filed to run against incum­bents Hank Marge­son, Hank Myers, or David Car­son, and Angela Bir­ney was the only per­son to file for the seat being vacat­ed by Tom Flynn.

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