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.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

April 28th special election results give boost to public services in Washington’s rural areas

Despite the coro­n­avirus pan­dem­ic, a num­ber of juris­dic­tions in Wash­ing­ton state had spe­cial elec­tions that con­clud­ed on April 28th, and while the results won’t be cer­ti­fied by the coun­ties involved until May 8th and won’t be cer­ti­fied by the state until May 19th, the returns so far sug­gest Wash­ing­to­ni­ans under­stand the impor­tance of invest­ing in the pub­lic ser­vices that make our com­mu­ni­ties strong.

A num­ber of school levies were up for con­sid­er­a­tion, with the Wood­land and Kala­ma school dis­tricts cur­rent­ly pass­ing their oper­a­tions and cap­i­tal levies, and the Ort­ing School Dis­trict cur­rent­ly pass­ing their oper­a­tions levy.

The vot­ers of the North Mason School Dis­trict, how­ev­er, have vot­ed down their cap­i­tal levy by sev­en­ty-eight votes out of 5,200 cast, and eigh­teen teach­ing posi­tions are like­ly to be lost as a result.

The Soap Lake School Dis­trict cur­rent­ly has a split deci­sion after ini­tial­ly reject­ing both propo­si­tions, vot­ing for one to pay for music, sports, tech­nol­o­gy and extracur­ric­u­lar activ­i­ties (by nine votes of six hun­dred and fifty-sev­en cast) but cur­rent­ly vot­ing against the sec­ond to upgrade the district’s bus garage and improve the heat­ing and air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem at the mid­dle school and high school build­ings (by thir­ty-one votes of six hun­dred and six­ty-sev­en cast).

As many of these levy votes had been attempt­ed and failed back in Feb­ru­ary, their suc­cess the sec­ond time around in most cas­es is quite encouraging.

There were also a num­ber of fire pro­tec­tion levy mea­sures through­out the state, with suc­cess­ful out­comes in Dou­glas, Garfield, and Okanogan coun­ties, as well as a levy lid lift for the vol­un­teer fire depart­ment in Cle Elum in Kit­ti­tas County.

In Roy­al City, a vote to merge Fire Pro­tec­tion Dis­tricts #10 and #11 is also pass­ing, by a sub­stan­tial mar­gin. Fire dis­tricts in Mason Coun­ty also did well, with two Emer­gency Med­ical Ser­vices levies pass­ing hand­i­ly, but a prop­er­ty tax levy for Fire Pro­tec­tion Dis­trict #16 pass­ing by only 33 votes of 753 cast.

The town of Pateros in Okanogan Coun­ty is cur­rent­ly reject­ing, by six votes of one hun­dred and six cast, renew­ing a levy for emer­gency med­ical ser­vices that would cost 50 cents for every $1,000 of an assessed property’s value.

A one-year levy for a Pub­lic Hos­pi­tal Dis­trict that serves both Okanogan and Dou­glas coun­ties is cur­rent­ly hand­i­ly passing.

Vot­er turnout in most cas­es was rel­a­tive­ly strong despite the pan­dem­ic, with most coun­ties see­ing turnout above forty per­cent. The excep­tions were Grant, Kit­ti­tas, and Dou­glas coun­ties, which are all quite rural.

It’s these often unno­ticed votes that make the dif­fer­ence with respect to Wash­ing­to­ni­ans’ qual­i­ty of life. Because our tax code is so upside down and because local juris­dic­tions are fre­quent­ly left to fend for them­selves with lim­it­ed rev­enue author­i­ty, suc­cess­ful local bal­lot mea­sures are need­ed to keep essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices oper­a­tional and healthy. Hope­ful­ly, that won’t always be the case, because bud­get­ing by ref­er­en­dum is not a sound fis­cal practice.

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