King County Executive Dow Constantine speaks at the victory party for April 2023 Proposition 1
King County Executive Dow Constantine, flanked by County Councilmember Girmay Zahilay, addresses supporters of the crisis care centers levy (Proposition 1) at its April 25th victory party (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

A pro­posed nine year prop­er­ty tax levy that would fund the con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion of five walk-in cri­sis care cen­ters for peo­ple fac­ing acute beha­vo­r­ial health chal­lenges in Wash­ing­ton State’s largest local­i­ty is pass­ing hand­i­ly in ear­ly returns, which is good news for the future of health­care in King County.

54.43% of the votes tal­lied and report­ed out as part of King Coun­ty’s April 2023 Spe­cial Elec­tion Night drop favor King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion 1, the offi­cial name of the cri­sis care cen­ters levy, which has also been the moniker of oth­er levies in years past, includ­ing as recent­ly as last Novem­ber. 45.57% were opposed.

160,205 votes have been cast for Propo­si­tion 1 thus far and 134,129 against.

Vot­er turnout cur­rent­ly stands at 21.35%, which does­n’t sound like much (and isn’t) but is actu­al­ly more than half of the total num­ber of vot­ers who are expect­ed to turn out in this odd-year spe­cial elec­tion across the whole county.

The bal­lot title that vot­ers saw was:

King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion No. 1
Cri­sis Care Cen­ters Levy

The King Coun­ty Coun­cil passed Ordi­nance 19572 con­cern­ing fund­ing for men­tal health and sub­stance use dis­or­der services.

If approved, this propo­si­tion would fund behav­ioral health ser­vices and cap­i­tal facil­i­ties, includ­ing a coun­ty­wide cri­sis care cen­ters net­work, increased res­i­den­tial treat­ment; mobile cri­sis care; post-dis­charge sta­bi­liza­tion; and work­force sup­ports. It would autho­rize an addi­tion­al nine-year prop­er­ty tax levy for col­lec­tion begin­ning in 2024 at $0.145 per $1,000 of assessed val­u­a­tion, with the 2024 levy amount being the base for cal­cu­lat­ing annu­al increas­es in 2025–2032 under chap­ter 84.55 RCW, and exempt eli­gi­ble seniors, vet­er­ans, and dis­abled per­sons under RCW 84.36.381. Should this propo­si­tion be:

[ ] Approved
[ ] Rejected

Oppo­si­tion came from a crew of right wing anti-tax folks, rep­re­sent­ed in the voter’s pam­phlet by Jim Coombes, Suzie Burke, and Tim Eyman.

“Don’t fall for their trick!” implores the oppo­si­tion state­ment, which was almost cer­tain­ly draft­ed by Eyman, an NPI foe lack­ing in self aware­ness. “Politi­cians (Repub­li­cans and Democ­rats) are mas­ters at manip­u­lat­ing us. Gov­ern­ment spends exist­ing tax­es on pet projects and then forces us to vote for essen­tial ser­vices. It’s a trick. And when we fall for it, politi­cians just do it again. But not this time!”

Eyman would know all about polit­i­cal trick­ery: he is a decades-long politi­cian who per­fect­ed the dark art of devel­op­ing deceit­ful­ly word­ed ini­tia­tives to defund our essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices, exploit­ing a lack of safe­guards in Wash­ing­ton’s ini­tia­tive and ref­er­en­dum process. For years, Eyman was also giv­en a mega­phone by state and local media out­lets to dis­hon­est­ly pro­mote his deceit­ful ini­tia­tives, often going unchal­lenged. Thank­ful­ly, those days have come to an end.

King Coun­ty vot­ers, who have long viewed Eyman with con­tempt, are reject­ing his argu­ments. Eyman did his side no favors by sign­ing the voter’s pam­phlet state­ment and appear­ing on tele­vi­sion in oppo­si­tion to the levy. In mak­ing him­self the pub­lic face of the oppo­si­tion to the levy, he was arguably help­ing to pass it.

If we had a more pro­gres­sive prop­er­ty tax code, rather than dra­con­ian poli­cies like Eyman’s not-yet-repealed Ini­tia­tive 747, it would be much eas­i­er for King Coun­ty to fund its essen­tial ser­vices as part of the reg­u­lar bud­get­ing process, rather than send­ing levies to vot­ers to secure resources for things we need.

“King Coun­ty can no longer wait for state and fed­er­al invest­ments to meet the scale of our region’s behav­ioral health needs, which is why I pro­posed the Cri­sis Care Cen­ters levy with input from cities, com­mu­ni­ties, providers, first respon­ders, law enforce­ment, and the work­force,” said King Coun­ty Exec­u­tive Dow Con­stan­tine after the drop. “I am opti­mistic about the ear­ly results while we wait for more votes to be count­ed and appre­ci­ate vot­ers’ sup­port for urgent action.”

“The cur­rent sys­tem is inad­e­quate for the lev­el of need we see in our com­mu­ni­ty. A coun­ty of 2.3 mil­lion peo­ple must have a func­tion­al and con­nect­ed behav­ioral health sys­tem that pro­vides time­ly, effec­tive, com­pas­sion­ate men­tal health and sub­stance use care, with access and qual­i­ty at least equal to phys­i­cal health­care. Inac­tion is not an option, and I know the pro­posed invest­ments in behav­ioral health will have trans­for­ma­tive impacts.”

Crisis care centers levy supporters celebrate early returns
Sup­port­ers of the April 2023 incar­na­tion of King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion 1 (the cri­sis care cen­ters levy) cel­e­brate the ini­tial returns, which sug­gest an even­tu­al vic­to­ry, at Bar Vac­ilan­do on Capi­tol Hill (Pho­to: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)

Con­stan­tine and King Coun­ty Coun­cilmem­ber Gir­may Zahi­lay cheered the ini­tial results at an Elec­tion Night par­ty on Capi­tol Hill, cel­e­brat­ing with cam­paign staff and sup­port­ers who have been labor­ing for weeks to get out the vote and com­mu­ni­cate the cam­paign’s mes­sage to vot­ers. The cam­paign raised over half a mil­lion dol­lars for its oper­a­tions and secured the sup­port of the busi­ness com­mu­ni­ty, the labor move­ment, and many civic organizations.

NPI endorsed King Coun­ty Propo­si­tion 1 and cam­paigned for a yes vote.

Bal­lot count­ing will con­tin­ue for two more weeks, at which point the spe­cial elec­tion will be cer­ti­fied and the results will become offi­cial. The feel­ing among advo­cates is that the per­cent­age of the yes vote will like­ly increase in the late bal­lots, result­ing in a larg­er mar­gin of pas­sage than what we’re see­ing tonight.

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.

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