Thursday, April 14, 2016

Time to Vote

So, Washington state is big on democracy and loves to vote: caucuses, initiatives, non-binding measures, local issues, and actual elections (local and statewide and national). The current ballot falls firmly in the 'local issues' categories, and only has two items up for a vote: one seeking authorization for Capital Improvements to Kent schools and the other to renew funding for the fire department.

Surprisingly enough the accompanying Voters' Pamphlet didn't have 'argument for' vs 'argument against', followed by 'rebuttal of argument against', followed by 'rebuttal of argument for', as is usually the case. That's particularly unexpected given that the amounts involved are quite large ($252,000,000, or just over a quarter of a billion dollars) and the improvements significant: building two new elementary schools, adding twenty new classrooms, repairing roofs and the like. I guess the issuing of bonds doesn't fire off the antitax trigger so many initiatives and referendums come up against.

A case in point: the other Proposition, concerning our fire department.  A few years back Kent decided that rather than setting up a separate fire department for Covington (the recently incorporated area immediately to the east of Kent) it'd be better to create a regional fire department that covered several adjacent cities. That's worked pretty well; all the present measure does is re-up their funding for another six years.

Enter the antitax brigade, who make a whole array of charges* against the measure which all more or less come down to a call to defund the fire department in the name of lower taxes. One of the points they put forward in their Statement is a cry to "Remember Pine Tree Park!" This is interesting, because it works directly against the point they think they're making.

A few years ago, the Kent government said it didn't have enough money to keep the city parks going and would have to shut down some of them unless a levy passed. It got voted down, with the result that the city sold off one small park** and removed some amenities from others (e.g. a pier that'd become too dilapidated for safety which they cdn't afford to replace). So the real lesson to 'Remember Pine Tree Park' is that you don't get what you don't pay for: de-fund something the community values and it goes away.

So, two easy votes for a change.

--John R.
current reading: THE CAULDRON OF ANNWN by Th. Evelyn Ellis [1922]

*one includes the point that it's wasteful to have a fire truck respond to a health emergency call when some form of ambulance is more appropriate. True enough, but those who oppose the measure don't explain how defunding the department will address this problem in any way.

**the outcry was such that they've since cancelled the deal and it remains city property for now

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