The Parks District (Prop 1 on the Seattle August 5 primary ballot) creates a permanent funding mechanism for maintaining and improving parks, something we have made very clear we want as a city. With more funding, parks can do all kinds of great stuff, like keeping community centers open for full hours and in good repair, maintaining the park grounds better and expanding programs. But the need that catches this blog’s eye most is the chance to improve access to all park neighbors, regardless of age and ability.
Many Seattle parks are wonderful, safe and comfortable spaces one you get to them, but they are bounded by busy streets with few comfortable or safe crossings. If a child grows up near a park but cannot get to it due to a lack of safe crossings or routes, that is a huge shame and a waste of park resources. Every home near a park should have safe and comfortable walking and biking routes so kids and adults with mobility issues can enjoy and feel invited to be part of these vital public spaces.
Today, the Parks Department does not have the means to do much parks access work. They pretty much spend their funds on the areas inside park boundaries, but the Parks District measure is a chance to change that. If it passes, the district will have the means to collaborate with SDOT on improving access to — and sometimes within — parks for people walking and biking.
That’s why it has the support of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, whose Executive Director Cathy Tuttle praised the initiative in a letter:
The Seattle Neighborhood Greenways community coalition envisions a Seattle Parks system where our kids can safely bike to and through parks for fun, or simply to get home. We envision a Seattle Parks system where grandparents can safely walk and go through as they enjoy staying active. The Seattle Parks ballot measure calls out “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” as a good first step towards this vision.
In order to create an equitable system that serves all Seattleites, parks need to be accessible on foot or by bike. “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” will provide $315,848 per year to allow the Parks Department to work across silos and collaborate with Seattle Department of Transportation to make our parks more accessible to everyone. In addition, “Activating and Connecting to Greenways” will give the Parks Department funding to help provide valuable expertise when Seattle starts to host open streets events (similar to Portland’s Sunday Parkways) that link together multiple parks.
The arguments against the Parks District are not related to biking or really even with the elements that would be funded by the district. Instead, opponents are concerned about the permanence of the district, preferring to soundly vote yes on a levy every once in a while. Like the Transportation Benefits District, the City Council will essentially put on a new hat and act as the Parks District board when conducting the district business.
Taxing ourselves through the district rather than another levy will also “free up” some levy capacity for other purposes (state law limits the total levy amount the city can pass), like a future universal pre-K initiative or a bigger transportation levy if that’s the route the city chooses to go.
So if nothing else, vote yes on Prop. 1!
Who else should I vote for?
Seattle Bike Blog is in no way prepared to endorse candidates in the August primary. We’d love to be able to do this for future elections some day, but it’s a big and important job that we don’t want to half-ass.
However, if you are looking to see how candidates view bicycling before mailing your ballot, check out these questionnaire responses from Cascade Bicycle Club. If you totally trust Cascade’s view on the issues, you can also see a simplified list of endorsed candidates here.
And if you can’t bring yourself to get excited about voting in the primary, the Stranger’s endorsement guide is always a funny read.
However you vote, just make sure you do it today. Don’t wait until the last minute, because you might forget or get tied up on the way home. You know who won’t forget to vote? People who just vote against anything that includes a tax (like the Parks District) or people who are willing to start shoving people at press conferences over a parks funding issue. It’s a primary, so voter turnout will probably be a bit lower than other elections (that means your vote counts more).
Your ballot should be arriving soon if it hasn’t already. If you are registered but don’t get your ballot, check out the King County Elections website for options on voting.