This weekend, I was asked to join a group of concerned citizens who are adding their names to a strong statement against Kirkland Proposition 1, the proposal to form a metropolitan park district (MPD) to fund an Aquatics and Recreation Center (ARC) in Kirkland. While I oppose the proposition, I prefer to explain why in my own words.
There are simply too many greater needs in Kirkland that will have to be funded by bond initiatives in the near future. If this proposition passes, an ARC tax already in place will cause more voters to say “enough”.
King County Proposition 1, the Best Starts for Kids levy is also on the current ballot, and I prioritize it above the ARC. The Lake Washington School District has a need for bond funding, and we probably need a levy to build a new Kirkland fire station. All of these are more important than a swimming pool right now. Hearing so many people fearing - no, expecting - the maximum possible MPD levy on their property tax bill if the measure passes, I am sure that it will push more voters into the No More Taxes camp for the next levy vote.
I do think the fears that the ARC property tax rate will soon zoom to the maximum of 75 cents per thousand are exaggerated. I trust the current Kirkland City Council to stick to the purpose intended for this MPD. That said, a permanent 75-cent taxing authority is something a future council may be unable to resist.
The Kirkland City Council listened to a relatively small but vocal group of citizens who did not want the ARC located on city-owned land at Juanita Beach Park. That led to the exploration of the private church site, which could add $20 million to the overall cost. Well, there are even more citizens who oppose this MPD measure, and they should be equally respected.
While I respect councilmembers for the tough decisions they have to make all of the time, this approach is just wrong. Wait to do this until after our more pressing levy needs are satisfied, come up with a more modest proposal on current city property, and you will have a much more viable project.