LETTER | Voters beware -- Prop 1 & 2 are not what they seem

Proposition 1 & 2 are not really park and street maintenance levies.  They are actually multimillion dollar capital project levies.  The ballot titles and descriptions use maintenance language but the preponderance of funds raised are not for maintenance.  They are to pay for major capital expenditures including the controversial Cross Kirkland Trail and citywide Curbs, Gutters and Sidewalks.

Ordinarily, major capital projects are funded by long term bonds.  A big benefit of this method is that the annual costs to the taxpayer are much lower than with levies.  But bond issues require over 60% voter approval.  Getting 60% backing for the controversial  trail and sidewalks would be a tough sale.  Park upkeep and fixing potholes are easy sales.  And levies only require 50% approval.  By bundling everything together in levies, voters favoring the park and street upkeep will have to accept the trail and sidewalks, or reject the park and street work.  By using levies instead of bonds, the city only needs to coax 50% of the voters to go along with the controversial projects instead of 60%.  Is this cunning salesmanship or coercion?

 

Bond issues also go away after a fixed time.  These levies run forever. They also give the city a generous and virtually open ended permanent parks and public works slush fund.  Read the full text carefully.  The timing and completion of the projects named in the levies is at the council’s discretion. There is no time limit.  The city is not restricted to the work named in the levies.  These funds can be used at any time for any work the city wants within the broadly worded scope of these levies.

 

Park and street maintenance are important needs. And so are capital improvements.  But Kirkland citizens deserve a better way to fund both needs than is offered in these  levies.  If we accept permanent levies to fund major capital projects, questionable tactics to get money for maintenance, and an off-budget slush fund for wish lists, we forever lose our opportunity to demand a better way.  Both of these crafty propositions should be rejected and sent back to our resourceful council to "recalculate".

 

Paul Hall