Seattle voters will be deciding on a new parks levy this November. Former Sightline intern Todd Burley reminds me that parks confer a whole range of benefits that sometimes get overlooked. (Todd’s now involved with Seattle Parks For All.)
So in the interest of not overlooking those benefits, here are some intriguing studies from The Trust For Public Land:
- The Benefits of Parks (white paper)
- The Health Benefits of Parks
- Quantifying the Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Urban Parks (white paper)
I haven’t read or analyzed these reports—and so I’m not vouching for them — but I’m linking to them because I think these these sorts of things can add to a good civic conversation. It’s pretty easy to quantify a levy’s tax liability or land acquisition acreage, but the benefits to health, climate, and equity are often a lot less clear.
Sightline isn’t taking a position on the parks levy, but we do wish everyone “happy reading” and “happy voting.” Feel free to advocate in comments…
Thanks Eric.Let’s put the monetary costs out there to start the conversation. The levy is a property tax measure that will cost $81/year for the average homeowner, or around 22 cents a day – 27% less than the expiring Pro Parks levy.A small price to pay for keeping up our green infrastructure as our city increases in density.I’m happy to respond to questions, or you can visit the campaign website at http://www.seattleparksforall.org to get the skinny yourself.
Right on Todd and Eric. This is such a critical investment. Making parks is the ultimate act of hope for our city. We know that as we continue to densify, we need not good, not great, but extraordinary public places and I can’t wait to cast my yes vote. Also, I love this advertisement! http://parksandgreenspaceslevy.ning.com/video/video/show?id=2225951:Video:4611
Parks and green space are vital to our community. Unfortunately, the lion’s share of money from this levy will go to athletic fields including replacing grass fields with astroturf. Worse, the levy is a mechanism to by-pass public process. There will likely be a public meeting for each of the proposed projects but commenting will be completely ineffective. Communities won’t be able to object to their neighborhood park being astroturfed because it was approved by the voters.As for new green space, look at the new parks we got out of the last levy to get an idea of what we’ll get this time. Many are quite small. Some are nice. Most seem to involve more concrete than green space and appear to have been selected because the land couldn’t be used for anything else (e.g., too small, too steep). Sure, they’re better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick – and I suppose they qualify as open space – but they’re not green space. They certainly nothing like the advertisement above portrays.Worse, all the money from the last levy and all the money from this levy will be spent without ever having made any attempt to find out what people in Seattle need and want.
Here’s what the Seattle Community Council Federation says about the levy:Parks Levy: The Parks levy (Ordinance 122749) would raise $145,500,000 over 6 years in property taxes ($2.50 per $ 000 of assessed value). It allocates:(a) $35,697,000 for buying land for new parks ($(b) $87,292,000 for “development” of existing parks ( $11,500,000 for improving thethe Asian Art Museum and the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center, $10,500,000 for renovating four playfields, six million for Jefferson Park and five million for four other parks; and $7,250,000 for trails);(c) $8,000,000 for the environment on such projects as stream restoration; and(d) $15,000,000 for an Opportunity Fund. The proponents say that the programs speaks for itself; and the list has a project in almost every neighborhood. The discussion pointed out that the levy appropriates the funds lump sum and the project list is in an attachment. It’s a spending plan that lets the City move the money around without notice to the neighborhoods, without a public hearing, and without findings. All it has to do is consult with an appointed Oversight Committee. In the last three levies, the City has shifted 15-20% of the money quite inconsistently to the plan in the levy. In fact, the only money for Magnuson Park in this levy would complete a project promised by the last ProParks levy and not yet done. The list caters to special interests, e.g. the Asian Art Museum and Langston Hughes moneys were put in at the last minute by the mayor and City Council; $1,250,000 goes for skateboard facilities; the playfield money would put in synthetic turf and lights that many neighborhoods oppose, etc. The Opportunity fund has no criteria—just questions for an applicant– and resembles a slush fund. The City Council rejected safeguards that the communities sought to secure accountability.