Thoughts on the Park District Vote

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Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 4:42 pm  //  John Servais

Update: 3:42 pm, Wed.  The vote is now 1,894 for the Park District and 1,774 against.  A 120 vote margin.

An additional 386 plus votes were counted this afternoon by the county auditor.  They came in as 231 for the Park District and 155 against.  We expect another 100 to 200 votes to be counted on Friday afternoon.

With this strong Yes finish, we have a Metropolitan Park District on the south side of Bellingham.  Obviously the proponents last few days get out the vote door belling worked.   As an election for their cause, they get the credit for getting a win.  They have gotten their carefully picked five candidates on the commission.  Their victory is complete. 

Now we will monitor how they keep their promises of 28 cents/thousand tax and dissolving their park district as soon as that is done - even this year of 2013. 

But I think they have done some larger damage to the future of liberal causes in general in our community.  They have sacrificed their liberal ethics of fairness, honesty and open process to the expedient of preserving unneeded woods near their homes.  Their area is now surrounded - inundated - with city, county and state parks.

I am a liberal - believing basically in a greater value on community welfare than on the rights to pursue individual happiness.  Liberal values were put aside by the proponents of this park district as they sought to secure higher property values for their own homes and surround themselves with parks.  Throughout the campaign they refused to address the criticisms.  They employed the tactic of repeating half truths - something they accuse the conservative political causes of doing.  And in doing so, they have hurt their credibility for future liberal causes in Bellingham.  We saw liberals stoop to dirty politics to get what they badly wanted - no new homes near where they live.

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Below posted 8:30 am, Wed.

If anyone wants to weigh in on the Chuckanut Ridge Park District campaign, the issues, or the state of the ballot counting, here is a place-holder for attaching comments.   We may know definitive results this afternoon about 3 or 4 p.m.  Or, we may need to wait a couple weeks for the canvassing board to finish its work before we know if this measure passes or fails. 

This morning, the numbers are separated by 44 votes, out of 3,382 ballots counted by last night.  "Yes" to create the Park District leads with 1,663 votes, against 1,619 votes for "no." Apparently there are some 160 ballots uncounted at the Auditor's office.   And more votes will arrive in the mail today, with my guess being a high number of maybe 200 or more still to arrive.  

My thinking is the late votes will be overwhelmingly "no," but that is just one political junkie going out on a limb. The thinking is that the advocates for the park voted early and  many late voters came to the realization there was a tax in the issue and finally decided to vote.  My feeling is this thing could well be defeated when the last ballots are counted by Thursday or Friday.   

Regardless, as Bill Geyer said in the Herald this morning, this close vote shows that, "We don't have agreement that a park district is good, that's clear." Indeed, the "yes" votes are almost exactly the same number as signed the initiative.  With a low turnout of only 42%, and given the huge effort by the proponents to turn out their vote with intense doorbelling and multiple direct mail postcards, they only motivated about 20% of the voters on the south side to vote "yes."  I think a higher turnout would have strongly defeated this issue.  But, again, that is speculation.  

So we wait for this afternoon and a new count from our auditor.

Alex McLean  //  Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 1:27 pm

If I’m following your math, then 1,700 people, or roughly 20-percent of eligible voters in these impacted precincts, are all it took to ram this well-oiled herring down our throats.

My wager is that they will wait at least until after the next Greenways levy fails (if one even makes it to a ballot) and then promptly use this as a cue to raise the tax rate.

We’ve already gambled much by allowing this cabal to form, so I’ll put my meager $5 in the pot claiming that 2017 is the year the Park District raises our rates.


Delaine Clizbe  //  Wed, Feb 13, 2013, 6:25 pm

Darn it!  Looks like I will spend the next 10 years monitoring Metropolitan Park District Commission meetings:) 


Delaine Clizbe  //  Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 9:32 am

And now for myself, a landlord in the district, the moral dilemma.  Do I absorb the cost of this levy, the low-income levy, the school levy, the increased water bill.  Or do I pass the cost on to the tenants.  The management company that manages our duplexes will be presenting new rent suggestions to me soon.  What should I do?  If I eat the costs, where will the money come from for the new dishwasher I just bought, the tub/shower that needs replaced, the fencing that is falling down. 

This vote comes at a time that the Bellingham City Council is considering inspecting rental units to ensure habitability.  I just think it ironic!  This tax increase just chipped away at that ability of rental property owners to maintain habitability. 

Overwhelmingly I know what the decision will be for most landlords.  And then some of the same folks who proposed this little gem will squawk at the injustice.


Wendy Harris  //  Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 4:42 pm

Delaine, just curious.  How much will you pay out for the park district and how many rental units are involved?

Since you are concerned about the injustice this imposes on your tenants, please consider asking the city to include social justice as a goal in the new economic development policy of the city comp. plan. It was included in the 2009 city policy, but has been removed in the current draft.


Delaine Clizbe  //  Thu, Feb 14, 2013, 5:56 pm

Hi Wendy,
I noticed your latest article on this blog.  I have to admit I am uninformed on this issue so will need to look into it before commenting.

We have only 4 units.  We currently pay $244 a year into the Greenways levy.  I had calculated that the new “low income levy” and the “community park levy” will increase our tax bill by $300 a year.  Just to put that figure in perspective.  I just spent $400 on a new dishwasher. 

Not all landlords are evil.  In fact, most landlords make very poor businessmen.  The problem is that we are dealing with a persons “home”.  And once you get to know your tenants it makes “best for business” decisions hard.  I understand that the “big business” landlords can make these decisions easily.  However, the small local “Ma and Pa” landlords, the ones we want to manage the rental housing in our community, struggle with this.


Tip Johnson  //  Tue, Feb 19, 2013, 1:24 am

I’m betting the rents will go up and not strictly on the cost of the levy.  Once landlords are stimulated to review the rents, they will bring it to what the market will bear, plus a margin if possible, to hedge against the problematic eventuality of having to raise it again.


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