Community Post

Hey County Leaders: What about Seattle? – Updated

Yesterday CDNews World HQ was bombarded with several highly annoying press releases. The first, from county councilman Dow Constantine, announced that he would propose to move money from the county ferry district to support flood-control projects in the south part of the county. A later release from county executive candidate Ross Hunter blamed Constantine for ever supporting ferry funding in the first place, and also pushing that ferry funding go to flood projects in the Green River valley.

A little background: you, residents of Seattle’s Central District, are already paying significant property taxes for both pedestrian ferries and south county flood control. Those are things that most of you will never see any benefit from. In the meantime, the county is getting ready to cut huge amounts of bus service and social services that we do use, and heavily rely upon, due to the overall economic downturn.

So county leaders: how about we take that ferry funding, which is transportation related, and use it to support the bus service that benefits everyone in King County, including transit-dependent people across Seattle?

And how about if we let all of the big warehouses, retail operations, and other commercial property owners in the Green River valley pay a separate property tax to fix their potential flooding issues? After all, they’re big corporations who knowingly chose to build in a flood plain, and should be able to afford to pay their own way. Why should we foot their bill when so many other county services are on the chopping block?

This whole episode just brings up a lot of long-term county issues for me. I can’t remember a time when any county leader openly advocated for the interests of Seattle, which is 1/3 of the county’s population. We pay all sorts of taxes to support county services like law enforcement in unincorporated areas, roads out in the suburbs, parks outside of the city, county libraries, etc. But we get no benefits other than feeling good about it – none of that funding goes to help provide for the similar city services that we also pay for. Plus there’s all sorts of other issues, such as the 20/40/40 rule that dedicates most new bus service to put empty buses out in the hinterlands, while bus routes in Seattle remain standing-room-only.

And what services we do get from the county are about to dry up, as they’ve recently decided to slash human services funding that thousands of people in Seattle depend on in real life-or-death situations.

This election season, I’ll be listening for the candidates who have the courage to openly advocate for the city of Seattle. And I’ll definitely remember the ones who only posture and pitch their message to the suburbs.

Update: It looks like at least County Councilmember Phillips is trying to do the right thing here:

With bus service at risk of drastic cuts at a time when money is slated for increasing passenger ferry service, Ferry District Boardmember Larry Phillips today proposed cutting the Ferry District tax levy to $0 in 2010 in order to make tax dollars available to keep Metro buses running. The net impact on taxpayers would be no increase in taxes. 

“King County must make the same kinds of choices taxpayers are making when it comes to which priorities to pay for when there’s less money to go around,” said Phillips. “When it comes to a choice between keeping existing countywide bus service on the street or providing a more expensive and selective enhancement like passenger ferry service, we need to choose buses for all county residents.”

0 thoughts on “Hey County Leaders: What about Seattle? – Updated

  1. Hey, whoa, no way! I use the ferries all the time, and if they get any more funding cut from them, we soon won’t have them. How about people pay to go on roads instead? Ferry riders already pay significant fares. Those ferry riders are tourists and workers, two groups you don’t want to lose out on in this economy. Ever since the license plate tab money got taken from the ferries and that funding never replaced, they’ve been struggling. The ferries are a valuable resource. Please don’t advocate for cutting their funding! We need to be working for all types of public transit!

  2. they are discussing the foot ferry, not the ferries in general (although that’s not off the table).

    foot ferries are pretty dubious in terms of their ROI.

    that said, this is all gamesmenship in the heat of the most contested local election season in generations.

  3. While I am all for advocating local interests, I’d be careful about going down the line of “I only support what I directly benefit from”. Our society and government works best (IMO) when we all work for the greater good, realizing that we will not always be the direct beneficiaries of that work. I’m sure that if you looked at where money is collected and where money is spent, metro regions account for large amounts of both. However, this is not the point. I’m glad to participate in a system where I contribute what I can so that those in need are served.

  4. “I’m glad to participate in a system where I contribute what I can so that those in need are served.”

    And that is exactly the problem here . . . those in need are NOT being served. Wise words Scott!

  5. The passenger ferries in question recover the SAME fare box recovery as buses, reduce the number of buses required (each boat handles three plus bus loads of people). The passenger ferries serve both county and city residents as well as tourists, etc.
    There is a plan before council to keep buses, but Phillips ignores this in favor of jumping on a bandwagon that doesn’t exist.