Yes: Parks district money will maintain assets, restore programs
Sunday, September 23, 2012
The Vancouver City Council passed Resolution No. M-3777 to allow voters to decide whether to create the "Vancouver Metropolitan Park District," to be governed by the Vancouver City Council as the ex officio board of park commissioners. If created, the metropolitan park district would have all the powers under Chapter 35.61 RCW, including the authority to levy a general tax on property not to exceed the statutory maximum to support parks and recreation services.
Shall the Vancouver Metropolitan Park District be so created and governed?
For the formation of the metropolitan park district, to be governed by the City Council of the City of Vancouver as the ex officio board of parks commissioners.
Against the formation of the metropolitan park district.
The opposing view
A "For" vote by Vancouver voters on the Nov. 6 Metropolitan Parks District ballot measure will keep the city's parks active, clean, and safe.
Vancouver's parks, trails, and recreation facilities are a treasured resource. Whether it's families gathering at the park, the crack of a bat at one of our ball fields, a stroll along our trails, or the splash at one of our community center pools, our parks and programs are a cornerstone of our quality of life.
We can enjoy beautiful public spaces like our waterfront trail, open natural areas and green ways. We can gather at Esther Short Park for summer concerts, a variety of cultural events and festivals. Fitness centers, swimming pools and community gardens allow us to live a strong, healthy lifestyle.
I want to remind everyone of the great programs and services that Parks and Recreation provides to all of our citizens. Seniors benefit from programs such as Silver Sneakers. Teens are offered safe, healthy environments and activities. There are programs for the disabled and to help those who cannot afford other options.
Parks also appeal to businesses, increasing jobs for our local economy. When businesses look to relocate to a city, a quality parks and recreation program is important. A weekend sports tournament can bring an estimated $2.4 million into our local economy. These programs are essential to help keep our community healthy, active and strong.
Balance of services
Every great city has a good transportation system, public utilities, schools, public safety, employment opportunities and excellent parks, trails and recreation programs. If one of these elements suffers, the city suffers. It is not about having one or the other. It is about providing a balance of services to the community.
In the past decade, our parks and recreation department has suffered more than any other city department — millions of dollars have been cut. The number of full-time parks employees has been cut by more than half since 2008, from 114 and to only 56 in 2012. These cuts mean less access to activities, sports and parks.
Formation of a Metropolitan Parks District will send a message to elected officials that we care about our parks system and want to protect it from further cuts. The MPD will raise $4.5 million annually. The city council will serve as the MPD Board. These funds will be used to repair and improve our community centers; provide services for seniors and disabled citizens; restore and enhance parks and trails; and provide maintenance for parks and facilities. These funds will not provide new parks but will let us maintain existing assets and restore critical programs.
The MPD guarantees accountability. Law requires that these monies go directly to protecting our parks and recreation programs, and cannot be used for any other purpose. Only 6 percent of the city's general fund goes to parks and recreation, and that is declining. Let's stop the reduction of parks and recreation. Lets maintain the balance of public services to our community.
Vote "For" on the Metropolitan Parks District for a healthy community, now and for future generations.
Roy Heikkala of Vancouver is a long-time supporter of local parks and chairman of the Save Vancouver Parks Committee.