No: Get all details on public safety, parks needs first

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Ballot wording

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

Yes: Parks district money will maintain assets, restore programs

Vancouver voters will soon have the "opportunity" to vote for a permanent increase in their taxes to support existing and additional city parks and recreation department requests. You will do this if you vote to approve the proposed Metropolitan Parks District. Before you vote, there are a few facts you should be aware of.

According to Pete Mayer, until recently the head of the city's parks and recreation department, approximately 70 percent of the existing budget is compensation related. This includes salaries, guaranteed retirement benefits, over market health care payments, etc. Know also that by voting for the MPD that you are further guaranteeing parks employees' retirement funds by permanently granting the MPD the power to increase your taxes to cover any shortfalls in retirement benefits for its employees.

There are three main uses of the city's general funds: parks and recreation; police; and fire. To get an idea of what the fire department needs are, please review the report found at this site: http://www.cityofvancouver.us/upload/contents/1143/FinalFireServiceDeliveryAnalysisReport-9-62012.pdf.

This report, commissioned by the city, was recently delivered to the city manager.

Determine needs

Our mayor has said that if police and fire departments are in need of further financial support, the city council will come to the voters to ask for it. From reading this report, it sure sounds as if we should be expecting a call from the city.

It is clear to me that our city will need additional revenues to ensure that citizens are adequately protected and that we continue to have a quality place to live. However, it would be a lot better if the city would first determine what its needs are in the critical areas of public safety before we permanently deliver a portion of our limited taxing capacity to a department whose services are partially wanted and partially needed.

My request to the city is that they gather all the details of public safety and parks departments needs for the foreseeable future and then schedule a series of information nights around the city to outline for citizens what their needs are.

While we wait for this full explanation of needs, there are several ways that you can get involved to help our parks and recreation department live within its existing financial budget. They include:

Contact the city's recently hired volunteer coordinator to see what opportunities she has.

Join the Clark County Parks Foundation.

Have your neighborhood take part in the "adopt a park program."

Organize groups to clean up areas around where you live.

I do not take lightly my decision to vote against this permanent tax increase. I am a member of the Parks Foundation, I do work with youth who are able to take advantage of the benefits of facilities only because they are subsidized by the city, and I do realize the calming effect that our existing parks system has on the community. However, in my opinion, the city has more work to do before asking for a permanent tax increase.

Kevin J. McCann of Vancouver is a retired banker who is active in numerous civic organizations.