LFP Prop 1: Whom do you trust?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The debate over Lake Forest Park Proposition 1 comes down to whether voters should trust the people they elect.

The difference came out at a forum on the proposed “Levy-Lid Lift” at the Third Place Commons stage, Monday, August 2.

About 150 people listened with polite attention to the pro-and-con discussion about the Prop 1 moderated by the League of Women Voters and sponsored by the LFP League unit.

The levy, if passed, would allow the city to increase the amount of property tax it collects above the 1 percent limit for the next six years and then reset the tax rate at the 2016 amount. Details, estimates, and budget projections which led to this decision are on the City’s website.

A clear theme emerged at the forum. As a voter, you either trust the people you elected to office — mayor and city council — to do a good job making decisions to run the city, or you don’t trust them at all and need to oversee every decision they make, particularly financial decisions.

The “Don’t Trust” group
The “Don’t Trust” group, represented Monday by former Council members Steve Plusch and Donovan Tracey, says that a 1 percent annual property-tax increase limit was a mandate from the people and that no city should go above it. They say that the city would have plenty of money available if it were to restructure and to reduce the size of its government.

Although they praised the City staff, they said Monday that no staff members should be paid over $100,000 a year (including benefits) in such a small city, and they implied that cutting those salaries would go a long way toward fiscal solvency.

Their calculations say that the measure would raise the levy rate 38 percent and a cumulative 50 percent by the year 2017.

Their spokesmen said that the wording of the measure is “not what it pretends to be,” that the city will just “take the money and spend more.” Government has “outgrown itself in size and structure” and a small city like LFP should have a small government, they said.

They said the proposition is confusing because it is based on assumptions about what the budget will be, what income will be and what the property assessments will be. They said they want specific numbers for the budget and specific numbers for how much additional tax individuals will pay.

“How can you ask us for more money if you haven’t even made a budget yet?” one of the speakers asked.

The “Trust” group
This group, represented at the forum by Karen Sluiter and City Councilman Ed Sterner, says that voters have elected good people, that the City has hired a good staff and that the City has been a good steward of tax dollars. They point out that the Tim Eyman initiative simply requires a public vote for raising property-tax revenue more than 1 percent per year. They point out that the City has already reduced its spending by a million dollars and been innovative in contracting out services, sharing services with other cities and generally paying less for police, public works and court services than surrounding cities. They add that Staff members are paid less than comparable cities and that wages have been frozen.

Their calculations say the increased taxes would still be less than what people paid in 2009. They say they have done good projections and there won’t be enough money to maintain the current level of services without a tax increase. However, they say, if the economy suddenly improves and the city doesn’t need the money, they won’t collect it.

All sides have fear and anxiety
There’s a large measure of fear and anxiety on each side, as well.

Members of the "pro" group say they fear that, without the option to collect more money in property taxes, the City would need to cut essential services. Because the criminal justice system is more than half of the city budget, this would certainly affect police, who have already made cuts. They say they fear that continued salary freezes or cuts would mean staff turnover. They fear that services once lost would be hard to regain. They fear the loss of money to support community activities like the Senior Center. They say that, without the additional money to maintain the services that citizens expect, the city will become a very different place.

The con group points out that with 9 percent of the population out of work and retired people getting no Social Security raises, people can't afford a tax increase. They say they fear that old people would lose their homes because they couldn’t afford the additional taxes. They say they fear that young families would be priced out of the City.

To learn more about Prop 1, go to the City website  The Pro side website is here and the Con website is  here.


Anonymous,  August 10, 2010 at 2:37 PM  

It is clear the writer of this LFP Prop 1:Whom Do You Trust piece is like the electeds in LFP – is OUT OF OBJECTIVITY. This is an election, which the City and the City Council put before the voters, because the City wants your open wallet. Former Councilmembers and a State Senator supporting the No campaign plus bi partisan support from the 32nd Legislative District Democrats and 32nd Legislative District Republicans,
is a force to be reckoned with. There is much more at work here beyond the numbers. Make no mistake about it; the Yes folks are made up of a group of the same old out of touch rubberstampers, and belong to the you scratch my back I'll scratch yours club.
Many folks are not aware of the almost incestuous alliances which exist through the many concentric governmental groups including the School Board, those on the board of the Shoreline Senior Center, and other community groups with a variety of causes which cannot be sustained without sound fiscal restraint. One can predict with uncanny accuracy the outcomes of many vital decisions, based on the players involved, Is that what the electorate expects of government?
The City officials decided to cloak this Proposition in terms based on fear tactics, and
contrived forecasting. The No on LFP Levy Lid Campaign, has undressed this measure, and exposed the underlying false premises. Proposition 1 is full of unknown denominators, for too much, and for too long a period, which, is not reasonable nor prudent, given the current economic downturn. Join many others and vote No on Proposition 1. Next step, is to vote the bums out when their terms are up.

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