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Thursday, September 14, 1995 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seattle Commons Proposition

City of Seattle Proposition 1 South Lake Union/athletic-fields levy

Ballot title: To create an approximately 60-acre Commons park, preserve affordable housing, support economic development, and make transportation improvements in the South Lake Union area, and add athletic fields citywide, shall Seattle lift the 106 percent limit on 1996-2004 regular property-tax collections by a maximum of $111 million in total but at most $20 million, annually (approximately $0.48 per $1,000 assessed valuation), setting maximum regular property taxes for 1996 collection at $3.60 per thousand, pursuant to Ordinance 117709?

What it would do:

-- Authorize additional regular property taxes to be collected for up to nine years (1996 through 2004) to provide a maximum of $111 million.

-- Amounts collected would vary from year to year but could not exceed $20 million in any one year.

-- $100 million of the funds would be used to pay part of the cost of developing about 60 acres into a Commons park, making related transportation improvements, and preserving affordable housing in the South Lake Union area.

-- $11 million would be used to build 23 new athletic fields and renovate five existing fields throughout the city and to maintain the fields for about four years.

Only voters within the city limits of Seattle will vote on the proposed levy for the Seattle Commons and community athletic fields.

------------- Statement for

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We Can Build a Better City. Thousands of us have come together to support the Seattle Commons and neighborhood sports fields. Please join us in investing in Seattle's future. If we are successful in passing Proposition 1, we will see an immediate transformation of the South Lake Union neighborhood and neighborhoods throughout the city; 16,500 new, good-paying jobs in the center of the city; a resolution of the Mercer Mess; a 60-acre public park between downtown and Lake Union; and 28 sports fields in neighborhoods all around the city.

New jobs: Economic experts predict that the Commons will help create 16,541 additional new jobs in the South Lake Union area over the next 30 years. These jobs will be in all sectors, including software, medical technology, construction, commercial and professional services and retail. And these industries will provide jobs at all levels from entry to midlevel and upper-level management. A farsighted jobs program, including job-training and apprenticeships, will give all Seattle residents access to these jobs.

Mercer Mess: Finally, after decades of debate, we have an approved plan to fix the worst traffic snarl in the region and make Mercer a thruway under the Commons park, eliminating all traffic lights between Seattle Center and I-5. A YES vote on Proposition 1 will trigger state and federal government funding to help fix the Mercer Mess.

A green park: The heart of Proposition 1 will be a beautiful, green park near the center of the city - our last chance to create this park. The emphasis will be on active recreation: softball, soccer, tennis, basketball, kiting and picnics. There will be a community center for seniors and activities for kids, waterfront access, and a space for concerts and festivals.

Sports fields: Over the last few years, the number of kids' and adults' sports teams in Seattle has more than doubled. These teams need places to play. Proposition 1 will create or renovate 28 neighborhood sports fields in West Seattle, Rainier Beach, Judkins, Ingraham, Lower Woodland, Lake City, Sand Point and Queen Anne.

We can do it. Once in a generation, we have this opportunity to transform our city; the Lake Washington cleanup, World's Fair, Forward Thrust . . . and now the Seattle Commons. We believe in Seattle's future.

Rebuttal of statement for:

We must set our public-funding priorities: The proposed Commons will consume vast resources for decades to come. It can only be funded at the expense of other neighborhoods.

Businesses create jobs, parks don't: South Lake Union businesses provide 30,000 jobs. City studies project another 12,000 will occur without this $400 million project. This area has experienced over half a billion dollars of private development in the last decade.

There is no state or federal money designated for Mercer Street: There likely won't be because proposed changes will reduce traffic capacity. Also, there is no funding in this levy for planned low-income housing.

There are other ways to "build a better city:" Demolishing neighborhoods is not one of them. As long as the city is willing to bulldoze existing neighborhoods, the notion that this is our "last chance" is nonsense. Help us save a hard-working neighborhood! Vote NO on Proposition 1.

Statement for, and rebuttal of statement against, prepared by Daniel J. Evans, Larry Gossett, Phyllis Lamphere. For information call: 628-8815.

----------------- Statement against -----------------

Taxes go up, while basic needs are not met: Voters are being asked to increase their property taxes to finance the first stage of the $400 million Commons project. When this scheme first surfaced, Mayor (Norm) Rice assured voters that, "No public monies would be used to finance the Commons." The $111 million levy won't build the park - it will only buy the land. Additional taxes will be levied to complete the entire project. The final bill will likely double or triple. This expenditure ignores pressing needs in education, public safety and other neighborhoods.

Why destroy a neighborhood that works? The first phase of the Commons project, the park, will destroy the South Lake Union neighborhood, eliminate or displace 1,900 jobs, and remove 130 small businesses. Future development around the park would displace as many as 9,000 more jobs and 800 additional businesses, many of which have been in the area for generations. The Commons proposes to change this commercial, light-industrial neighborhood to an upscale new "urban village" using the park as a front lawn for luxury apartments and condominiums.

The Commons plan disregards the people who want to continue to live and work in South Lake Union. This plan resurrects the tear-it-down urban renewal Seattle citizens rejected when they voted to save Pike Place Market from the wrecking ball.

We can't maintain the parks we have: Seattle has 351 parks, over 5,000 acres, including almost 20 acres in the South Lake Union area. Today most parks have to be closed at night for safety reasons and many are inhospitable during daylight hours. The city currently has a $300 million backlog of major maintenance and planned improvement needed for existing parks. This levy money will not address these and other important needs.

The costs outweigh the imagined benefits: Development of existing neighborhood ball fields and other facilities should not be held hostage to the approval of this proposal, which will spend $40 on the Commons project for every $1 that goes to other neighborhoods.

There are no valid reasons to destroy this neighborhood just to rebuild it. The city's own comprehensive economic study of South Lake Union indicates that without the Commons this area would generate greater net tax revenues. We should not commit limited finances to benefit another downtown project. This proposal ignores basic city needs!

Please join your fellow citizens and vote NO on the Commons levy.

Rebuttal to statement against:

An investment in Seattle: Our opponents claim the Commons' costs outweigh its benefits. In fact, the Commons will pay for its operations and maintenance and generate a return for the city by attracting new businesses and jobs to Seattle. The only way to meet city needs is through projects like this that expand our tax base.

Supported by local businesses: Our opponents claim the Commons will destroy South Lake Union. In fact, our plan has been endorsed by the South Lake Union Business Association and more than 100 local businesses, because the Commons will bring more jobs and a healthier economy.

We can afford it: Our opponents claim the Commons costs too much. In fact, for just $3.50 a month, we can build a beautiful, green park, resolve the Mercer Mess, and create thousands of new jobs.

Statement against, and rebuttal of statement for, prepared by Mike Foley, Matthew Fox, Monty Holmes, Linda Jordan, Michael Kendall. For information call: 587-0777.

Copyright (c) 1995 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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