By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor
Issues from annexation to homelessness, with many more along the way, were part of the discussion tonight at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s October meeting:
STATE REP. JOE FITZGIBBON: He came with an update on the legislative session, starting with a status report on the annexation sales-tax credit, a key tool if the remaining North Highline area is ever to be annexed to a city. The tax credit expires December 31st of this year; Fitzgibbon sponsored legislation to renew it last session, but wasn’t successful – he said the overall state budget concerns made it an “uphill battle” for any sort of tax credit. This doesn’t mean “the tax credit can’t come back,” he said, but doesn’t expect any sort of incentive to be in the same format – maybe “a medium-term funding solution can be found.” He said that the city of Seattle had told legislators that they couldn’t make annexation pencil out “even WITH the tax credit,” saying they’d want a higher credit – doubled, in fact. “We were not able to offer that,” he said dryly. In response to a question, he said he did not envision support for annexation without a public vote. “One of the ideas that’s been floated is that you could create a special taxing district in this area to fund public safety needs” but not indefinitely, “that can work for the time being until such time as Burien or Seattle decides to offer annexation again.”
The McCleary decision, requiring the state to fully fund education, will mean up to $3 billion more is needed – “almost 10 percent of our state budget” – and legislators are trying to figure out how to get that money. Fitzgibbon says he thinks it has to be raised via an additional revenue source. “We’ll probably be working on that for many months in the 2015 session.”
On transportation, he believes there is a “continuing need” for the Legislature to provide “local funding options” for transit and roads, among other things.
An income tax would be good, multiple attendees tell Fitzgibbon, who noted that it was shot down last time it was on a statewide ballot. He says he supported it and would also support a capital-gains tax, which he expects will be discussed in the coming year.
KING COUNTY CONSORTIUM CONSOLIDATED HOUSING AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PLAN: Valerie Kendall came to presenthis is related to federal grant money, explained in handouts with lots of numbers, charts, and trends. One note of interest: Average rent in South King County is currently $988; in East King County, it’s $1,474; in North King County, $1,225. The county is working on a plan to end homelessness, the guest declared. She said they’re expecting to have to help many seniors – the “silver tsunami.” Overall, she said, her presentation was meant to “capture the pulse of the community” with where things stand and where they are going. You can take an online survey by going here. She heard concerns from NHUAC board members that some of the county’s policies have led to concentrations of poverty in the White Center area.
WELCOME TO WHITE CENTER: A family introduced themselves saying that they bought into Greenbridge, priced out of Seattle, and want to get involved with the community.
NO WORD YET ON A NEW STOREFRONT DEPUTY … according to president Dobkin. She suggests anyone and everyone with questions/concerns should contact Major Jerrell Wills and Sheriff John Urquhart.
BIKE CORRAL COMPROMISE? Bong Sto.Domingo from the county said he had been at a meeting prior to this one and a new plan is in the works.
NEW NHUAC BOARD MEMBER: Elizabeth Devine, a social worker with the Veterans Administration, said she has no political experience but admires neighborhood solidarity – “I’m one of your neighbors and I want to contribute.” She has lived in North Highline for five years. She lived in Capitol Hill before that, and says she “couldn’t have afforded a garage” there. She says she’s been burglarized twice and “I want to stand up for our neighborhood.” NHUAC members voted unanimously to appoint her to the board, and she took office immediately. President Dobkin explained that two board members had been lost recently because of factors in their lives. Anyone interested in joining NHUAC can e-mail her.
HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOND OPPONENT: Karen Steele of Normandy Park spoke in opposition to the $385 million bond measure on the November ballot. She says the bonds approved in 2002 and 2006 are not yet paid off so it will be $1 billion worth of bonds that the district is paying off until 2035. She thinks that will be a tax burden rendering some residences unaffordable. “More money does not mean better schools,” she concluded. Here’s the text of the ballot measure. An attendee pointed out that these are bonds and the money only can be spent on buildings, not salaries, about which Steele had raised concerns. It was noted that Highline Public Schools has not reached out to NHUAC to see their support or at least make their pitch; someone else noted that citizens should attend school board meetings and get involved.
NEW LIBRARY: Questions are swirling around the project, including its status, word of a six-foot fence, and what the library system plans to do with the parcel it won’t be keeping.
BOARD ANNOUNCEMENTS: Council member Pat Price says discussions are under way about a possible tribute to Dick Thurnau, maybe even renaming the park to which he devoted so much time and care (Lakewood Park, home to Hicklin Lake), maybe a plaque honoring him. Some fundraising is expected. … Council member Liz Giba reminds everyone that the White Center Food Bank fundraising dinner is October 18th, the more there, the better.
INVITATION: Southwest Suburban Sewer District board commissioner Bill Tracy invited everyone to find out more about the district, including taking a look at its Salmon Creek treatment plant.
SERVICE AREA GRANT APPLICATION TIME: Interested in one of King County’s community-engagement grants? Apply by the December deadline – details here.