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The Seattle, King County Interface
September 6, 2017
by William P. Meyers

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Details of governance provided by Rod Dembowski

I attended a meeting of North District Council of Seattle last night. The council is a neighborhood group, a remnant from when these councils were part of the official Seattle governance council. The group used to provide neighborhood input to the city government, and still tries to.

I made a point of being there because I knew the main event was a presentation by Rod Dembowski, my area's elected representative to the King County council. Seattle is within King County. Seattle has a population of about 700,000; King County about 2,150,000. So the county government is actually pretty important, but often ignored by the citizens of Seattle.

Rod gave an excellent overview of what the county does. Most people in King County live in a city, large or small, an "incorporated area." But about 250,000 live in unincorporated area of the county. That is a lot of people, and those people get all their services directly from the county government.

Most King County budget dollars go to law enforcement. But the county also spends substantially on the sewer system, mental health, mass transit and roads. It runs elections, including those is Seattle and other towns.

On the fall ballot there will be a proposal to replace an expiring 5 cent levy per $1000 of assessed real-estate by a 10 cent levy. Rod said the proposal started at 12 cents, but he thought a 12 cent levy would be defeated by the voters. This levy would be on top of other real estate taxes, and would specifically pay for services for veterans, seniors and others in need. He said he believed it would raise enough money to get all homeless veterans off the street. This was the most controversial issue, with some in the audience wanting the levy to be 12 cents, and others wanting it to be 5 cents. [On a $500,000 house, that would have been a working class house 20 years ago, the levy's would result in annual bills of: $25 at 5 cents; $50 at 10 cents; $60 at 12 cents. That is in addition to the basic $5,000 1% tax, and there are other special taxes already in place. For seniors real estate tax bills are often their largest single bill.]

No one asked why, with King County assessed prices of real estate rising so rapidly, the increased income even at 5 cents would not provide sufficient funds. I suppose the reason is that so many people need so much assistance because of the high home prices and rental rates. There was also some discussion about how to shift our current system of taxation from regressive taxes like the sales tax to a progressive income tax. Rod indicated there was not much choice as long as a progressive tax is unconstitutional in Washington State. A flat income tax would be constitutional, I believe.

We also talked about micro-issues, like why Seattle can't seem to install sidewalks for a few blocks of 30th Avenue NE in the Little Brook neighborhood where so many children would like to walk safely.

I tend to write about global and national issues, but there is much to be said for activists and elected officials who pay attention to the little things: potholes and speed bumps, parks and busses, police and fire departments.

I thought Rod Dembowski presented well. He was affable, while not shying away from difficult subjects. My tendency would be to support him if he runs for office again, pending, of course, giving a fair shake to any challenger.




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