Seattle Courant Archive

City shows solid support for 2 levies

City shows solid support for 2 levies

By Kathy Mulady
November 05, 2008

"I feel wonderful. The people of Seattle love their Market," said Jackson Schmidt, chairman of the Pike Place Market Preservation and Development Authority.

"By voting for this, despite the dire economic circumstances this country finds itself in, the people have shown their support for these projects and the need to preserve the Market, and we are very thankful," said Schmidt, who was celebrating with other Market supporters at Kells Restaurant and Pub near the Market.

Many had predicted strong support for the Market levy, but passage of the parks levy seemed less certain in recent weeks.

Karen Daubert, executive director of the Seattle Parks Foundation, said park levy supports were "really feeling great" about the strong showing.

"What's wonderful is the grass-roots support for the initiative. People have been working on this for the last 18 months, and it has been a lot of work," she said. "Personally, I am so thrilled. It speaks again to the value people place on their parks, even in times of economic turmoil."

The Pike Place Market property tax levy will raise $73 million for basic upgrades to plumbing, wiring and ventilation systems at the 101-year-old Market. The levy will cost the owner of a $450,000 home about $43 annually for six years.

The Parks and Green Spaces levy will raise $145.5 million over six years for a range of projects, including buying new park land, fixing up playgrounds and sports fields, finishing urban trails and making seismic and other improvements to the Seattle Asian Art Museum and Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center.

The parks levy will cost the owner of a $450,000 home about $82 a year for six years.

Mayor Greg Nickels surprised some when he announced last month that he was voting against it.

Earlier in the year, Nickels asked City Council members not to place the parks levy on the ballot, worried that financially strained voters would pick and choose at the polls, or outright oppose all requests for money, including for Nickels' favored transportation tax.

Most expected that the Pike Place Market levy had a good chance of passing. It was the first time since the 1970s that voters have been asked to contribute to the Market. The bare-bones maintenance projects and residents' sentimental attachment to the popular tourist attraction were expected to help.

Neither levy had any organized opposition, but both had gathered plenty of critics.

Commercial real estate experts questioned how the market, with nearly full occupancy, a prime location and 10 million visitors a year, has fallen into such disrepair that it needs a $73 million infusion from taxpayers.

Critics of the parks levy complained that the proposal comes just as the previous ProParks levy expires this year, proof, they said, that levies never end. Some critics said it was just misleading to include artificial turf for sports fields in a parks levy. Others didn't like the $9 million included for improvements to the museum and $2.5 million for Langston Hughes.
P-I reporter Kathy Mulady can be reached at 206-448-8029 or