Danny Westneat asks King County whether they should spend the taxes raised last year for foot ferries to shore up the budget gap the County has right now. I asked same question of Ron Sims last time he was on KUOW’s Weekday (at the end of the hour), and Sims’ answer was that under the state constitution, the County government can repurpose the money. Westneat makes a good point about the ferry services being a special project – though I wouldn’t call them ridiculous necessarily – and another point that some of what will have to be cut are pretty dramatic:
Sheriff Sue Rahr was the one who made them wax apocalyptic. To cut $9 million, she said she’ll have to ax 29 detectives, 24 deputies, four sergeants and two marshals.
Which means cops will no longer investigate any property crime in unincorporated King County in which less than $10,000 was stolen. The domestic-violence unit will be down to three people. No more policing of drug trafficking, period. And if you call a precinct, you’ll only get voice mail because they’re cutting the people who answer the phones.
But I think Westneat’s solution is a little misguided, here’s what he wants to do:
It came to me when I realized last year’s tax increases by coincidence almost equal this year’s draconian cuts.
Why not use that money to solve this “crisis?” Why not, at the least, cancel those ridiculous foot ferries?
They are the old Mosquito Fleet walk-on ferries, between Kirkland, Renton and Seattle on Lake Washington. And Shilshole to downtown Seattle on the Sound. The council raised property taxes to reincarnate them last November.
None of these cities are on islands — a large part of why the last such ferry petered out in 1939. Each run today will carry maybe 300 riders. Yet we’re steaming ahead with it. Even as we cut 59 cops. And call it all “a recipe for disaster.”
In my mind, if we’re going to spend the foot ferry tax on something else, let’s spend it on Metro buses, since at least both are transit. Metro is dealing with it’s own budget shortfalls and at least keeping the money on transportation wouldn’t be as significant a re-purpose. In addition, those county service cuts will mostly effect unincorporated King County, while the foot ferry taxes are imposed over the whole county. I don’t like the way the taxes were imposed, in a semi-secret council vote immediately after an election, but that doesn’t mean the money should just be spent on any thing else that seems pressing today.
Ultimately, I believe Sims is trying to push these unincorporated areas that rely on the County to provide municipal services – that is, those services provide by city governments in incorporated areas – to either allow themselves to be annexed or incorporate themselves. I don’t mean that Sims is playing politics with the terrible economy, the county doesn’t have the power to move the funds from ferries to police (or to buses) because the state constitution bars them from doing so. But let me ask this question another way: why should taxpayers in the rest of the county pay for police in unincorporated areas?
Those in cities already pay for their own police forces, and subsidize the police in unincorporated King County by paying for the majority of sheriff services. We pay city taxes to get city services, and we pay county taxes to get county services. If unincorporated King County wants city-level services, they should become a city either thorugh incorporation or get annexation.