By Mayor Mike McGinn
For Northwest Asian Weekly
On Monday, Sept. 27, I proposed the 2011/2012 budget to the [Seattle] City Council. Right now, the city council is poised to strip out a core piece of the Department of Transportation’s budget. We need your help.
Twenty percent of Seattle residents do not own a vehicle. Many of our residents rely on walking, biking, and public transit to get around. Neighborhoods that lack basic infrastructure like sidewalks are typically home to communities of color and people living below the poverty line — the very people who are least likely to have access to a car [such as those living in the International District, Central District, or Rainier Valley].
In addition, walking, biking, and riding transit in these areas often feels less safe than driving. Studies show that basic investments in our neighborhoods like sidewalks are essential to our health and the health of our families.
If our urban environment doesn’t encourage walking and an active lifestyle, it makes sense that people get less exercise, suffer from poorer health, and have a tougher time getting access to goods and services.
While city plans like the Pedestrian Master Plan acknowledge this reality and emphasize improvements in these areas of the city, we will only be able to make those improvements if there is funding available.
Things like sidewalks, pedestrian lighting, and funding for expansion of the Chief Sealth Trail and Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail can make our neighborhoods safer, healthier, and just plain nicer places to live.
One of the proposals I made in my 2011/2012 budget was to increase the Commercial Parking Tax (or CPT — a tax on commercial pay parking lots). Without an increase in the CPT, we will lose out on not only neighborhood investments, but also some core transportation services. If pay lot owners choose to pass the increase directly on to consumers, this would mean just an additional 50 cents on $10 parking. For 50 cents, you can help every neighborhood in Seattle become a safe and welcoming place to walk, bike, and ride transit.
More on what’s at risk:
— Walking, biking, and transit projects. This includes funding for Walk Bike Ride, which will make walking, biking, and riding transit the easiest ways to get around in Seattle.
In addition to improvements listed above, the CPT will fund more Neighborhood Street Fund projects in neighborhoods across Seattle, bike facility improvements, pedestrian safety programs, and funding for more large projects like the Lake to Bay Loop, Linden Avenue North, and Ballard Bridge.
— Core services that provide a big benefit. The CPT gives us funding for things like neighborhood traffic services, bridge maintenance, freight mobility services, traffic operations, design and planning, and much more.
— Support for the South Park Bridge. The CPT provides the means for the city to fulfill its $15M pledge of support to the South Park community to bridge our South Seattle and West Seattle community.
The future of these projects and services — nearly $10 million total in funding for 2011, and $10 million total for 2012 — now lies with the city council. They are currently taking public comment on what your priorities are.
Please let them know that keeping the increase in the CPT as proposed in Mayor Mike McGinn’s budget is important to you.
Make your comment online at www.seattle.gov/council/budget/budget_form.htm.
Tell the city council what’s important to you in person, at one of the three public hearings they’ve scheduled. Never testified before? Visit mayormcginn.seattle.gov/5tips. ♦
The next public hearing is on Oct. 26 at Seattle City Hall Council Chambers at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor at 600 4th Ave., Seattle.