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Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, Washington
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January 14, 1998     Mercer Island Reporter
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January 14, 1998
 

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M 152st OPINION Isa REPORTER Jane A. Meyer, Editor and General Manager Linda Morgan, Associate Editor Peter A. Horvitz, President Thurston Twigg-Smith, Chairman Emeritus Catherine Shen, Publisher Published by King County Journal Newspapers Property key issue in ’98 t the first City Council meeting in the new year, one key prop- erty matter was settled: The new fire station will be built on the site of the current station. It’ll be a squeeze to accommodate a larger, improved station, but it can be done. Still ahead is the design phase, taking the requirements and wish-lists together with the con- straints of the site and the budget to come up with a workable plan. The good news is that a new fire station can be built with existing funds, thanks to a windfall of $1 million in the city coffers and careful planning on the part of the city. That’s one property matter down, and several more to go in 1998. In fact, if you look ahead to the big issues facing Mercer Island in the new year, they‘re virtually all property matters. The biggest issue, the key property, is the community center. For the past dozen years, ever since the city began renting the former Mercer View Elementary School to use as a community center, it’s been an is— sue waiting to come to the fore. And now it has. The Community Center Task Force has been gathering information, ideas and opinion since last summer, and made broad recommendations to the City Council last month about what kinds of spaces and services a new community center should provide. An architect has been hired, and those recom- mendations will be gradually hammered into a plan that is scheduled to go before the voters in November of 1998. Among the other property matters that will make the news in 1998 is the RTA transit station. The configuration of the transit station, and the park-and-ride lot that will be built south of the freeway in con— junction with it, will profoundly affect the future of Mercer Island. The Island would do well to muster the same vigilance, interest and in- volvement in the project that we did decades ago during the early plan— ning states of the 1-90. And, happily, 1998 will bring about the completion of the renovation of Mercer Island High School. It’s been the biggest con- struction project in the history of Mercer Island, and so far it’s on sched— ule and on budget. 1998 will mark the end of the district’s five-year, mas- sive capital projects in which all five schools in the district have been renovated in five years. Other property issues will come to the fore in 1998. The owners of the south end QFC property will likely come forward with plans for build— ing some single family residences on the land. As King County continues its push to regionalize its services, Mercer Island will need to help de— termine the future of the Mary Wayte pool. And finally, that most “per— sonal” of property issues finding a place to park — will be on peo— ple‘s minds in the new year. The results of the parking survey con— ducted by the City of Mercer Island will be available very soon, and they will hopefully become the basis for some solutions for our parking woes. It doesn’t take a crystal ball to see that property matters will be key issues in Mercer Island’s future. As in many years, real estate will be “hot” on the “Rock” in 1998. By Rob McKenna espite dire predictions to the Dcontrary, the sky did not fall on New Year‘s Day. Some predicted that Emergency Medical Services in King County, in- cluding Medic One, would collapse if voters didn't approve last November’s six-year, $37 million per year EMS property tax levy. They were wrong, of course. The levy failed and the existing $32 million annual EMS property tax levy expired at midnight on Dec. 31. But local elected leaders under— stand that EMS is simply too impor- tant to lose. So King County, suburban cities and fire districts found the mon— ey in their budgets to fund EMS for the first half of 1998. Seattle found enough to fully fund their share of EMS for all of 1998: Even though November's levy fail— ure has not led to any decreases in our world-class Emergency Medical Services delivery system, the election was still a wake—up call. The voters sent a message that EMS levies have been taken for granted for too long. They are tired of being asked to pass aspecial propertytaxlevytoftmdacrit— ical basic service like Medic One. Mercer Islanders speak-out } Rob McKenna A few observers misinterpreted the levy's failure as public “ignorance” of Medic One's importance. They failed to understand that most “no” voters were against the special prop- erty tax levy, not EMS. I have heard from my constituents, even those who A step from mausoleum I particularly liked your article on walls (Jan. 7 issue). Gates and walls are one step away from a mausoleum, compared with a front porch. Don Frothingham Money won’t solve our reading problems I read that Governor Locke is plan— ning to spend $24 million state dol- lars and $4 million federal dollars on a Washington Reading Corp program. I would like to offer a suggestion for an alternative program that would cost next to nothing and bring eye-opening results. I know this for a fact because I was part of such a program. When I was in the seventh grade, our teacher gave the entire class a national reading test and was horrified to find that the average student in her sev— enth grade class was reading at fourth grade level. She designed a reading program that was used in her class for that en— tire academic year. At the end of the year, she re—tested her class, again with a national reading test. The average reading level in her class was ninth grade! She was able to accomplish this in a class of 55 students! How did she do it? She set up a reading program that every student in the class had to read one-half hour per day, six days a week for a total of three hours of reading per week. The students selected their own books to read. This way they were reading something they enjoyed. Items such as comic books were not al— lowed. How did the teacher verify that the student did the reading? Each student bought a packet of 3x5 recipe cards. You wrote your name on the top line of the card. Every time you read, you recorded the date and time read on the card, a parent signed the card with the parent’s signature alongside the date and time. The card was turned in once a week and you got out a new card for the next week. The teacher didn’t care if you read in ten minute blocks or if you had six one-half hour sessions or one three hour session if you were into a good book. All she cared about was she wanted three hours of reading total per week. A The teacher has a regular sessron voted yes, that EMS should not be treated as a frill. They expect King County and the other loca1~govelfnfi ' ments who work together to provide EMS to fund it out of their general operating budgets, or to find another way to fund EMS without raising tax- es. The four largest suburban cities (Bellevue, Federal Way, Kent and Shoreline) agreed to place a three- year, $37 million levy on the Feb. 3 bal— lot because County Executive Ron Sims has promised that this will be the last EMS property tax levy in King County. Local government is supposed to use the three years provided by this new, shorter levy to find a permanent revenue source to pay for Medic One and the rest of EMS. Although I respect this compro- mise, I voted against the three~year levy at the County Council because it should not take local government three years to find a replacement fund— ing source for EMS. Equally disturbing, the compro- mise plan requires King County to once a week where the entire class went to the school library to select their reading material. Did it work? Absolutely. Did it cost millions of dollars? No. It cost the price of a packet of recipe cards for each family. The reading mater- ial was all free because the books were checked out of the school li- brary. There was one key ingredient in the program. This program took place in the days when if you failed one subject you were not promoted to the next grade and you could not pass reading without this part of your reading grade completed. Flunking was shameful and pro— motion to the next grade was not automatic as it is today. To be promoted you had to work and work hard and work everyday and horrors, this reading program was homework! The students were not allowed to do their reading at school. There wasn’t time. What do I think of spending $28 million on a Washington Reading Corp Program. Not much. Money won’t solve the reading problems in our state. Reading will!!! Diane C. Simperman Local governments must be prepared to re-prioritize -theirhudgets to fund EMS out of existing tax revenues. borrow against the three-year levy's proceeds to fund EMS for the second half of 1998. (By law the new levy cannot be collected until 1999.) Tb resulting interest expense of - $4 million per year will force cuts to EMS improvements that are neces— sary to maintain quality and keep up with increasing demands on the system from a growing population which also is growing older. Seattle found a way to fund its $12 million share of EMS for an entire year without borrowing against the new levy. I am convinced that all of our local governments working together - with King County as the backstop — could do the same if required. Perhaps new walls will prove unneeded Editor Jane Meyer in her Jan. 7 “Thoughts on houses and the walls we build around them” mirrors my feelings exactly. Years ago I wrote in the Mercer Island Reporter about the enclave idea and how counterpro- ductive this walling-off was in terms of community. My target at. the time was the just- built “The Lakes.” Since then, however, this fence—defined part of Mercerlsland has reached out and included itself with the rest of us, especially at Halloween. Perhaps there’s hope that these new walls being built will prove unneeded to their owners, when they know the noon onMdrtday. letters It’s time to end funding of EMS service with special levy“ IT IS UNFAIR to present voters with an all-or—nothing EMS ultima- tum. No other basic government ser— vice is funded entirely with a special property tax levy. School levies are sent to the voters as supplements to a regular operating budget, ,whereas'“ EMS has been completely levy—fund— ed. This policy must end. ‘ Whether the Feb; 3rd levy passes or fails, local governments must be pre- pared to re—prioritize their budgets to fund EMS out of existing tax rev- enues. This can be. done. It already has been done for the first half of 1998. King County found $8 million to fund its share. of EMS for the first half of 1998 without cutting a single pro— gram. ' Suburban city leaders, including then-Mayor Judy Clibbom of Mercer Island, have suggested an innovative long—term funding solution. Theypro- posed that the county and cities ded- icate to EMS a portion of an existing tax source. Under this proposal, overall taxes would not increase. Instead, an ex- isting tax stream would be set aside for EMS. This has worked well for the Seattle»King County Board of porter welcomes letters from members of the Wednesday, January 14, 1998 Island and their neighbors better. It’s really a very special place to live. Jerry Gropp Thanks for support of high school athletics Thanks to Ethan Fowler for the ar- ticle in the paper and his continual support of Mercer Island High School athletics. I enjoyed how he presented me in his latest feature. As a community, we are very for- tunate to have him. Ethan Fowler does a wonderful job in his articles and I appreciate and recognize the extra time and energy he puts into them. Carly Bridge g I should be statute the Reporter at , $98040, faxed'to 23231384, or emailed to mimpnrQhorvitz Public Health, which receives dedi- cated revenues from the state motor vehicle excise tax. Any long—term funding solution must assure greater equity. In 1997 the residents of Mercer Island paid ”“more"thart‘$730;000 a year in prop- erty taxes into the EMS system while the Mercer-Island fire department re- ceived back only $168,000. Most of the difference was used to subsidize EMS delivery in the coun- ty's smaller cities and rural fire dis- tricts. By contrast, Seattle residents contribute nothing to the EMS net— work that exists outside their city. As a result, residents of the'larger subur- ban cities pay more than their fair share. 1 look forward to working with 10- cal officials on Mercer Island‘and throughout King County to find a per- manent, dedicated source of revenue - for EMS that does not increase the overall tax burden. Whichever way the Feb. 3 vote turns out, we need to bid “auld land syne” to special prop- erty tax levies as the funding source for EMS and Medic One. (Rob McKcnna is Metropolitan . King County Council member repre- senting District Six.) In light of the recent deaths on ski slopes, do you think helmets should be required for skiers? “No -— people can get hurt more “No, becauseI think people have when they collide; helmets are enough control on their own.” hard.” I, , t Samantha Baxter, Brian Solazzi, student “No, because they’re a lot heavier than regular helmets and can jolt- and break your neck.” , Julia Nichols, student ' “I don’t ever want to wear a hel- r met.” 3 Pamela Brown, , g V Stacey retail manager ‘ ' “Sure you bet-—safety first, al- ways.” 1“] think it should be up to the in- dividual.” . . UW graduate student