Metro Parks Legislative Agenda - 2018 Update
Washington State Legislative Initiatives
Leveraging voter-approved bonds: Building on success
In 2014 Tacoma voters approved a $198 million capital bond measure to help pay for more than 60 improvements and updates throughout the Metro Parks Tacoma (MPT) district. Thanks to strong voter support and numerous partnerships, investments are being made in regional parks like Point Defiance as well as the zoo, community centers, and neighborhood parks. We are leveraging these bond dollars to deliver on our promise to provide quality opportunities to play, learn and grow throughout the Tacoma region.
Washington State Legislative Initiatives
The lack of a state capital budget is negatively impacting communities across the state. We urge the legislature to pass a capital budget in a timely manner.
- Finishing the Eastside Community Center: Metro Parks is working with civic partners to build a 55,000 square-foot community center that will serve an economically distressed area of Tacoma. We request $2.5 million from the state capital budget to complete this $31 million project. These capital dollars will complement city, philanthropic, school district, and federal contributions (through New Market Tax Credits). These are the last dollars needed to fund this transformative project.
Maintaining a high level of service for robust parks and recreation programs will be a challenge in the decades ahead for MPT and many other parks agencies and local governments throughout our state. With restrictions on property taxes combined with the increasing cost of doing business, our operating revenues will not keep pace with operating expenses.
- We will mitigate this challenge with pay-for-use revenues when appropriate, by implementing LEAN business practices and being smart with taxpayer dollars. In the long term, flexibility on property taxes, local improvement districts, impact fees, and other creative sources for local governments will be crucial for maintaining the level of service our citizens expect. MPT supports changing the 1 percent cap on year over year property tax collections up to the rate of inflation (measured by CPI) in Washington.
State investment in ongoing grant programs to build new facilities and support innovative recreational programming is critical. MPT strongly advocates for the following legislative appropriations:
- Fund the Youth Athletic Facilities (YAF) program at the requested $12 million level. This investment will help youth across the state remain physically active and socially engaged. MPT anticipates submitting multiple grant applications.
- Fully fund the Youth Recreation Facilities grant program for the biennium which includes $1.2 million for the Boys and Girls Club portion of the Eastside Community Center.
- Fund the Governor’s request for a $120 million investment in the state Recreation and Conservation Office (RCO) program.
- Support legislative initiatives to expand community access services for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities in order to increase access to community based programing, expand funding for mental health services, and support programs that provide pathways to community and employment.
MPT proposes legislation that expands our ability to fairly compensate our elected commissioners for their service to the MPT board.
- Current law (RCW 35.61.150) limits the compensation to commissioners to $114 per day they serve in their official capacity at MPT. There is also an annual limit of $10,944 per year. These limits amounts are increased per inflation every 5 years by OFM.
- Due to MPT’s size, budget and scope the agency is unique among other independent parks districts in the amount of time required by its commissioners. MPT proposes a bill to double the annual compensation maximum to $22,000 in order to meet the workload reality of its board members. This legislation would only apply to Metro Parks Tacoma and no other jurisdictions.
Conservation education and awareness is a growing part of Metro Park’s mission and work plan. With Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildife Park taking the lead, we are expanding our reach to raise environmental awareness and action among our constituents and visitors.
- Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium and Northwest Trek Wildlife Park have long supported anti-wildlife trafficking initiatives. This work falls squarely within our growing programs that support our mission for environmental and conservation-based community engagement. MPT supports the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife’s request of $450,000 per year to implement voter-approved anti-trafficking laws.
- Restoring the Titlow Park Lagoon. Restoring this estuary in West Tacoma will assist in salmon recovery for numerous salmon runs in Puget Sound and enhance the park experience. This project is led by the South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group in partnership with MPT. The next phase - restoration design at a cost of $200,000 - has ranked well in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Estuary and Salmon Restoration Program (ESRP). We request the State Legislature fully fund the ESRP program.
Partnerships with federal, state, local and non-profit agencies are crucial strategies for Metro Parks Tacoma to deliver cost effective capital improvements and services to our constituents. MPT encourages the Legislature to support the following issues and initiatives:
- Support the Healthy and Active Communities within the state budget process, including funding for Safe Routes to Schools and Complete Streets. MPT is in discussions with the City of Tacoma to include Safe Routes to Parks in the development of their Safe Routes to Schools program.
- Homelessness is a challenge that impacts cities across the state and Metro Parks Tacoma. Without a systematic plan for addressing housing, homelessness, and mental health issues, those in need of housing and shelter will seek out public lands to use, placing an expensive management challenge on parks staff. We fully support the efforts of the City of Tacoma and Association of Washington Cities to give communities more financial and policy tools to address the growing homelessness crisis.
- Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department’s Surface Water program provides crucial public health services to MPT and the broader community. This program helps our district ensure our creeks, lakes, and swimming beaches are safe for all users. Because of cuts in state and federal funding the future of the program is in jeopardy- inhibiting the health department’s ability to respond to toxic algae and eliminating water quality monitoring and pollution investigation at swimming beaches. In addition, most advisory notifications would cease. Public communications would be reduced to sharing via social media information Department of Health or Department of Ecology makes publicly available. MPT supports fully restoring state and federal funding to ensure the Surface Water program continues safeguarding the public’s health.
- MPT partners closely with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) to deliver wrap-around services for Tacoma's students. As part of TPS' Whole Child Initiative, we collaborate on after school sports, after school arts and recreation, and many other creative programs. The 2017 legislative investment in education unfortunately dramatically cut Tacoma's flexible funding streams that help fund these types of programs. This loss of funding would devastate TPS' budget and jeopardizes many of our collaborative programs aimed at fulfilling their whole child initiative. We urge the legislature to rectify this situation by providing more flexible funding sources for and fully fund our state’s urban schools districts including Tacoma Public Schools.
Federal Funding and Congressional Issues
- It is crucial the federal government maintain core social service funding for our community’s most vulnerable populations. In particular MPT supports fully funding the USDA summer meals program, which MPT is a provider of throughout the summer, and senior meals programs, which our non-profit partners host at our community centers.
- Support the Washington State Congressional delegations’ Save our Sound effort, a federal package to assist in the cleanup of Puget Sound. Ocean conservation and cleanup will also be a key educational message of the Zoo’s new $51 million Pacific Seas Aquarium, scheduled to open in summer 2018.
- Support the proposed re-introduction of wild grizzly bears into the North Cascades. Re-introducing grizzlies to the Pacific Northwest is good for our ecosystems and is simply sound policy.
- Support congressional and federal efforts to continue active Red Wolf recovery programs in the wild in their native range, while maintaining and enhancing robust breeding in zoo-based programs. While the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has pulled back on their successful wild management plan in North Carolina, there is still a lot of work to be done in saving this species with a long-term goal of wild repopulation. MPT’s Point Defiance Zoo is the national center for the red wolf breeding program and has an off-site breeding facility. It is imperative that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continue this breeding program and extend their contract with Metro Parks to manage this national effort and care for the wolves at this facility.
- MPT and the City of Tacoma are working together on a long-range planning effort to envision and enhance the Ruston Way Waterfront. The project will include in-depth analysis of the infrastructure particularly the roadway, sea wall, stormwater systems, and open space. This corridor is a critical component from the “Tahoma to Tacoma” trail network envisioned to stretch from Mt. Rainier to Point Defiance Park. Achieving this vision and its associated mobility goals will also be a key component of this planning effort. At the conclusion of the planning process, we anticipate that state and federal grants will be needed for construction and renovation of this premier waterfront park.
Contact: Andrew Austin, Metro Parks Tacoma, (253) 732-9434, firstname.lastname@example.org