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Levys should be for extra programs

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• Topics: Bellingham, Elections, People,

Shame on the Bellingham Weekly. Page 3 of today’s paper has “The Slate” with photographs taken at Mark Asmundson’s victory party on Tuesday night. They asked Mark supporters what Brett would do next, and then printed the insulting answers. No class. And not worthy of our support. I could further identify some of those in the photos, but won’t.

9:00 am
Should we who opposed the Levy for EMS feel good? It was soundly defeated. To that answer shortly, but first another question.

Why would the voters elect the officials who strongly supported the levy while those candidates who opposed the levy were mostly defeated? The answers are not found only in the final numbers, but also from talking to many citizens - both those involved in politics and those who pay little attention to campaigns but do vote. Incumbents win unless two conditions are present. The voters have to really feel the incumbent is not doing a good job and they have to be convinced the challenger will do better.

Voters were convinced Mayor Mark is doing a very bad job but Brett’s lack of involvement in recent city issues - and his voting record - caused many swing voters to stick with Mark. Also Brett’s on-air radio comments haunted his campaign. Mark’s letter-writing committee focused on negative Brett letters rather than Mark’s record. They knew voters did not like Mark. The Herald printed the letters while allowing Mark’s record to go unchallenged. A majority of voters remained unconvinced that Brett would do better. The squeeze play worked.

On most other races, voters were not convinced the incumbents were doing that bad a job. Or approved of the incumbent’s work.

Voters considered the levy by itself - separate from which politicians were endorsing it. The arguments against the levy made sense to the voters. With the Tim Eyeman initiatives limiting the ability of city and county government to raise taxes, they are trying fear-based schemes to raise more money. The potential loss of EMS seemed a sure-fire way to raise an extra few easy million a year.

It is thanks largely to former Bellingham Finance Director Lynn Carpenter that this tactic was revealed. She wrote several excellent commentaries - one of which was posted here. Voters do pay more attention to tax increases separate from candidates.

Vital programs - such as Emergency Medical Services - should be funded fully by our regular taxes. City and county councils should have the common sense and backbone to fund them. These very councils urged us to approve the levy, implying that while we voters should think the program important, they as council members might not think the program so important at budget time. How absurd.

Yes, we should feel good about the failure of the levy. The unneeded tax increase had nothing to do with EMS. It’s purpose was to free up regular taxes for less-important projects. If the levy had passed then we could have expected another fear-based levy next year - using some other vital program as the bait.

Levys should be for extra programs - like Greenways. Programs that enhance our community but are not vital services.

So - do you think the councils will learn a lesson? Will they get the point?

Levys should be for extra programs

By John ServaisOn Nov 06, 2003

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