City should take cues from history

History shows that Mercer Island residents have been willing to tax themselves to pay for open space.

Consider Gallagher Hill: In 1988, Island residents approved a $1.65 million bond to preserve the 7.5-acre hillside as open space rather than letting a developer build an 85-unit apartment complex. The vote was 3,422 for the taxes and 616 against.

In 2003, Islanders again approved increasing their property taxes to pay for the maintenance of Luther Burbank Park by passing a six-year, $2.5 million levy with nearly 55 percent voter approval.

The Mercer Island City Council should take a cue not only from history, but also from the consulting firm it hired to guide the city's public process for determining the future of Luther Burbank Park.

The firm, Norton-Arnold, reported to the council last month that a majority of respondents who attended three public workshops, filled out 165 comment forms, completed 72 Web site surveys and wrote 42 letters and e-mails want to tax themselves to pay for the park's upkeep and preserve it in as natural a state as possible.

Island residents sang a song to the council at that meeting asking the council to preserve the park.

Before the City of Mercer Island took over ownership of the park from King County in 2003, the council stated that it wanted the public's input regarding how it should pay for the park's upkeep. The council has been considering whether to allow revenue generating development in the park to raise money to pay for its maintenance.

The park levy bought the council the time to keep the park open over a six-year period and the time to take the public's pulse, which is clear.

The council has to decide whether to raise taxes to pay for the park's maintenance and whether the money should be raised through the city's general fund or a levy.

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