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King County voters defeat PRO/Parks bond issue on November 2, 1982.

HistoryLink.org Essay 4064 : Printer-Friendly Format

On November 2, 1982, King County voters defeat the PRO/Parks bond issue at the polls. The bond asked for $188 million for city and county park acquisitions and improvements. It was thought to have the public’s support because of the health and fitness fad of the early 1980s, but the economic outlook at the time soured voters’ civic beneficence.

Son of Forward Thrust

In September 1980, city, county, and suburban officials appointed a 44-member citizen committee to study and design a plan for city and county parks. Frank Pritchard Jr. chaired the committee. Officials asked them to develop a parks plan similar to the approved Forward Thrust bond issue that raised $118 million for parks throughout the County in 1968.

In February 1982, the PRO/Parks committee announced a $259 million plan that they had whittled down from $500 million in parks requests. They recommended the issue be put on the ballot in two phases, $176.6 million to be voted on in 1982, and a subsequent phase to be voted on in 1986 or 1987. By the time of the November vote, the committee had raised the bond request to $188 million dollars. The new bond was nicknamed “Son of Forward Thrust.”

The bond proposed creating hiking and biking trails, repairing older recreation areas and crumbling park buildings, fixing the seawalls at Lincoln and Alki Beach Park, and improving the Woodland Park Zoo, the Seattle Aquarium, and the King County Fairgrounds. It also proposed purchasing land for new parks all over King County, including Cougar Mountain past near Issaquah, and land along the Green River from Tukwila to Auburn.

Criticisms and Comebacks

Critics argued that some park issues that were supposed to have been taken care of by Forward Thrust were listed again on the PRO/Parks agenda. Jeanette Veasy of the King County Parks Department responded by saying that Forward Thrust money was only intended to go to 1980, and that money was occasionally diverted from one park to another, but that three audits of Forward Thrust from 1976 to 1980 “showed little argument with these diversions.” Others argued that the economy was too depressed to accept a tax increase such as this and that a 20-year bond for $188 million would end up costing $400-$500 million by the time it was repaid.

The citizens' committee chair Frank Pritchard commissioned a poll in August 1982 to see how the bond issue would fare at the polls in November. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they would vote no. Pritchard asked the City Council to postpone putting the bond issue on the upcoming ballot, but the Council voted 7-1 to run it anyway.

Sources:
“A $259 M Plan For Our Parks,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 26, 1982, p. C-1; “PRO/Parks: $176 Million Package May Be on Ballot,” Ibid., April 7, 1982, pp. A-1, B-1; “PRO/Parks Bond Issue Loses,” The Seattle Times, November 3, 1982, p. E-19.


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