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Park campaign hits summer swoon

With August the prime vacation season, it’s hard to get anything done, let alone mobilize the vote.

Partners for Parks met Monday to organize a campaign that they hope will have island voters in September saying “Yes and Yes for Parks”: to convert the current park district to “metropolitan” status, and to fund the park system until funding for the metro district begins in 2006.

Enthusiasm and ideas were plentiful Monday night, but turnout was not great enough to find someone to run the campaign. Until one is found, park board member Tom Swolgaard will be the default campaign chair.

“A lot of people are out on vacation at this time,” said parks pool supervisor John DeMeyer, who ran the meeting.

The summer lull even affects campaign strategies; many service clubs, targeted for visits by park backers, don’t even meet in August.

Still, the group has a multi-pronged approach to educate voters and mobilize “yes” votes: mailing an all-island informational letter, emailing sport clubs, urging petition signers to persuade friends to vote yes, phoning likely yes voters and manning an information booth at the Farmers’ Market every Saturday starting Aug. 14.

Voters face two park questions on the Sept. 14 ballot. One is the metro park question, which requires 50 percent voter approval to pass. Second is the M&O levy, which requires 60 percent. Approval is needed for funding to keep the park district operating in 2005, regardless of whether formation of the metropolitan park district is approved.

“I don’t think there’s any problem with support (of the parks),” DeMeyer said. “It’s just understanding what these votes mean. (With a metropolitan district) people using the parks probably won’t notice any difference except there won’t be any M&O levy on ballots (every two years),” he said. “The same facilities, same programs and same instructors will be there.”

The M&O levy question is worded as an “excess levy” on the ballot, although it will fund just current level of operation for 2005.

If the levy is not approved, DeMeyer surmises the Nakata

Pool – scheduled to be closed for maintenance in September – would remain closed. The older Williamson Pool would then close at year-end.

Other programs also would shut down until a new levy passes.

“There will be no registration (for park-sponsored classes) on Sept. 16 if the levy doesn’t pass on the 14th,” said Sue Hylen of the park district.

Partners for Parks will meet every Monday at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center for meetings and campaign activities like envelope stuffing parties. Campaign donations for postage and printing can be sent to Partners for Parks, P.O. Box 11726, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110. Information: jswolgaard@collinswoerman.com.

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