One petition we hope that islanders sign

We’ve all been accosted by paid signature-gatherers aboard the ferry or on the street corner:

“Excuse me (ma’am/sir), would you like to sign a petition that would force the government to (do something that sounds good on its face, but in reality is probably

imprudent or inadvisable)?”

Generally speaking, it’s good policy to just “no thanks” and walk away (even when, depending on the initiative and/or its sponsor, you’d really like to grab the clipboard and whack the person over the head with it). But this isn’t one of those times. In fact, we urge islanders to seek out and sign on with the (decidedly unpaid) canvassers from Partners for Parks, who you’ll see around Bainbridge Island over the next few weeks.

Volunteers will be looking for 3,000 registered voters to help put an issue pertaining to the Bainbridge Island park and recreation system on the Sept. 14 ballot. The petition states:

“We the undersigned voters of Bainbridge Island...hereby petition the legislative authority of Kitsap County or other authority, State of Washington, to call for an election so that a Metropolitan Park District shall be formed with its boundary to include all of Bainbridge Island. The district will be known as the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Park and Recreation District, and shall be governed by a five-member board of commissioners, to be elected at large...and will replace the existing park district and continue to function separately from the city.”

What does all that mean? Boiled down, it asks that the

question of creating a new type of park district – so-called, under the state law that defines such things, a “metropolitan” entity – be put before island voters this fall. Islanders would thereby be given the chance to replace the current district, perennially yoked to tenuous, two-year levy cycles, with a new entity that would enjoy stable tax funding collected year to year (much like the fire district). In exchange for that stability in property tax support, the district would be limiting the increase of its annual tax collection to 1 percent without a vote of the people.

Why should you sign such a petition? Regular readers of this page know our general distrust of the initiative process; once a vehicle for progressive change, it has been hijacked at the state level by reactionary elements eager to sidestep deliberative governance to effect special-interest, often destructive proposals. That’s not the case here; this petition is itself the specific result of a highly deliberative process.

Consider: Ever since the failure of the February park maintenance and operations levy, the five-member park board and director Terry Lande have been debating how to keep the district afloat. A citizen panel – including folks who, for various reasons, voted against the levy – considered the issue as well.

Their conclusion: “metropolitan” park status is the way to go, for the sake of both the district and the local property taxpayers who support it. The petition now in play does not settle the issue – that would be for voters to decide in September – but it puts it on the ballot, so the real discussion and debate can begin.

The Partners for Parks petition drive needs the help of 3,000 registered voters to that end, and signature-gatherers are in the field starting this weekend at the farmers’ market, youth sports events and other locations.

This is one initiative we hope islanders will sign.

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