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Vote for the gulch


Last updated 10/10/2012 at Noon

This month I’m straying a bit from my normal desire to justify my decisions based on the facts before me and am asking you to vote ‘Yes’ in November on Proposition 1 to “Save the Gulch,” just because it’s the right thing to do.

Proposition 1 is a levy for the purchase of Japanese Gulch for park and open space. If approved by Mukilteo voters, the levy would raise $3.2 million to be applied toward the purchase of the remaining 98.6 acres of land on the Mukilteo side of Japanese Gulch that doesn’t already belong to the city.

The bond would be paid back over five years by an increase in property taxes at a rate not to exceed 20 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.

Japanese Gulch and the city have quite an interesting history. It is currently the policy of the city to support an alternate access to the ferry down Japanese Gulch (or an adjacent gulch, as added to the Comprehensive Plan in 2009).

Fortunately, I was finally able to get a resolution in front of the council, which passed, that will remove all alternate ferry road access references from the city’s comprehensive plan when it’s updated.

In case you still believe an alternate road is necessary to take the ferry traffic off the Mukilteo Speedway, you should also know that the 40 percent increase in ferry traffic projected to have occurred over the past 15 years hasn’t materialized – at all.

As described in recent articles, the increase in traffic at Mukilteo’s waterfront is self-induced, and not the result of an increase in actual ferry traffic.

Japanese Gulch Group is spearheading the pro-Proposition 1 effort, and there are a few things you should know about this passionate group of individuals.

They have raised and donated thousands of dollars to the city and community groups. The JGG paid $12,500 to help fund half of a study to identify options available to purchase land in Japanese Gulch.

Group members worked with volunteers of the Mukilteo Trails group when we built the lower Japanese Gulch trail between Mukilteo Lane and 5th Street, and are leading the effort to improve and build trails on city-owned property south of 5th Street in the gulch.

When we were doing Waterfront Wednesdays and were struggling with how to provide a safe alternative to get people between Rosehill Community Center across the substandard SR-525 bridge and through the unsafe ferry dock intersection to Lighthouse Park and the Art Building, it was the Japanese Gulch Group (along with the Farmer’s Market) who stepped up and funded the shuttle.

And finally, after it became clear the efforts collaborating with the city to create a dog park in Mukilteo were dead, a few of us decided to revive the dog park idea on city-owned property in Japanese Gulch.

It was the JGG that stepped up and provided the non-profit 501(c) umbrella necessary for success. For all this, they still get to pay full rates when renting rooms in Rosehill for their fundraisers or if they want to have meetings.

Needless to say, I fully support and appreciate the efforts of the Japanese Gulch Group and hope you’ll vote ‘Yes’ on Proposition 1.

However, there are some concerns I have that people should be aware of regarding how city officials have handled this.

First, this was something put on the agenda at the last minute and really had no announced opportunity for public input or prior council discussion before making a decision.

Second, there is nothing in writing between the city and the seller; the previous “offer” and “rejection” was verbal. I don’t know anyone who does business this way and am shocked the city does.

Third, the levy, if it is passed, pays for about half the cost with the balance paid for in the form of pending grants. Unfortunately, the grants didn’t come through and I’ve heard nothing of a contingency plan for where the additional $3+ million will come from.

And finally, the con argument in the voter pamphlet contains some very damaging points that city officials left themselves wide open for by not minding the city coffers and policies in a responsible manner.

As a Mukilteo resident, I’m fully supportive of Prop. 1 and will be voting ‘Yes’! As a councilmember, I fear more bad financial decisions are on the horizon if Prop. 1 passes and we don’t have the other half of the funding required.

Heck, even I have made the comment that if the council would balance the deficit spending budget instead of depleting our cash reserves, we could use that money for other “one time” expenses. I hate to admit it, but even that is a compromise.

Please join Councilmember Steve Schmalz and me for our monthly Council Chat this Thursday, Oct.11, in the Rosehill room at the Rosehill Community Center.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.


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