White Salmon city councilors and staff gathered 167 signatures last Saturday in the council’s drive to put a Metropolitan Park District proposition on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot by petition.
The city had an informational booth at this year’s Spring Festival from which city councilors and city staff dispensed facts and figures about the city’s unfolding replacement pool project and the effort to qualify a Metro Park District formation and funding measure for the fall election.
They also circulated petitions for registered voters in southwestern Klickitat County precincts to sign in support of putting the measure up for a public vote.
The council’s target is 704 signatures or 15% of the 4,691 active voter registrations within the White Salmon Valley School District's Klickitat County precincts. The proposed Metro Park District's boundaries are based on those Klickitat County precincts.
The 167 signatures collected on Saturday represent 23.7% of the total needed.
The plan for the rest of June and up to the petition filing deadline on July 24, according to Clerk/-Treasurer Jan Brending, is to circulate petitions at the White Salmon Farmers’ Market and the Fourth of July celebration and to go door-to-door.
In addition, up to two White Salmon councilors will be visiting Bingen City Council and community councils in Husum/BZ Corner and Snowden, Brending said, to brief them on the proposal and petition drive.
City Councilors Ashley Post, Marla Keethler, and Amy Martin were joined by Brending in the pool booth last Saturday.
“There were at least two of us gathering signatures for a solid six hours at Springfest,” Post told The Enterprise on Monday.
“Some of the people I approached signed readily — excited to support the pool — but most people wanted more information, which is good,” Post continued, and added, “Overall, I received favorable responses.”
She heard stories from individuals who grew up here and swam in the pool, and have fond memories of the experience. Others related to Post how important it is for kids in this area to learn to swim.
One of the more common responses Post heard was, “I thought the city was already building a pool.”
Post explained to these citizens that “the pool has been a long time coming and that getting this measure on the November ballot and passing it to create the Metropolitan Park District is one of the final pushes towards actually building this pool.”
The Metro Park District measure, should it make the fall ballot, is a combination proposition that asks voters to form the district, elect a governing board of commissioners, and authorize a property tax levy. A simple majority of Yes votes would enact the package.
White Salmon is following RCW 35.61, Metropolitan Park Districts, and specifically, an amendment that took effect July 23, 2017. SSB 5138 made some changes to how MPDs can be formed.
“Most notably, there is an option to form an MPD with a limited purpose and taxing powers for specifically identified public parks or recreational facilities. When such a proposition is placed before the voters it must state the levy rate on the ballot, which then becomes the maximum levy rate of the MPD,” according to information on the nonprofit Municipal Research and Services Center’s website.
Metro Park District law is less restrictive than the one for Park and Recreation Districts (RCW 36.69, Counties). Under the latter, a simple majority is required to enact the district; a supermajority of at least 60% (of at least 40% of votes cast in the district’s preceding general election) is needed to authorize the levying of property taxes for a maximum period of 6 years.
“I hope our local voters comprehend that after years of studies and gathering public opinion, that this Metropolitan Park District is how we will build the pool in 2019-20 and fund operation and maintenance in years to follow,” Post said.
Anyone interested in volunteering to help with signature gathering, be it going door to door or posting at prominent locations in the community can contact City Hall (493-1190), Keethler, or Post to get involved.
“We need the public’s assistance,” Post said. “Once the petition has been submitted, the city and the pool committee are no longer legally permitted to have any campaign involvement.”
“It is our hope and desire that the community will rally around this measure to make the pool a reality,” she went on. “I’m so encouraged and excited by the recent progress and hope for a big November win.”
Citizens feeling confusion, or wanting to offer constructive criticism or ask questions can contact Post by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.