Defying the Mayor, New Council President Richard Conlin Sets Priorities
City Council Member Richard Conlin isn't wasting any time settling in to his new role as council president. His first priority: renewing the $270 million Pro Parks Levy, the latter part of which will expire later this year. Proposing any renewal will put Conlin in direct conflict with Mayor Greg Nickels, who wants to propose a joint Pike Place Market–Seattle Center levy—the so-called Legacy Levy—to go to the ballot this November. "We're not looking at proposing a renewal" of the Pro Parks Levy, Nickels's spokesman Martin McOmber says. "We think it's been a successful levy, and we've taken steps to address some of the things that were in the levy that will be going away."
Conlin says he isn't opposed to funding improvements at the Center and the market; he just doesn't think the city should stop investing in new parks to do it. "My feeling is, there's always a need for more open space and habitat," Conlin says. "The question is, is there a way we can bring [parks, Seattle Center, and Pike Place Market] together as one package?"
The debate, then, comes down to priorities: How much money will voters be willing to spend, and would they prefer to spend it on Seattle Center, Pike Place Market, parks, or some combination of the three? The differences between those potential levies could total hundreds of millions of dollars. Conlin estimates that renewing the Pro Parks Levy alone would cost somewhere in the range of $300 million; add to that $80 million for Pike Place Market and millions for Seattle Center, and you're looking at a potential superlevy.
So far, Conlin's only firm support appears to come from new council member Tim Burgess, who campaigned on renewing the levy and says he "absolutely" still supports it. Parks committee chair Tom Rasmussen says he wants to weigh the "competing interests" before deciding whether he supports renewal, and other council members, including Sally Clark, remain ambivalent.