Monday evening, after a dozen or so moving testimonies, a few anti-zoo diatribes, and hours of extremely tedious deliberation, the King County Council voted to put Access for All on the August ballot.
If voters pass the bill, which is essentially a .1 percent sales tax on non-essential items, King County will provide its residents with the level of access to arts and science organizations enjoyed by the greater metropolitan areas of Denver and St. Louis.
You hear that, King County? We could be headed for the big time!
Dozens of regional arts, science, and heritage organizations—including Seattle Symphony, Pacific Science Center, the Museum of Flight and the Holocaust Center—have big plans to use the money to supplement badly needed educational programs for the county's 280,000 K-12 students, with a special emphasis on districts serving high percentages of kids on free or reduced price lunch. They also want to offer free or deeply discounted memberships to low income families. Smaller cultural organizations can use the funds to start up new, smaller institutions further out into the county, as well.
A new list of amendments, read out shortly before the council voted, reallocated more money to smaller and new community-based organizations further out in the county, and also increased the amount of oversight required of 4Culture, the county organization to whom all these cultural organizations would report.
Larry Gossett (District 2) and Dave Upthegrove (District 5), who pulled the bill from the county's agenda a few weeks ago, were the only nos. Upthegrove cited many concerns. He was worried about sending "a message of priorities" by putting this bill on the August ballot instead of some future ballot. He was also worried about using a regressive tax in "this tax environment" which suffers from "tax fatigue."
The Christian dads on the Seattle Times editorial board deceptively portrayed the measure as an "arts bill," and dismissed it as a nice idea that we can't afford right now given the need to address the homelessness crisis and funding for mental health. I've addressed all the arguments above in full.
Because of the action taken at council today, voters will now have the opportunity to decide for themselves.