Letter to the Editor: Let’s stop paying rent and pass Proposition 1

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Dear Editor:

After three years of renting, I totaled our rent receipts, and talked to my husband about buying a house. I hated having nothing to show for the rent we paid. We had a child, and had other medical expenses so we had to borrow the $700 down payment on a house in Mountlake Terrace. We moved in March 1952.

I have seen this district become a city. I’ve seen the first fire truck, the first school, the first building that housed the city council, the library and a jail cell. Then we had a real city hall, police department and fire station. We all fought and paid for these necessities. When our city hall collapsed, It was time to build another.

I still hate paying rent. Renting the city hall is costing a fortune. I want to see the New City Hall, I want to honor our Policemen with a decent station. The new community buildings will benefit our youth, young adults and seniors. We will have room for additional activities for all ages.

Please Vote Yes on Proposition 1 on April 23rd.

Arvy Toms

13 COMMENTS

  1. Arvy, when you bought your house, did you have to pay for repairs? Routine maintenance and upkeep? Were there upgrades along the way? Who paid for those?

    Renting might not sound pleasant but it kept you from experiencing any downturn in property valuations, and the owner paid for the new roof or the new paint job, and replaced the carpet when it became threadbare.

    You seem to think that ownership is better than renting since some of the costs will go away. Well, yes and no. Renting a space does not convey ownership, that’s true. But part of rent cost goes to taxes, and some of that comes back to the City or to local municipalities. Renting a space, if it’s a gross lease, also means that the costs are fixed and the owner pays for repairs.

    You are supporting something that others will be on the hook for long after you have left this earth. How nice to want something, now, knowing that you’re not the one who ends up footing most of the bill.

  2. I bought a condo in 2008, when my husband and I split up. I wanted to invest my portion of the equity in the house we had owned together, and I thought buying was so much smarter than renting. Then the market turned. Despite having put 20% down on my home loan, I now owe more than my condo is worth. Buying is not always the right choice.

    I’m voting no.

  3. While we may not always agree on both sides of the YES and NO campaign for Prop 1 we can at least appreciate an opinion, particularly from MLT residents who have lived here since the city came into being. However, Mr.Smith your response to Arvy’s letter about why she supports the Yes campaign was disrespectful. Mrs Toms has lived in MLT for over 50 years, paying property taxes that granted her the right to express her opinion on Prop.1, as indeed you have a right to offer your opinion on a rent versus buy proposal for our city. Are you proposing MLT residents of a “certain age” should not be entitled to vote for and against this Prop? I’m also confused by your assessment that by the city paying rent for a space over buying that somehow part of that money goes to taxes and comes back to the city. However, if the city continues to pay rent, that money does NOT return to the city, but rather it goes to an out of state private company it currently rents the building from. Finally, what do you suggest when funding ends in 2014 to pay the rental expenses on the interim city hall? The city will then have to come to voters to secure a property levy to raise the funds to continue to rent an interim city hall. Long term that simply does not make financial sense.

  4. I’m sorry, Bob, but isn’t that the point of taxes?? Of course we are not going to be paying it off right away. I bet you complained about any taxes at all. (eg. Recent car tab increase, gas taxes, etc., etc.) It’s called living in the USA. What I am saying YES to is for progress in MLT; so that my children can enjoy a community atmosphere, local shops, decrease need to drive everywhere, so therefore a healthier lifestyle. And if you are a senior citizen (which sounds like if you are, complaining that you won’t be around to pay the bill), then maybe you should opt for the senior citizen opt-out. (which is an option). I’ll be around for awhile. I’ll pay.

  5. Ms. LaMarr, I see no reason to “respect” an ill-conceived argument in favor of something that is significantly more than the City needs.

    I do object to a ‘Senior Center’ funded by the City in the same way I would object to anything that in name sounds exclusionary to others. A Senior Center currently exists. It might not be a Taj Mahal but it’s functional. I could say the same about my work vehicle.

    I make no suggestion that the author has fewer rights than others based on her senior status but I do pointedly suggest that an awful lot of seniors support this and that those seniors

    1. Directly benefit from a Senior Center

    while simultaneously, likely in a majority of cases,

    2. Have the ability to opt out of paying the excess levy:

    Senior Citizens/Disabled Exemption
    If you are a senior citizen or disabled you can qualify for a property tax exemption if:

    If your total annual disposable household income is $35,000 or less and you own and occupy a house, mobile home, condo or co-op, and one of the following is true you qualify to be exempt from all excess property tax levies:
    you are 61 years of age or older or
    you are retired because of physical disability or
    you are a veteran with 100% service-connected disability or
    you are a widow or widower at least 57 years of age whose spouse or state registered domestic partner had an exemption at the time of death

    Excess levies are voter approved levies that are not part of a “regular” levy. Examples include a school district’s maintenance and operations levy and voter-approved capital levies, such as the school district’s capital construction bond or the proposed Civic Center capital bond.

    http://www.cityofmlt.com/cityServices/financesAndBudget/taxes.htm

    Catch that last part, Ms. LaMarr? Someone 61 years of age with less than $35K disposable household income DOESN’T HAVE TO COVER THE COST OF THE BOND.

    As a fellow taxpayer, who does not have that option and won’t, ever, have that option, I believe I am well within my rights to point out how easy it is to vote for something that won’t cost you any money, if you’re a senior with less than $3K/month income.

    We all need to live within our means. Unless we’re exempt from having to do so, I suppose.

    • Bob, the Community Center will have space that the Senior Center will use as well as I expect many other community organizations. As a father of 2 kids I’m sure we will take advantage of the community center as well. People will be able to rent it our for events. I think it would be a great place to host some free classes for people who are unemployed to gain some more workplace skills. It will be a home to art and cultural events. If it was just a building for a Senior Center, you’re right, it does sound exclusionary. Fortunately it’s not. The Community Center will be a great opportunity for the City to partner with residents and community organizations that provide services to people. I understand that you are not a fan of the senior citizen/low income tax exemption but I do appreciate you laying out the facts.

  6. Ms. Woodard, the point of taxes is to make sure the government can provide what is needed. Taxes are not intended to make every day Christmas for you and your family.

    Just think of the park/play space that could be built if that City-owned space weren’t taken up by a Senior Center and the associated on-site parking it would require. Some earlier letter author or commenter wished for a fountain – perhaps a fountan that your children could run through on a warm summer afternoon. It’s a lot easier to install a fountain than to cram in more parking for a Senior Center we don’t need right now.

    To be clear, I have no objection to taxes. What I do object to are higher taxes required to support a project that fufills the wish-lists of select groups of people, such as seniors desirous of a new Senior Center, while the responsibility for paying for it is offloaded onto those who don’t have the ability to opt out of paying for the project. I have to wonder how many ‘Seniors Say Yes!’ signs are placed by seniors who will then ‘Say No’ when it comes to paying for what they voted for. You seem to call it ‘living in the USA’. Another, less charitable word for it might be ‘hypocrisy’.

    There are plenty of lovely parks in MLT, little-used parks with niceties like those upgrades put in by Scouts, etc. Use what we have rather than insisting that we pay for more.

  7. I mean no disespect to anyone, but there remains an obviously large misunderstanding about the rent issue as it applies to both currrent rent and future rent. Ms. LaMarr has unfortunately bought every thing the city provides as if it were true because they said it.

    First off, the amount of money going to out-of-state investors is currently $336,000. That is the actual “rent”. The balance of what the city pays is for their pro rata share of the building’s operating expenses. Those expenses, such as real estate taxes, insurance, utilities, maintenance and janitorial are all paid to providers locally. They are also, except for the real estate taxes, costs which the city cannot escape whether they own or rent. As the space proposed in Prop 1 is twice as great as what is rented, my calcualtions indicate that the cost of operating the new civic cmapus will actually be greater than current operating costs in rented space even with real estate taxes. Furthermore, if the identified evil is sending $336,000 to out of state investors for another year, then sending nearly $1.5 million a year for 30 years to other out-of-state investors who will buy the bonds for the civic campus must be outer space variety bad.

    Second point is I am less concerned with where the money for another year or two of additional rent is going to come from. I am more concerned with where the money is going to come from to pay off the borrowed money we have been using to pay rent since 2009. The levy lid lift punishment they are promising isn’t conceived to pay off that loan. So, maybe Ms. LaMarr knows because its a whole lot more money than another year or even two of interim city hall rent would be while our city council gets real about what we can truly afford.

  8. Thanks for your vote of confidence Mr. French, that I simply quote whatever the city tells me to say. (Ironic as on another post on MLT News I commend your thoughtful opinion! Guess I should have come here first! ha!) Actually, I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time researching the pros and cons. Believe it or not I was on the fence for some time. I’m a friend (and fan) of Margaret Loiseau – another ardent opponent but absolutely respect her passion for this issue and her perspective. I don’t believe for example, that the NO campaigners love our city any LESS than the tagline being used by the YES campaign (not a fan of that to be honest!) I think we all want to see MLT develop and prosper we just have a different perspective on how to achieve this. By and large the NO campaigners don’t want the city to get into debt building premises which they feel is beyond what is needed for our city hall to function. We don’t want the city to build an interim city hall that 20 years down the line they grow out of and come back to voters needing more money. Both sides of the argument has the city’s best interests at heart. Where we differ is that many of the those who want to vote NO on Prop.1 are not keen for MLT to develop outside its “bedroom community” reputation and while that’s all fine and dandy, it’s not financially sustainable in the long term if we can’t attract businesses to open up shop here. Our downtown is a depressing eyesore full of empty shops, with the exception of a few businesses like the wonderful folk at Double DD Meats and the lovely ladies at our local post office & Roger’s Market. Many families who live outside MLT use our award winning recreation center but there’s nowhere to grab a coffee, or walk around after they visit, so they invariably take their $ to nearby Lake Forest Park Center or Lynnwood (or the corporate giant Starbucks over on 44th) Same with Cascade Elite gymnastics. Will a brand spanking new city center facility change that? Well, neither side can answer that, but it’s a step in the right direction and one that is long overdue.

  9. Thanks to Ms. LaMarr for the many plaudits on her trip down memory lane, but neither the laudatory tones nor the triumph of hope over experience logic answers either of my two points. Maybe that’s because she and others have already decided that the project, at any cost or however misrepresented, is nonetheless a necessity just as proposed even though she’s not any surer than any of us about whether its really a step in the right direction. After reading about both Kent and Burien (have you been to Burien’s downtown lately?), neither is anyone else, but again hope triumphs.

    So, let me ask my questions again and I don’t care who answers them if somebody will. Since the five years rent from 2009-2104 is borrowed money, what will the source of repayment be? Have you asked? Do you care?

    Does it bother you (do you care) that the city’s mailer printed at all of our expense blatantly misrepresents the comparison between renting and owning? The rental stream truly comparable to the ownership stream represented in the graph begins with the number $336,000, not $504,000 as shown in the mailer. As I said, $336,000 is the actual rent. A comparison in which one stream has operating costs (the rental stream) and one which does not (the ownership stream) is not apples-to-apples?

    Even extrapolating the rental cost stream using the unreliable constant velocity growth rates of 3% and 3.5% results in a number slightly smaller than $43 million(yes, I am still a real estate analyst).

    No I’m not arguing for continued rent. Like I said, I was against that back in 2009 when the council, and maybe you, were for it. I am asking for the city and the proponents of its plan to use honest accounting and let voters decide based on the whole truth whether or not this proposition seems like a wise investment of our hard-earned money.

    • “So, let me ask my questions again and I don’t care who answers them if somebody will. Since the five years rent from 2009-2104 is borrowed money, what will the source of repayment be? Have you asked? Do you care?”

      Mr. French – In the past you may have gotten away with asking these questions and making accusations, not expecting anyone to research the answer, with the purpose of casting doubt on the actions of the City. And I do have to admit that, in the past, it has worked. There’s obviously some people who have latched on to this anti-City rhetoric and all it does is produce apathy and stifle progress.

      For the sake of others reading this I have done the research. I’m sure that you know this information and, for some reason, still won’t be satisfied with the answer. I look forward to your response.

      As a matter of background, the five-year interim city hall lease, which totals $2,166,869, is financed with a limited tax general obligation bond anticipation note (BAN) from US Bank. The BAN also includes funds totaling $533,131 to finance the demolition of the old City Hall, after hours HVAC needs at the Interim City Hall, and office improvements and relocation expenditures from the old city hall. The BAN totals up to $2,700,000.

      Thus far, the City has been successful in minimizing the use of the BAN. Through December 2012, $1,180,000 or 43.7% of the available BAN ($2,700,000) has been used. Current trends project that $1,674,039 or 62.0% of the available BAN ($2,700,000) will be used through 2013.

      A permanent financing source consisting of general fund revenues has been identified as part of the six-year 2013-2018 financial forecast to amortize and repay the BAN over a seven year period beginning in 2014 through 2020 — $276,400 per year. The funds become available primarily since bonds associated with the Recreation Pavilion improvements will be paid off in 2015.

      This was developed as part of the six-year financial forecast last September and included as part of the adopted 2013-2014 biennial budget. In addition, this information was included in the material presented to City Council as part of their packet material to consider an ordinance to place a capital bond proposition before the voters on January 3, 2013 and January 7, 2013. See slides 46 through 49 on the 2013-2018 financial forecast which can be viewed here: http://www.cityofmlt.com/cityServices/financesAndBudget/pdf/presentations/120917_FinancialForecast_September_17_2012.pdf.

  10. Mr. French do always patronize a person to get your point across? Or I am just the lucky person this week? Perhaps you need a lesson in civil discourse. Either way, I’m looking forward to voting YES on April 23.

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