MLT City Council plans to ask voters for third time to approve Civic Center bond measure
Story and photo by Doug Petrowski
Mountlake Terrace voters will be asked for a third time in less than 30 months to vote for a property tax bond measure to fund construction of a new Civic Center.
The Mountlake Terrace City Council decided to work toward placing the issue on the April 23, 2013 ballot following discussion at a special council meeting on Saturday, Sept. 8.
Council consensus is to make no changes to the size or scope of the $25-million bond measure that received a 57-percent yes vote last month (60-percent approval is required for passage). A $37.5-million Civic Center plan was nixed by voters in November 2010.
Last month’s Proposition 1, if it had been approved, would have authorized the city to raise $25 million in municipal bonds to pay for a new city hall, new community/senior center, a remodeled and expanded police station, roof and furnishing improvements to the library and outdoor amenities to the civic campus.
With all five council members in attendance already supportive of bringing the bond issue before voters again, discussion centered on picking which election date in 2013 the council would pursue for the measure and how to achieve reaching the necessary 60-percent yes vote needed for passage.
Choosing an election date
The council has the options of Feb. 12, Apr. 23, Aug. 6 or Nov. 5 as dates to put the bond measure before voters in 2013.
City Manager John Caulfield reported to the council that the project may end up costing more if there are significant delays. “We still feel comfortable with the $25-million option if you go is February or April,” Caulfield said. “But if you’re looking at August or certainly November, we’re going to have to come back to that cost estimate.” Caulfield estimated passage of a bond measure later in 2013 moves construction dates to 2015 or 2016, resulting in likely higher construction costs.
Other reasons cited by council members for picking the April ballot are taking advantage of any momentum gained from last month’s election, the intact YES Committee that is already in place, and avoiding any campaign overload from the more crowded ballots expected in August and November. The February option was discarded due to the belief that preliminary campaign work would have to be done in December.
“I think the clear advantage, when I am mapping it out and scoping out the dates and the months, is the April 23 date,” said Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore.
“I still like February but I would settle for April,” said Mayor Jerry Smith. “I just don’t want to lose our momentum.”
“I do think April would have less (campaign) sign distractions because, coming up on Aug. 6 and Nov. 5, we will have signs up for members of our council and any opposing (candidates),” said Councilmember Rick Ryan. Five of the current nine council positions will be up for election in 2013.
“February would be tough because we would be educating everyone during the holidays,” said Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright. “I can see we only have one choice and that would be April.”
Achieving voter approval
City officials believe reaching a 60-percent yes vote on the Civic Denter bond measure is reachable. “The community fell a little bit short in the August election for a new city campus,” said City Manager John Caulfield. “The final tally, according to the county, was 124 votes.”
Alison Peters, a market research and message development consultant hired by the city to report on the Proposition 1 failure and to strategize plans for another ballot attempt, told the council that there is enough support in Mountlake Terrace for the measure.
“There were over 3,000 yes voters in November 2010 election,” Peters said. “We only had 2,200 yes voters this time. So I know there are 800 more yes voters out there.”
Peters advised the council, and the half-dozen members of the citizen’s Proposition Yes committee watching in the audience, that finding those who had voted yes on the Civic Center bond issue in 2010 but failed to cast a vote for it last month would be the key to winning in April 2013.
“Turnout is the name of the game,” Peters said. She advised proponents to concentrate on campaigning in the areas of town that have shown support for the Civic Center. “About spending time in precincts where there were a higher percentage of no voters, don’t do that.” Peters said. “Spend time in the precincts where you had the highest percentage of yes voters and find more of them.”
“The challenge is not turning no voters into yes voters; it’s finding more yes voters,” she said, adding that it is much more difficult to change a voter’s mind from no to yes on the issue.
According to Snohomish County election records, Proposition 1 received more that 60-percent approval in seven of the 19 Mountlake Terrace precincts in the last election; more than 73.5 percent of the voters in Precinct 16 voted for the proposal. You can see the map of the voter turnout by precinct here.
“I like concentrating on people who are the yes voters,” said Councilmember Ryan.
To place the Civic Center bond issue on the April 23, 2013 ballot, the city council will have to pass a formal proposal by Mar. 8, but the action will more likely take place in January.
City Manager Caulfield reported that the city will continue to provide “community outreach” concerning the Civic Center plans through city publications and social media. “You can expect that not to stop, but to continue,” he said.