MLT official says citizen anger over garbage strike sunk Civic Center bond measure

Laura Sonmore
By Doug Petrowski

The July strike by Waste Management drivers is the reason that Mountlake Terrace voters failed to pass Proposition 1, Mountlake Terrace Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore said during a City Council work/study session Thursday evening.

“I want to put blame where it lies,” Sonmore said.

The animosity that many city residents felt following missed curbside collections of garbage, recycling and yard waste on July 25 and August 1 caused enough of them to vote no on the $25 million bond issue that appeared on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, she said.

“We were so close, 126 votes,” Sonmore said, “but many residents were angry. People were threatening to throw their garbage on the steps of city hall.”

If it had been approved, Proposition 1 would have raised funds to pay for a new civic center for Mountlake Terrace; it received a 56.8 percent yes vote, but needed 60 percent approval to pass.

Teamster Local 117 recycle and yard waste drivers went on strike against Waste Management on July 25; the company’s garbage truck drivers from Teamster Local 174 honored the strike and didn’t report to work. The strike ended on Aug. 2, with Mountlake Terrace receiving some curbside pick-up of garbage, recycling and yard waste on Aug. 4.

City officials are discussing possible fines against Waste Management for not meeting contractual obligations to provide curbside pickup service to Mountlake Terrace residents and businesses during the period of the work stoppage.

  1. I totally disagree, being a Terrace resident, the trash not being picked up impacted my vote in no way, shape or form.

  2. I find it ridiculous that anyone is blaming the garbage strike for the proposition not passing.  Are our city council members so out of touch with the citizens?   With these economic times, asking for higher property taxes when so many people are struggling just to make ends meet is ludicrous.  And trying to claim that because property taxes are tax deductible people won’t really notice the higher tax.  With a citizen base of so many seniors who, because of good pension plans, don’t qualify for reduction of property taxes and can’t itemize on their tax returns, that claim is bogus!!  Even many non-seniors can’t itemize.  

    Also, I wonder why the previous building didn’t last longer.  Many houses in Mountlake Terrace are older than that building.  This proposed new building would be the third in the series.   Shouldn’t it have held up longer???

  3. The garbage strike had no impact on my decision to vote No on Prop 1.  These were real dollars the city council asked people to add to their monthly house payment.  I agree with the previous comment about the tax deduction.  That statement in the voters pamphlet was misleading and not entirely true.   When we have more commercial businesses that can reduce the financial impact of a new civic center, then I’ll think about giving it a Yes vote.  Until then, the cost is too high for the benefit gained.

  4. Local initiatives are failing, or passing with greater difficulty now, all over the country, for the pretty common reason that people no longer believe that the money will be there to pay for them.

    The initiative in all likelihood failed because too much was designed into the project and the overall cost was too high.  The City made the right decision by redesigning and cutting back on the original concept but the City did not go far enough in making cuts.

    The immediate need is for a building.  So, design a building, and leave room for additional projects in subsequent phases.  The land will still be there when the money can be found.

    If the vote was only 126 short on a $25M project the vote will probably be in favor on a project with smaller scope, costing $18-20M.

    Proponents of the project should stop whining and making tortured excuses, and start acknowledging the real reason why the project failed.

    Go back and redesign.  Resubmit for voter approval.  

    A smaller project will pass.

    1. Thank you Serial for a fairly reasoned proposal. However, if the senior center is zeroed out, will seniors still vote for it?

      For other posters, what would you like the city to do? City government must be located somewhere, whether rented or built, and the facility must be paid for. The city says there is no money to pay for rental after 2014. What should the city do?

      1. The City owns the land and the City controls the permitting, so construction can begin quickly after financing has been secured.  An vote held in mid-2013 can result in construction beginning late 2013 and possibly being complete in late 2014.  The bond issue can contain enough money for holdover rental at the current facility for 6-12 months, as well.  

        In terms of what the City should do should they have no fixed facility and need to continue to lease space, I’m sure the City is on an alternative plan should that possibility become reality.  The City has the ability to raise taxes to secure the lease funding and that threat can be made implicitly or explicitly as a consequence of another failed bond issue vote – wouldn’t be the first time an elected body or municipality has told citizens what happens if a bond issue does not pass. 

        I have no idea what percent of MLT voters are seniors and what percent of them would change their vote, or choose not to vote, if the senior center were not part of the bond issue.  What I CAN tell you is that as someone who is more than a decade away from being 65, I think that spending money on something that I can’t utilize for a long time is not appealing at all, and if I were a voter on the fence over the issue and if I were in, say, my 30’s, a less expensive alternative without a senior center might very well sway my vote in favor, rather than against, a bond issue.  It works both ways.

        Bottom line, it has to be cheaper, now, to get passed.  Assurances can be made to seniors to build a center the next time grant money can be found or another bond issue can be floated in a future election for it when the economy is better.  Seniors can choose to beleve it, or not, as they wish.  However, seniors should also be made to understand that their property taxes can go up as a bond issue, or their property taxes can go up as a City-passed assessment, in order to provide for the expense of having a facility in which the City conducts its business.  There might be a future senior center on the campus currently under consideration for a city center.  There definitely will not be one in the current leasehold space.  

        Cut the project, considerably, and put it to another vote.  Make plans for alternative means of raising revenues from taxpayers to fund the leased space if the bond issue fails again.  Both are necessary, and need to occur concurrently if the problem is to be addressed appropriately.

        Would also help if councilpersons think before speaking, but I digress.

        Seems to me a certain commercial building on the NW corner of 58th and 232nd would be worth substantially more if the City Center were built. I’m sure that’s merely a coincidence.

        1. I have not advocated a position here, so I don’t think my ownership of that building is relevant (except, of course, to me). I have merely asked a question so that others could explain their own positions, and suggest solutions to an obvious civic problem. I must say that I am not at all convinced that the city has the authority to simply raise taxes to pay for continued rent in leased space. Cities operate within the constraints of the tax limitations imposed by the legislature and voters. If your fully-paid-for car must be replaced and you’re on a fixed income, you must spend less on something else. I assume the city is in the same position, drawing down reserves to pay for the leased space, but with no taxing authority to fund it indefinitely under the property tax and other revenue caps under which it operates. Your assumption that the city can just raise taxes to lease space indefinitely is unconvincing. I wish someone could confirm or falsify that assumption.

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