Seattle housing election Photo: Sydney Parker

Hold onto your hats, the upcoming 2015 King County General Election is a doozy. On November 3rd, King County residents will be voting on important measures including campaign finance reform, a transportation levy, police accountability reform, Port of Seattle commissioner and several races for the school board.

Locals have caught on that participation in this election is essential. As of October 26th, King County reports it has received 103,175 ballots and expects a turnout of around 48 percent.

Key decisions affecting homeowners, realtors, renters and developers include the Proposition 1 (Let’s Move Seattle) levy, the race for the King County Assessor’s office and every seat on the Seattle City Council. Here is an overview for you to wash down with your coffee.

Proposition 1: Let’s Move Seattle Levy

Mayor Ed Murray has proposed a nine-year, $930 million property tax levy for transportation, the largest of it’s kind in Seattle’s history. The city estimates it will increase property taxes for the median Seattle homeowner by about $145 a year or $12 a month.

The funds raised would go to various transportation projects. Bus lanes and stations would be added in seven corridors to help transit riders beat traffic. At least $385 million, or 41 percent of the total would go into street and bridge maintenance. Sidewalks, signals and bikeways, including at least nine school zones per year would undergo improvements for safety.

The levy is endorsed by a broad coalition including, Puget Sound Sage, The Sierra Club, King County Labor Council, The Stranger, and the Downtown Seattle Association.

Opponents of the levy argue that it leaves out crucial projects, such as a Wallingford-UW footbridge, as well as new Ballard and Magnolia bridges. They charge that the proposed property-tax rate, $62 per $100,000 home value, would make the city less affordable and point to the city’s failure on other publicly funded transportation developments such as unfinished streetcars, and seawall projects as indicators of trouble ahead.

The opposition includes The Municipal League, The Seattle Times, Seattle Port Commissioner John Creighton, and The League of Women Voters

To get an idea of how much the levy would cost you personally, check out How to Get an Idea of What You’d Pay Under Proposition 1.

King County Assessor

Whoever wins the office of King County Assessor in the upcoming election will be losing lots of sleep. The elected Assessor will be tasked with determining property values for over 660,000 residential and commercial parcels amidst rapid development and King County’s affordable housing crisis.

In addition to determining property values, which create the foundation for tax bills and implementing voter-approved levies, the assessor must oversee more than 200 employees and initiate technology developments for accessing property data. The title comes with a salary of about $170,000 a year.

The two candidates — incumbent Lloyd Hara and challenger John Wilson — were co-workers for nearly four years until a dispute over technology advancement, reports The Seattle Times. While serving as chief deputy assessor in Hara’s office, Wilson led the development of an iPad app that replaced an inefficient, expensive PC-based system used by assessors in the field. The new tool was so effective that Wilson worked with a consultant to license it for sale to other assessors and generate revenue for the county. After a disagreement with Hara about the iPad option, Wilson left in 2013 and took a position as a project manager in the county’s information-technology department.

Although both candidates have an impressive list of endorsements, Wilson and Hara bring different ideas to the table. Here’s a quick rundown on who’s up for the job:

Incumbent Assessor: Llyod Hara

Llyod Hara Photo: Karen Orders

Education: BA in Economics, Masters in Public Administration, University of Washington

Occupation: King County Assessor and Small Business Owner

What you need to know: Hara, a former Port of Seattle Commissioner and Seattle city treasurer, asserts that his office has fought hard to ensure King County residents can afford their homes during his tenure. He prides himself on the number of seniors and veterans who have been enrolled in the state’s tax-exemption programs, and the creation of an online map portal with property data, called LocalScape.

Endorsements: Governors Gary Locke and Mike Lowry; Attorney General Bob Ferguson; King County Council members Reagan Dunn, Larry Gossett, Jane Hague, Larry Phillips, Dave Upthegrove, Rod Dembowski, and Pete von Reichbauer; Sheriff John Urquhart; Laborers Local 242; King County Democrats; Mainstream Republicans of Washington; King County Realtors; Equal Rights Washington, and Fire Fighters 27.

Challenger: John Wilson

John Wilson Photo: John Wilson

Education: Bachelor’s in Editorial Journalism and Political Science, University of Washington

Occupation: Special Project Manager for Innovation at King County

What you need to know: Wilson said the office needs to combat Seattle’s affordable-housing crisis and push changes to address issues such as neighborhood density and preservation. If elected, Wilson plans to offer additional tax breaks to property owners of existing affordable-rental units, at an added cost to other taxpayers, as part of a push for making housing more affordable.

Endorsements: Dan Evans, Martha Choe, Bruce Harrell, Rob McKenna, John Okamoto, Cathy Degginger, Claudia Kauffman, Paula Boggs, Norm Dicks, Chris Vance, Dorothy Bullitt, Denis Hayes, King County Labor Council, Aerospace Machinists 751, Amalgamated Transit Union 587, Teamsters 117, The Seattle Times, The Stranger.

The Seattle City Council

In 2013, Seattle voters passed a measure amending the City of Seattle charter to establish City Council districts. In the November 3rd election, voters will elect seven out of the nine City Council members by district. The remaining two positions will be elected “at large” (citywide) in positions 8 and 9.

For a full breakdown on where each candidate stands on affordable housing and development, check out their profiles in the King County Voters Guide and their interviews with the Washington Housing Alliance.

From all of us at BuzzBuzz PNW, happy voting!

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