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Move Seattle Transportation Levy Getting Green Light

Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly had already bought a couple pitchers of beer for his staff and friends at the Belltown Pub when the news came in Tuesday night.

The $930 million Move Seattle levy for transportation projects was solidly ahead in the first election returns.

After that, it was pandemonium. It felt like a mosh pit, trying to get through the crowd to where Mayor Ed Murray prepared to address the crowd.

"While the rest of the nation says no, Seattle once again says yes," Murray said. "We can be an affordable city, we can be a liveable city, we can be a model for how this country can move forward."

After ballots were counted Wednesday, the levy was passing by 57 percent to 43 percent.

The levy would raise $930 million from property taxes to fund a variety of projects, including repaving roads, developing safe school routes, building bridges, adding bus lanes and boosting stoplight technology. It’s more than twice the size of the Bridging the Gap levy that it replaces.

In recent years, voter-approved property tax levies have passed easily in Seattle and King County. But this levy’s size and structure drew pushback.

A single sentence in the proposed levy, “The spending breakdown is illustrative only and shall not be mandatory,” drew a lot of scrutiny. The League of Women Voters and the Municipal League urged people to vote “no,” saying it lacked enough specifics.

[asset-images[{"caption": "Faye Garneau", "fid": "121948", "style": "placed_wide", "uri": "public://201511/faye_garneau_0.jpg", "attribution": "Credit KUOW Photo/Joshua McNichols"}]]At the other end of town from the levy supporters on Tuesday night, another party was breaking up. Faye Garneau spent more than $300,000 of her own money fighting the levy.

She was at a long white table with a few stragglers and a bill from at Robb's 125th Street Grill on Aurora Avenue North.

"I’ll never say I was wrong," Garneau told KUOW. "I think I did a good service in making them say what they’re going to do with the money."

The levy would cost the owner of a $450,000 home about $275 per year, according to the pro-levy campaign. Public officials say these levies are the legacy of Tim Eyman, who successfully passed the initiative restricting property tax increases to 1 percent per year, unless voters sign off. But civic groups say levies should be proposed for specific building projects, not to fund the operations of a city department.

Kubly had said that the levy will provide about a third of his agency’s budget over nine years. Over that many years, he said, it’s important to keep some flexibility as situations change.

Kubly said that’s why the levy sets spending levels in three categories: congestion relief, safety improvements and maintenance. Deviations from those categories require a three-fourths vote of the City Council.

See district-by-district details from the city of proposed projects under the Move Seattle levy.

Produced for the Web by Gil Aegerter.