Police Chiefs Voice Concern About Potential Impacts Of I-1033 1

Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer

Story by Ralph Nichols
Photos by Scott Schaefer

Police chiefs from King and Snohomish counties voiced their concerns at a press conference in Burien Wednesday morning (Oct. 21) about potential impacts of Initiative 1033 on public safety – especially in smaller cities.

But they stopped short of opposing the revenue-limiting ballot measure. Public officials are prohibited by state law from campaigning for or against ballot proposals as well as candidates.

Instead, said Scott Kimerer, Burien police chief and chairman of the King County Police Chiefs Association, “People have a right to make their own decisions on how to vote. But they need to be informed….

“We are encouraging citizens to ask their city governments what effect I-1033 would have on their ability to provide services if it is successful.”

Kimerer and Des Moines Police Chief Roger Baker represented Highline cities at the press conference.

I-1033 would limit future growth in the revenue cities, counties and the state could take in, based on annual growth in inflation and population. Revenues above the limit would be used to reduce property taxes.

“Already reeling from tough economic times that have seen 15 to 20 percent reductions in revenues, the financial analysis indicates that police services, many of which have already experienced budget cuts this year, could be further restricted to the point of struggling to meet the needs of their citizens’ public safety concerns,” Kimerer said.

“Police budgets generally represent half or more of cities’ general fund expenditures,” he added. And there has been “a 30 percent drop in cities’ anticipated enrollment of new hires in the (state) police academy” in Burien.

Police Chiefs Voice Concern About Potential Impacts Of I-1033 2

Burien City Manager Mike Martin

The impact of I-1033, if approved in the November election, Kimerer said in response to a question, also could delay North Highline annexation by Burien, which now is expected to take place in late March. Residents of the southern part of the unincorporated area voted 56 percent to 44 percent in August to become part of the city.

Burien City Manager Mike Martin, who attended the press conference, concurred with Kimerer’s assessment.

“If people want less government, they will get less government,” Martin said. “There will be fewer departments and less people (police officers) on the street.”

Kimmerer said “the easily discernable impacts of I-1033 can be found by examining the general funds and budgets of the 82 percent of suburban cities in King County having a population of fewer than 50,000. These cities function with a small margin to provide all the needed services and are very transparent in their budget process and revenues.”

Statewide, 94 percent of all cities have populations less than 50,000.

Marysville Police Chief Rick Smith, chairman of the Snohomish County Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association, said his department experienced sharp cuts due to the recession this year. Further cuts, should I-1033 pass, “could impair our ability to provide services to our city….

“The whole criminal justice system (including prosecutors, courts and jails) would be impacted, maybe significantly,” Smith said. “We just don’t know. The bottom line is for citizens to ask officials what impact 1033 would have on their city.”

Any cuts in the budgets of local law enforcement agencies “minimizes our response,” he added.

One problem with I-1033, said one police chief who spoke on condition of anonymity, is that it “targets state government, large counties and large cities” without taking into account the different circumstances of smaller cities and counties.