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Should the public vote on giving Mariners money for Safeco Field?

caption: Safeco Field at twilight.
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Safeco Field at twilight.

Should the Mariners get $180 million in taxpayer money to pay for upkeep at Safeco Field?

Some people think the money should be spent on something else -- affordable housing for one.

King County Councilmember Rod Dembowski spoke with KUOW’s Angela King about a proposal before the council on Wednesday morning to let taxpayers weigh in with an advisory vote.

King: Should taxpayers be paying for this stadium maintenance?

Dembowski: I don't think so and neither do probably the vast majority of King County residents. I don't think that the Mariners have shown that they need those funds. The hotel-motel tax can be spent on arts and culture; affordable housing; services for homeless youth and tourism promotion. The Mariners want 60 percent of the funds. And in my view and the view of some my colleagues they just haven't shown the need.

You've proposed maybe putting this to a public advisory vote. Why?

We have a history over four and a half decades in this county, almost five, of voting on stadium deals. And I think if we asked the voters they'd tell us clearly don't do it.

Some may say it’s your job to make these calls — you have all the information, all the fine details.

Well ultimately we respond to and are accountable to the voters. And I think on big issues like this when you're talking about how to spend $300 million plus it's reasonable to ask the voters those kinds of questions.

But why spend the money to hold what’s only an advisory vote?

Well it's advisory because that's the only kind of vote under our charter that we can propose. But there's another kind of vote and that's a vote that the voters can propose, and that is by petition. They can do a referendum on this and that's not advisory.

One of the reasons I think we might want to look an advisory vote is because this may get petitioned anyway. There may be a referendum because people are upset about this. People believe and know frankly that the emergency declared in our county around homelessness, the affordable housing crisis we've got, is a higher priority.

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