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Voters in Three Cities Approve Spending for Parks

Voters in Newark, Cleveland and Grand Rapids have overwhelmingly approved local taxes to pay for better parks in their cities, The Trust for Public Land announced.

On November 5th:

  • Newark, N.J., voters gave 84% approval to create the Newark Open Space & Recreation Trust Fund, which would receive about $1.1 million a year to maintain city parks and provide new parks. The money would come from a tax of one penny per $100 of real property value.
  • In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voters in Cleveland and nearby communities gave 70% passage to a measure that increases the local levy used to pay for a variety of parks in the county. The measure will bring in about $75 million a year over the next 20 years.
  • In Michigan, Grand Rapids voters passed by a 60–40 margin a park levy which will create $28 million over the next seven years.

The three successful city measures were among 15 local conservation spending proposals on the ballot. Twelve of the 15 passed, and will generate $1.8 billion for local conservation over the next two decades. The only major loss came in Boise, Idaho, where voters gave 62–38% support for a conservation tax, but that figure fell just short of the 2/3 approval required.

These results also track closely with decisions by urban voters earlier this year:

  • In April, voters in St. Louis and St. Louis County approved a local proposition increasing sales taxes by 3/16th of a cent to generate more than $622 million for improvements around the Gateway Arch and local and regional parks and trails.
  • Portland, Ore., metro area voters decided in May to approve a property tax increase lasting five years and setting aside $10 million a year for parks and open spaces.
  • In August, voters in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, voted 70–30 to renew a local levy which will provide $60 million a year for the next six years for parks and trails.

The 2013 approvals follow on a wave of city park spending in November, 2012, when voters approved park bonds or taxes in San Francisco, Houston, Salt Lake, Austin, El Paso, Toledo, Bozeman, Montana; and Polk County, Iowa (Des Moines).

An analysis of urban voting patterns done by the Conservation Finance team of The Trust for Public Land showed that since 1996, 59 of America’s 100 most populous cities have voted on either a citywide or countywide conservation spending measure; 54 of those were approved.

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