Kennewick voters have a chance Nov. 7 to fulfill a need that has been lacking in the Tri-Cities for decades, and we hope they finally decide to take it.
Proposition 17-4 — better known as The Link proposal — will be on the ballot, and we are looking forward to watching organizers build community support for it.
The Link is a $45 million project that would expand and update the Toyota Center, add multipurpose and exhibition space to the Three Rivers Convention Center, and link the two facilities with a 2,300-seat theater that could handle large, touring productions.
Last year a similar measure fell 292 votes shy of a simple majority, and that was with a rather subdued campaign.
The Link backers have re-grouped — as we hoped they would — and this time they have added a third ice rink and additional parking to the proposal.
Corey Pearson, executive director of the Three Rivers complex, said last May that all the projects included from the 2016 plan can be accomplished — as well as the added ice rink and parking — by approval of the proposed tax, retooling bond reserve requirements and being careful about how construction is phased in.
That means the community will be getting even more amenities for the same sales tax increase that was proposed last year — two tenths of a percent, which equals an additional two cents on a $10 purchase in Kennewick.
The tax would not apply to groceries, medication, utilities or rent, and will sunset in 25 years.
Because it is not a property tax, it won’t be just Kennewick residents who shoulder the cost. Visitors who shop in Kennewick and at Columbia Center mall and pay sales tax also will contribute.
Opponents to the proposal are already organized, and they undoubtedly will take issue with our calling a new Broadway-style theater and the renovation of the nearly 30-year-old Toyota Center “a need” for this community.
They say these are luxuries, and that it is unfair to ask people to pay an extra sales tax for something they can’t afford — or simply don’t care to use.
Kennewick City Councilman John Trumbo, a spokesman for the opposition, recently told the Herald editorial board that taxes should go toward police and fire protection, water and sewer services, roads and — if there is any money left over — perhaps the parks.
His voice represents a strong anti-tax sentiment in the community.
But if we lived in a city that offered nothing but basic services, life would be too bleak to stay.
People with their own backyard pools pay taxes to support the city’s spray parks and public swimming facility.
Residents who only read books on an electronic device pay taxes to support a library system that others use every week.
Do we expect only senior citizens to support the senior center?
Public facilities require public support, and they are what make a community a better place to live. They also can boost the economy, and The Link project is expected to have a $66 million impact.
Managers say the Toyota Center is so old and inadequate it is embarrassing when touring artists or sports teams arrive. They can’t offer a proper dressing room or comfortable accommodations for them.
The center isn’t all that comfortable for the audience, either, and the steep steps can feel unsafe because there are no handrails. Even so, events there continue to attract large numbers and sell out. More could be offered if it were renovated.
Our convention center also needs to expand if it is going to stay competitive, and is at risk of losing clients. Conventions with more than 500 delegates can’t fit, and newer facilities in neighboring cities are getting the visitors.
Tri-Citians have been saying for years we need better venues so we don’t have to drive to Spokane, Yakima, Seattle or Portland. The Link proposal is our chance to get that, and we think the project is worth the extra pennies.
Go to www.thelinktc.com to find out more about it.