When tax money is ill spent, the misuse often generates news stories that rightly put taxpayers up in arms over money wasted.
And then we all lament the “waste, fraud and abuse” of taxpayer dollars that didn’t buy us better public services, improved roadways, successful schools or some other public good.
The result is an erosion of public trust that helps generate our current public climate, which often amounts to “the only good tax law is a law that eliminates a tax.”
Conversely, when a tax measure succeeds, the results too often go unnoticed. Good news too often does not make good headlines.
But today, it’s time for Tri-Citians of a decade ago and our legislators of 1993 to get their due for making a pair of decisions that that truly have benefited all of us who live, work, play and enjoy our high quality of life in the Tri-Cities.
The story begins with a legislative session in 1993, nearly 25 years ago.
That was when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle voted to give all 39 of the state’s counties the ability to assess a 0.1 percent sales tax to finance their criminal justice operations. The money could be spent on everything from more police on the beat to improved jails.
It passed the state House 98-0 and the state Senate 42-1.
Ultimately, counties ended up being able to impose up to a 0.3 percent because some state funding that had come from the state motor vehicle excise tax was curtailed by a voter initiative.
The result was that early in this decade, Pasco and Franklin County approved a public safety tax measure that paid for a new city-county jail and for more police.
By mid-decade, Benton County followed suit, focusing the county’s share on improving courts and gang prevention activities. The share allocated to the cities was earmarked to improve their police forces.
On a daily basis, that money has helped make the Tri-Cities among the safest places to live in Washington state, a recent nongovernment report shows.
Safehome.org, a home security systems group, rated all the cities in the nation with populations above 50,000.
In Washington state, Pasco was rated third, Richland fifth and Kennewick seventh. The data the group used to compile the scores of 79 for Pasco, 78 for Richland and 75 for Kennewick shows all three of our major cities are closely bunched.
No doubt more than a few eyebrows were raised as folks discovered that Pasco is now safer than its neighboring communities.
After all, Pasco’s reputation for decades has been that it’s not a safe place after dark. Well, that’s no longer true, according to the FBI and U.S. census data used to compile the report.
The Pasco Police Department notes that the city’s crime rate has fallen by almost 80 percent over 25 years. And it’s also worth noting that the 1993 act by the state Legislature happened 25 years ago come next May 7.
All three of our cities are well ahead of the rest of Eastern Washington. The next best showing was Spokane Valley, rated No. 17. Seattle came in at No. 20.
The other large cities around the east side of the state were Yakima No. 21 and Spokane No. 25.
Top honors in Washington went to the ritzy Seattle suburb of Redmond, with a score of 86, a mere seven points above Pasco.
So next time you encounter one of our police officers or deputies, thank them for their role in making us a better place to live.
You’ll likely surprise them. Also, thank yourself for voting for a tax increase that has paid off.
And tip your hat to former Sen. Valoria Loveland, a fiscally conservative Pasco Democrat and former Franklin County treasurer, who sponsored that bill in 1993 and ramrodded it through the Legislature.
Then, when you walk through our attractive parks, drive down our uncrowded streets or drop your children off at a good school, remember it also was tax dollars that helped make your journey safe.