Kent Mayor Ralph decides against police measure for November ballot

City Council cancels special workshop planned for July 15

A special workshop of the Kent City Council scheduled for Monday evening July 15 has been canceled after Mayor Dana Ralph decided at the last minute not to recommend a police measure on the November ballot to hire more officers.

“We had scheduled these meetings in mid-June with the goal of council action before King County Elections’ Aug. 6 deadline to place a measure on the ballot,” said city Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson in an email Friday. “Simply put, we ran out of time to craft a police ballot measure the mayor was ready to recommend to the city council and Kent voters.

“The mayor remains 100 percent committed to recommending a police ballot measure in the future and we’ll continue to work in that direction.”

Council President Bill Boyce canceled the special workshop to discuss the measure as well as a special meeting on July 30 when the council would have voted on whether to put the measure on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Ralph wanted the council to consider a property tax levy lid lift. A levy lid lift requires voter approval and allows a taxing district (in this case the city) to exceed the 1 percent limit on annual property tax collections for a period of up to six years.

Voters rejected in April 2018 by 57 to 43 percent a hike in city utility taxes to 8 percent from 6 percent to pay for more police. That would have brought in about $4.5 million a year to hire 23 more officers. The city levies a fee on electric, natural gas, cable and phone bills.

Ralph said the night that measure failed that she would bring back another proposal. She backed off that plan the next month. During her State of the City address in March she once again said she would send a proposal to voters. That set up the plans for a measure on the November ballot that have been withdrawn.

The mayor and Police Chief Rafael Padilla want to get the number of officers up to 180 by hiring a couple of dozen more officers. They have said a city with more than 128,000 people needs more officers. The council approved last year as part of the general fund budget three additional officer hires in 2019 and three more in 2020.

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