November 27, 2000
Belated comments on letters about Cascade Land Conservancy's (CLC) land purchases
The letter writer correctly pointed out that open space land purchases do reduce our tax base, which results in tax shifts to the remaining tax base. What I question is whether CLC's acting as middleman between the land seller and the turnover government purchaser adds unnecessarily to taxpayers' costs.
An example is CLC's 1997 purchase of the East Lake Sammamish railroad right-of-way for $1.5 million, and then its 1998 resale to King County for $2.9 million.
Why didn't the county's own real estate people do that purchase without a middleman, subject to obtaining financing and other desired contingencies. King County often uses the non-profit CLC, which is headed by a former King County employee. In 1993 developers donated the 188-acre Saddle Swamp near Beaver Lake to the CLC (then known by a different name). King County then paid CLC for a conservation easement.
In addition to that public money, the private developers also provided for annual funds to CLC for stewardship. (A 1995 county parks report stated a figure of $275/acre annually to maintain passive and natural lands.)
Unfortunately, while public financial records are open to scrutiny, CLC's are not. Since large environmental organizations' directors make hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual salaries, it's of more than passing interest to know the salaries of CLC, as well as other expense and income information.
None of our government agencies should deal with any non-profit group unless that group's financial records are open to the public via at least an annual report.
It should be noted that another non-profit, Puget Sound Waterways, which in 1998 said it needs a billion dollars for habitat purchase and is looking for government funding, is headed by the former director of King County's surface water management division.
Maxine Keesling, Woodinville