Looking at the weather map, how can you not be grateful we live in the Northwest? The rest of the country is sweltering and steaming in heat and humidity. Meanwhile, we keep the comforter on the bed, the window cracked for fresh air and enjoy mostly sunny days that aren’t too hot.
I recently polled my colleagues on how they spent a the weekend. One went on a bike ride from Capitol Hill to Discovery Park, hiked around, then settled in for a couple hours at the beach.
Another went to the Olympic Peninsula, watched the lightning, then lit a campfire and swam in Mason Lake. (Maybe not such a good idea with lightning in the distance.) The next day he hiked Mount Rainier, from Paradise to Camp Muir. On his return to Paradise, he found it mobbed with people on the trails.
I took a round-Lake Washington bicycle tour, stopping at the Gene Coulon Park in Renton for a break and a milkshake. Others went further: 10,000 bicyclists rode more than 200 miles during the annual Seattle to Portland bicycle ride.
Another colleague, who had ridden the stp several times, drove a sag wagon this year, meaning she set up camp for Saturday night and was ready to pick up bicyclists who dropped out. Fortunately no one in her party did, though she was happily dismayed to see her friends, as she said, smoke her best times. Now she’s planning and training for next year.
Another person I know built a little deck area and some stone steps in his backyard. He thought it might take a couple of workdays; it ended up taking four. But as he said, “Who am I to complain? I have the resources to get it done — including vacation from work, extra money for supplies and a day care that’s close by. Lots of people are struggling to meet much more basic needs. I’m one of the lucky ones. And now we have a beautiful backyard to enjoy with family and friends for years to come.”
Hearing these great stories makes me realize how lucky we are to live here. It’s like winning the lottery. But in this case, we buy a winning ticket by paying taxes.
All of the things we treasure in the summer — parks, ferries, bicycle rides, lakes, outdoor barbecues, backyard projects — we couldn’t depend on any of them if we didn’t buy our lottery tickets. That is, pay our taxes.
Mount Rainier is a national park, thanks to our federal government and our taxes. Mason Lake is swimmable thanks to clean water regulations, courtesy of our state Department of Ecology and the EPA.
You can bicycle to Portland on roads made possible with state transportation taxes and federal subsidies, courtesy of taxpayers. The newly renovated bike corridor for the Burke-Gilman Trail in Kenmore creates a safer and much more pleasant passage for both bicyclists and automobiles, and renovation was possible only with funding from King County’s voter-approved Proposition 2 Parks Expansion Levy and Real Estate Excise Tax funds.
Even me drinking a milkshake at Kidd Valley in Renton — I didn’t think twice about its preparation. We all are protected by inspections and standards, in this case through the Seattle-King County Department of Public Health. And we pay for that with our taxes.
Of course, when you buy a $1 lottery ticket, the odds of winning just $3 are only one in 28. The odds of hitting the jackpot are one in 7 million.
By that measure, taxes are a much better deal. You get national, state and city parks. You can count on safe food at restaurants. You have clean water to drink and clean lakes to swim in. You have roads and bicycle paths. You have the police and fire departments to rescue you in a car accident or bike accident. You have the National Park Service to find you if you get lost on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier.
You couldn’t buy all those things yourself, but as taxpayers, we can finance them together. So enjoy the summer, and appreciate the weather. And as you look around, remember it’s not just you and the weather and the natural wonders — it’s our government and your taxes that enable the quality of life in the Northwest.
Happy summer days.