Houghton Envy: The War of HB 1812 (Poll)

Gladys, You have been critical of me for being too harsh in my writings. I have decided to tone it down.

DOWN WITH THE HOUGHTON COMMUNITY COUNCIL!

Someone finally got wise to the namby pambies in Houghton. Kudos to whoever sponsored the 1812 bill recently passed by the House in Olympia! This bill, which you probably oppose, would subject the highly privileged veto position of Houghton to a vote of the whole city of Kirkland. Can you spell DEMOCRACY!

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When the question of Houghton merging with Kirkland was brought to a vote, Kirkland bribed the Houghton folks by giving them veto power over zoning decisions in Houghton. What a travesty! Houghton was facing bankruptcy and had no money with which to run a city government. They had no hope of surviving as an independent city.

Now 40 plus years later, someone finally worked up the courage to level the playing field for all of Kirkland. To continue giving the Houghton Community Council veto power over zoning decisions would violate every tenet of what a democracy stands for. One for all and all for one. Why should Houghton be given privileges no other neighborhood in Kirkland has?

Someone is circulating a petition trying to reverse this action in Olympia.

What possible democratic principle are they trying to protect? The answer is none.

Message to the Senate in Olympia: pass this bill and reestablish democracy in the neighborhood of Houghton.

DOWN WITH THE HOUGHTON COMMUNITY COUNCIL!

Ralph

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Really, Ralph, really? Just when I think there might be hope that you and your neanderthal ways have evolved out of the dark ages, there you go again.

I know exactly what your real problem is. You, dear Ralph, have a severe case of Houghton Envy.

Ralph, you have seen the advantages that the Houghton area has. Then you see what you have. And you and I both know darn well that what you have just does not measure up by comparison. Really.

Let’s get serious here. You ask if I can spell democracy. I may be getting older but I am not hard of spelling. Yes Ralph, I can spell democracy and I can also spell transparency, process, disrespect and dirty tricks.

Bills in the state legislature don’t just drop out of the sky, into a committee room and then float onto the Governor’s desk for signature. Bills are driven by some kind of motivation, legislative sponsors are found, lawyers and code revisers get to work, and people lobby to get them passed. Someone asked for this bill to drop and for it to include the provisions that it has. Who was it and what was the motivation?

This bill is out of place for this legislative session because it won’t save any money for the State, it won’t streamline State government and it won’t create jobs. Many bills will drop this year but will die in committee because legislators and staff don’t have the time to consider bills that don’t meet those objectives. This bill got through committee and then was passed unanimously by the House. How did that happen?

No one in the Houghton Community Council knew about this. What was the plan for letting them know? Perhaps just an e-mail with an attached copy of the bill after it was signed by the Governor? The time to let them know was before this dropped so that issues could be discussed and worked out, you know, like grownups do? Dropping it quietly and letting it get all the way to a House vote without any notice to the HCC was not courage as you so ignorantly call it, Ralph, this was sneaky and cowardly.

Who, Ralph, are the real beneficiaries of this bill? It’s typically about money, everyone knows that. Who stood to gain by taking away their authority on zoning matters? Or was it someone who lost money because of some prior action of the HCC and now wants to avenge their loss and prevent it in the future?

We don’t know who in the City knew about this and when. I for one want to know. Are we really supposed to believe that the city’s legislative professionals did not know about this? If so, they should be replaced, because the bill digest plainly included the word “municipal.” Any 5th grader knows how to do a word search and our legislative professionals should be smarter than a 5th grader, don’t you think? I won’t point fingers at our electeds – at least not yet. However I find it very hard to believe that when a “yes” vote comes from six members of the legislature whose districts include Kirkland – including two of our past mayors -  each of them knowing the history of Houghton, that someone didn’t think to contact at least some of our City Council members for a heads up or a “what do you think?” If they didn’t, then these State legislators are not doing their job. If those legislators did contact members of the City Council or discuss it with them when they were all in Olympia recently, then why wasn’t the HCC brought into the loop as well? Yes, Ralph, that is a rhetorical question.

For that matter, anyone at 123 Fifth Avenue - electeds or staff - who knew about this and kept it secret? Shame on them. Step up and acknowledge it before it’s found out. It never ceases to amaze me that we haven’t learned from past experiences that secrets and back room strategizing never works and is disgraceful when it comes out.

Is the Houghton Community Council out of date? That would be your simplistic point of view, Ralphie. In my view, they have what we all really want: a strong voice in the future of our own neighborhood. Let’s not forget, this is not some little cul-de-sac or subdivision. This is a significant part of the City that includes portions of three neighborhoods and has over 6000 residents. That is a large percentage even after annexation. This bill is a sign of the times as we become a larger city where some of our electeds just don’t want to put up with neighborhoods that communicate and express a point of view, perish the thought. I’ve heard some of our Council members mumble things about how our neighborhoods are balkanizing the City and all sorts of craziness like that. I think they just want us to vote for them and then stay home and be quiet. That’s one thing you and I have in common, Ralph, neither one of us cares to stay quiet.

Sometimes promises need to be adjusted. If this 40-year promise needs to be re-visited and adjusted, I do know this is not how it’s done. This is like the spouse who closes all of the bank accounts, changes the locks on the door and sends a text message or a legal messenger to deliver the news to their soon-to-be ex. If this promise needs to be adjusted, if it is out of date, then the first people who should talk it out are the HCC and our City Council.

I’ve also heard that this is about saving money for the City. Interesting excuse but it is a smokescreen. There are lots of ways to save money. I’ve heard numbers of anywhere from $20,000 to $70,000 a year. Maybe one of the things that should be adjusted is that this cost should be assessed to all properties, business and residential, that are located in the area. Maybe if there are legal costs, then the City and the Houghton Corporation should each pay their own legal fees, just as parties do in most disputes. There are lots of relevant options to consider. Smart minds working together can come up with smart ideas.

Think about what would happen after this bill was enacted. The entire City of Kirkland would have a vote over the destiny of just a part of the City. I can only imagine the infighting that would ensue and the resentment that would be with us for decades to come if the vote goes against Houghton. That hardly seems healthy for a City that calls itself “a community with a small-town feel, retaining its sense of history, while adjusting gracefully to changes in the twenty-first century.” There’s nothing graceful about this proposed change for a large section of our City, at least not the way it could happen if this bill is enacted. If the City does vote the HCC “out” then what happens to the provisions in the zoning code that currently only affect Houghton? Do we then have to witness even more infighting as Houghton finds itself trying to protect and preserve their neighborhood? You know how these things work, Ralph. Those who resent what Houghton has or who will profit by eliminating or changing them, those folks will persevere until those provisions are a thing of the past.

Ralph, you asked what possible democratic principle the citizens were trying to protect with their petition. Really, Ralph, you’re kidding, right? Did you miss all of your civics classes or just the ones that meant something? The basic principles of democracy include the freedom of political expression and freedom of speech. Seems to me that the folks that are gathering signatures for this petition are trying to protect their democratic rights by fending off the “tyranny of the majority” as the legislature seems way too anxious to get this done quickly and quietly without interference from those most affected. This bill would threaten a fundamental property right that the residents and commercial property owners have enjoyed for over forty years. Their response sounds like a solid case of democracy in action to me, Ralph.

So, Ralph, here’s the bottom line. You are like the lady sitting in Katz’s Deli, watching Sally enjoy her sandwich very very well as she demonstrates as much to Harry. You, like the lady watching Sally, you want what she’s having. That’s fine, but you want to take away her sandwich because you, Ralph, have never had what she’s having. If you had, you wouldn’t be so darn uptight. Your loss, but let Sally have her sandwich and let Houghton have their due process and control over their destiny in the light of day. That, Ralph, is democracy in action. Really.

Kindest regards,

Gladys