[nggallery id=145] At 12:01 Wednesday morning, members of the community gathered at the intersection of NE 145th St and 100th Ave. NE in Juanita and on 124th Ave. NE in Kingsgate to unveil the City's new "Welcome To Kirkland" signs. In attendance were all seven Kirkland City Councilmembers, Chief of Police Eric Olsen, and dozens representing police, fire, City staff and members of the community.
As the clock struck midnight on June 1, 2011, the gathered crowd cheered as Mayor Joan McBride proclaimed, "We are now One Kirkland." At that moment, Kirkland grew by seven square miles and its population grew by some 70 percent to approximately 80,000.
They waited decades for this day to arrive. They watched King County slowly starve Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate of services as budgets tightened and resources became scarce. They watched Kirkland start and stop annexation studies over and over again -- each time not able to delay due to costs or lack of political will.
The road to annexation has not been a bed of roses. The promises that annexation will come "someday" have been made for decades.
On this morning the decades old promises were fulfilled as residents of Kirkland's last annexation officially became citizens of the City. The approximately 31,000 citizens of the Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate neighborhoods are now entitled to all of the rights and privileges of being full-fledged citizens of the City of Kirkland.
The most visible impact initially will be the handover of police patrols from the King County Sheriff's office to the Kirkland Police Department. To serve the larger city, the Kirkland Police Department is adding 37 new officers and 9 new firefighters are being added to the Kirkland Fire Department.
Many permits can now be handled at Kirkland City Hall -- a real benefit for residents. No more dealing with King County.
Along with the new found services come some responsibilities. City rules and regulations will now apply to the newly minted Kirklanders. No more fireworks -- not even sparklers!
We know that the annexation journey was long and painful and that many sacrifices were made along the way. We hope that the differences of the past will fade with the passing of time.
Today is a new beginning and an opportunity for us all to learn how to harness the skills and talents of our larger population for the betterment of us all. Kirkland is just starting out on a journey of monumental change and Kirkland needs to change in order to address the challenges before us.
I encourage the neighbors living in Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate to get involved with everything Kirkland. Ask questions. Apply for a position on a city board or commission. Run for elected office. Volunteer. We need your input and your involvement in our city.
As some folks who are wiser than I have been saying for some time, "We've always been one community, it's time to become one city."