To the Editor:
I would not normally write a negative letter about a Kirkland City Council candidate, typically I would simply endorse a candidate and cite his or her merits and ignore their opponent, but in the case of Position 2, Jason Gardiner is so unqualified to occupy that seat that a close look at him and his record is demanded.
I have personally attended several of the candidate forums and was shocked at the lack of understanding of the issues conveyed in most of Gardiner’s answers. I later received a tri-fold campaign piece titled, ‘Elect Jason Gardiner, Kirkland City Council Seat 2” and that was for me the last straw.
According to published sources, Gardiner attended a California two-year junior college from 1998-2004 but never graduated. Given the complexity of the issues facing Kirkland, Washington’s 12th largest city, one really does expect these days for the council members to possess at least a four year degree. But to attended a two-year school for six years and not earn a diploma, to me, speaks to an individual’s dedication to task. This concern is validated by Gardiner’s performance when put on the spot. He clearly has not been willing to put in the work and effort necessary to learn even the basic issues.
For example, in a Kirklandviews.com interview, Gardiner cited red light cameras when asked how he would raise city revenues. Weeks later, at the Juanita candidates’ forum, he flipped flopped on this position, saying his red light camera answer had been ‘off the top of his head.’ Well, who walks into an interview with a leading Kirkland news outlet unprepared to answer a basic question? That he had not researched and considered his words and instead fired out an answer ‘off the top of his head’ reveals to me a slipshod, haphazard, casualness of approach that is quite alarming. In that vein, at another forum he attacked opponent Bob Sternoff over the Kingsgate crosswalk flags substituting for the old flashing-light crosswalks, apparently not aware that the flags were temporary and that the flashing units were old and obsolete and are in the process of being replaced. Again, he spoke and made assumptions without having made the effort to study this important issue to the very neighborhood in which he resides!
Another alarming statement at one of the recent forums was that he was still reading through the budget. I was shocked at this, typically a person would be intimately familiar with the city budget prior to even filing for office in June—by September he or she should be able to recite it in their sleep, like Sternoff clearly can. In his campaign piece Gardiner claims he is “...committed to ensuring Kirkland maintains a sustainable budget...” but obviously this is just sales puffing. To have truly meant such a claim the candidate would have to have already understood the budget and budgetary process and Gardiner admitted he has not.
And why has he only attended one of the 12 council meeting and study sessions since he filed for office in June? The incumbents and Position 4 challenger Toby Nixon are sure there, why not Gardiner? He needs to know these issues and talk to the residents in attendance, but he is, again, MIA.
His brochure cites as his concerns things like “The Juanita Beach Park construction renovation.” Huh? The original contractor failed to perform due to harsh weather conditions and at the instant the city could legally act to remove that contractor it did so, fast-tracked securing a replacement and got the park open! What’s the problem? And what might Gardiner done? He doesn’t say. Continuing, he says,“Changing zoning restrictions in Lakeview and Central Houghton with less than clear notice.” Again, huh? The normal zoning approval process was followed! He cites: “Residents suing city over PSE construction.” Again, huh? That suit against the City of Kirkland was dismissed as meritless on June 24, 2011. Does Gardiner read the news? Clearly, he is unwilling to put in the effort necessary to learn the issues.
At the Juanita forum, the question was asked about condos in Kirkland and Gardiner’s reply was almost as embarrassing as it was frightening. Gardiner said condos should not be allowed in Kirkland because of his young daughter, saying it is his belief that kids need yards, and not small ones, either, big ones, and condos are bad because they rob kids of yards. I could not believe I even heard this. I know a lot of single professional women who like living in Kirkland and do not want the upkeep of a single family home, so they prefer the lifestyle of condo living. As one who has researched Kirkland’s history for over 20 years and who has developed strong friendships with countless Kirkland seniors—about whom I am passionately protective—apparently Gardiner does not understand that sometimes as people age and their children grow up and leave they no longer want or physically cannot perform the upkeep of their single family home they sell it to a younger family and condo living is a perfect next step for them. Are we going to tell our seniors who have lived in Kirkland for decades that they can’t live in a condo in their hometown? Over my dead body! Again, Gardiner spoke without thinking through his words, another ‘off the top of his head’ reply and his answer, if actually enacted, would have a devastating impact on one of our population groups that we need to most protect: seniors.
Not to be petty, but his brochure also contained typos and grammatical errors and, in light of the trend outlined above, this just conveys to me more evidence of his haphazard approach and lack of attention to detail. The most bizarre attribute of the document is the bottom two-thirds of the page is devoted to a glowing endorsement by a “Ellen Kilfoyle.” This is not a Kirkland resident that I could locate, but I did learn that Gardiner’s mother is Ellen Rae (Kilfoyle) Gardiner of Ogden, Utah, who also donated to his campaign. Looks to me like Gardiner got a raving review from his mom down in Utah and ran it under her maiden name to disguise the family connection. For the record, I am confident Mrs Sternoff, 91, of Kirkland, endorses Bob as well, so that’s a wash. If the best endorsement Gardiner can muster for his brochure is his mom...wow! He had a second endorser, a Markay Perrero, also of Utah, who appears to be another relative, perhaps his aunt. Unbelievable!
For the 45th District Democrats group and any of their Concerned Citizens of Kirkland (KCC) cronies who are trying to put Gardiner into Position 2, you have got to be kidding me! Gardiner is a person with no track record of involvement in service clubs, youth activities, charities, boards or commissions--he has no public service resume and clearly no grasp on the issues because he has clearly not been willing to do the work, the study, necessary to do the job. As one who volunteers often in Kirkland I notice that, like Gardiner, his vocal supporters aren’t out in the community either—I guess their ‘concern’ is limited to their irrational and bizarre hatred of Sternoff.
Gardiner’s negative campaign efforts, and those of his CCK and 45th Democrat cohorts, have left me and many other Kirklanders disgusted to the point of action. Gardiner claimed he was not involved with the distasteful ‘reject Sternoff’ sign campaign, yet he never condemned it nor did he publically call for their removal. Thus, we must conclude he approved of it or he is just to passive to speak up—either possibility rendering him both a poor leader and a poor choice for the council. At several forums, Gardiner has characterized Sternoff as a “slick politician,” yet it is it Gardiner who a political organization, the 45th Democrats, changed their own endorsement rules to support! Sternoff honors the NON-partisan nature of the Kirkland City Council is not supported by a political party or group. In fact, concerned, well-regarded, long-time resident Kirkland Democrats with integrity have supported Sternoff and spoken out against his opponents’ tactics and Sternoff has been endorsed by many responsible Democrat elected leaders who have actually worked with him in the past including former Kirkland council members and mayors 48th District reps Larry Springer and Deb Eddy. Add to the list King County Executive Dow Constantine. Sternoff also has some Republican leaders’ support, thus, unlike gardiner, he succeeds magnificently at respecting the spirit of this NON-partisan position. Rather than being either “slick” or a “politician,” Sternoff has not made politics a career. He has spent his working life creating jobs and helping families and individuals with their dream of home ownership. For Gardiner, who has no record of job creation, to mischaracterize Sternoff is laughable when one possesses the facts about Sternoff’s distinguished business career. Sternoff’s nine years as an unpaid Kirkland Park Board member and his years at the very nominally compensated, part-time council position hardly make one the slick professional politician Gardiner disingenuously suggests.
To elect Gardiner would be an absolute disaster. In Bob Sternoff we have a proven, experienced, hard-working, highly intelligent, accomplished, friend and neighbor and we need to keep him.