Kirkland is a rather unique place to live. We enjoy a quality of life which is among the best in the state. We have our downtown located on Lake Washington. Many fondly view Kirkland as "a bedroom community." On June 1 Kirkland will grow through annexation to over 80,000 in population making it the 11th largest city in the state. We will add the neighborhoods of Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate to our existing 13 neighborhoods.
Another unique aspect of Kirkland is the role our neighborhoods play in our city. Kirkland has a vibrant group of neighborhood associations which get staff support and funding from City Hall.
The original article failed to note that some neighborhood funding from the city is in the form of matching grants. - Editor.
The neighborhoods each send representatives who meet periodically as members of the Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods (KAN). KAN is instrumental in coordinating efforts with the city such as food drives, picnics, educating the residents on city news, neighborhood meeting schedules and speakers for neighborhood association meetings.
But not everyone thinks the neighborhood associations are a good thing. Some question the level of influence neighborhoods have in public policy. Others think the neighborhood associations have "Balkanized" Kirkland residents by dividing us into factions that work against each other rather than for the common good for all of Kirkland.
It is true that each neighborhood association is unique. Some are well organized and highly functional and play an active role in shaping city policy through volunteering efforts on boards and commissions. Other neighborhood associations have a history of producing candidates for City Council -- the North Rose Hill neighborhood once was home to four of the seven sitting council members.
Other neighborhood associations are not so strong. Case in point: recently, when the entire City Council met at Heritage Hall to answer questions from Norkirk residents at a Norkirk Neighborhood Association meeting, the room was attended by fewer than forty people. Half of those in attendance were either from the neighborhood association board, worked at City Hall or were council members themselves! It was not as if the meeting had not been publicized. The city sent every household in Norkirk a postcard encouraging them to attend the meeting with the council. In addition, neighborhood association volunteers hand delivered fliers to every house in the neighborhood. Still, sadly no one came.
Is this a sign of apathy or contentment? Is there merely a lack of interest or is attendance at such meetings only found when there is anger among the residents?
In the neighborhoods which have active participation of the residents, the current model seems to work rather well. Unfortunately, not every neighborhood seems to function equally. Therefore, does that mean that the level of influence you have on public policy is largely determined by the neighborhood in which you live? With involvement comes clout.
[box]We would like to know what you think. Take our poll above and express your opinion on how influential you think the neighborhood associations are at City Hall. Then post a comment below with your thoughts on your neighborhood.[/box]
Neighborhoods vs. City Hall
The recent move by City Hall to make the South Kirkland Park and Ride into a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) despite the objections of the neighborhoods most impacted by such a move has lead us to ask the question, just how influential are our neighborhood associations? How does the City Council use the opinions of the neighborhoods when they make public policy decisions? Some would say the council cares deeply about the views of the residents and tries to shape policy to benefit those impacted most by council decisions. Others in the impacted neighborhoods think the council pays little attention to what they say.
Definition: Transit Oriented Development Development that maximizes the use of transit and reduces the use of single occupancy vehicles, by increasing the opportunities to walk, bicycle, carpool or take transit. The center of a TOD neighborhood has a bus or rail station, generally surrounded by higher-density development.