The controversy swirling around HB 1812 is, to say the least, unfortunate and with better forethought should have been avoided. I want to take this opportunity to clear up a number of misconceptions and set the record straight.
Whether or not community councils (called municipal corporations in state statute) should continue to exist is a question worthy of forthright debate. I for one have been very clear over the years, dating back to my earliest years on the Kirkland City Council, that the existence of these councils is poor public policy and violates the basic democratic principal of one person, one vote. That is why the question of their continued existence has been a topic of some discussion in the legislature since I arrived here six years ago.
Regrettably, that honest discussion has been eclipsed in this instance because of the sequence of events leading to the introduction and passage of HB 1812 in the House of Representatives, for which I take responsibility. While I do not apologize for pushing to have such a bill introduced, and appreciate that Rep. Kirby sponsored the bill as a favor to me because my bill sponsorship load was already beyond that which I had agreed to, I should have had the bill introduced much earlier in the session rather than as a late addition to our local government relief package of legislation. Once it was introduced, the bill moved even more quickly than I expected, and it is my fault for not keeping closer tabs on the bill during the process.
I can assure everyone that this bill was never requested by any city council member or city staff person, and they had no hand in its creation save for the conversations over the years about the fact-based impacts of community councils on city governments. Kirkland City Councilmembers were not consulted during the drafting of the bill, nor have Penny and I had any substantive conversations about it. Rather, we have talked at length about fiscal struggles facing cities and how to deal with them.
I attended the Senate hearing on the bill yesterday and need to clear up a very important point. When Rep. Kirby indicated he had talked about the bill with Kirkland officials, he was referring to me. He has never had a conversation with any Kirkland City Councilmember.
The hearing was very useful, which is the purpose of public hearings. Two things occurred to me. The bill as written is flawed given some timing issues regarding when petitions for reauthorization need to occur. But more importantly, it is obvious there can be no open and honest debate about the merits of the bill when it is shrouded in frustration around the perception that either the city or the legislature (that would be me) were trying to hide something. Nothing could be further from the truth, but that does not matter right now.
It is my opinion that HB 1812 should not go forward in this environment. It would be a disservice to the legislative process and the citizens of Kirkland and Bellevue.
For that reason, I will request the Senate not pass the bill and that we consider the bill next session. If we do, it must be introduced earlier in the process and hopefully benefit from a frank discussion of the bill’s policy rather than its process.
Sometimes in the rush of the last few days before a legislative deadline decisions are not as well thought out as they should be. I like to think I avoid that trap but clearly not always.
I hope this clears up any misperceptions. Surprisingly, I have had no contact from anyone opposed to the bill. If anyone has further questions or concerns I encourage you contact me.