City officials mark Kirkland annexation with new signs at midnight
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
June 2, 2011 · Updated 11:24 AM
Kirkland resident Johanna Palmer filled plastic glasses with sparkling apple cider by the side of the road as midnight approached on Tuesday. One car even stopped to ask the police in attendance why so many vehicles and the spotlight were all sitting beside 124th Ave. N.E. in the Kingsgate neighborhood. The 20 or so City of Kirkland employees, city council members and residents marked the official incorporation of the three newest neighborhoods into Kirkland with the unveiling of a "Welcome to Kirkland" sign at exactly 12:01 a.m. Wednesday morning.
"This is history, this is ordained," said Deputy Mayor Penny Sweet. "These people have been Kirkland residents forever and now it is official."
The annexation covers the neighborhoods of Finn Hill, North Juanita and Kingsgate and pushed Kirkland's population well over 80,000, making it the 12th largest city in the state.
"This makes the City of Kirkland a major player at the state level," said former Kirkland mayor and current state Rep. Larry Springer, who has been working on annexation since 1995. "It gives us more clout ... But it is not like these people are a bunch of aliens. These people have called Kirkland home 25 years."
The same event was held simultaneously at a second location in the Juanita neighborhood. The celebrations were not originally a part of the city's official events.
"We got enough people who were interested like from the police department and fire, and the council members were really excited about doing it," said Kirkland City Manager Kurt Triplett, who helped to pull the black cloth from over the sign.
But not all the new residents will be celebrating as many are not happy the annexation went through after the public vote failed.
"My hope is that all the residents recognize the real opportunity to be a leader in the region," said Triplett. "This is an opportunity to compete for more grants, money for road projects, it gives us an opportunity to attract more companies like Google and nurture new businesses like Bungie."
The initial vote on the annexation needed 60 percent to pass in 2009. Normally, annexation without an assumption of debt needs a simple majority. City officials ultimately included the assumption of Kirkland's current debt in the ballot measure. The vote failed to get 60 percent by just seven votes. But with the vote being well over the 50 percent mark needed for just annexation, the Kirkland City Council repeated history by voting to annex without putting the burden of previous debts incurred by the city on the new residents. The exact same thing occurred with the annexation of Rose Hill.
"The key thing is performance," said Toby Nixon, who worked on the Annexation YES! committee and was the first annexation resident to file for city council. "If the city follows through with what was promised I think they will be satisfied."
Many voted in favor of the annexation for an increased police presence in the three neighborhoods. The King County Sherrif's Department has just three deputies to respond to issues in an area with more than 34,000 residents. But some are skeptical of the increased patrols.
"We consider ourselves to be part of their community," said Kirkland Police Capt. Bill Hamilton. "We take pride in our community. We want to ease into things and just raise awareness."
The celebration Wednesday morning was just the beginning of an outreach campaign by the city as it also held an event at City Hall Wednesday evening and a business breakfast on Thursday.
The biggest event will be held Friday, June 3 at Juanita Beach Park. Kirkland City Council members and other elected officials will give welcome remarks at 6 p.m. The council members will also serve strawberry shortcake. The Kamiakin Junior High School Jazz Ensemble and Juanita High School Pep Band will perform from 7–7:30 p.m., followed by Kirkland’s own Back Burner bluegrass band. The evening will include an outdoor movie "The Sandlot." Activities will be held on the north side of the park where the Juanita Friday Market is located.Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.