Kirkland City Council candidates seeking Pos. 6 are Amy Falcone and Jory Hamilton. Falcone is a community leader and volunteer, a stay-at-home parent, social scientist and former adjunct statistics professor. Hamilton is an educator and coach.
How will you contend with increasing traffic problems in the city?
Amy Falcone: My vision is to create a Kirkland where we spend less time navigating traffic and more time connecting with our families, friends and neighbors. We need a well thought out, intentional and balanced plan that minimizes the impact growth inevitably has on roads, parks and other city infrastructure.
As a city, we need to invest in a variety of multi-modal transportation options to reduce the traffic burdens on our roadways. Kirkland has begun to do this by developing and implementing its transportation master plan. Although it has invested an unprecedented amount of money into capital transportation improvements, the city still has hundreds of millions of dollars of identified priority projects that have yet to be funded.
To minimize the impact of growth on traffic in our neighborhoods, we also need to concentrate development in areas that are close to public transit and highways and that are walkable to employment centers, retail and entertainment. As a long-time community volunteer, I’ve advocated successfully for many pedestrian and bicycle safety improvements throughout Kirkland. I will continue to prioritize solutions that mitigate traffic backups and increase our connectivity as neighbors.
Jory Hamilton: We have some of the worst traffic in the country. Kirkland’s traffic-data firm INRIX ranks the Seattle area to possess the sixth most hours lost in congestion in the country at 138 hours with a $1,932 cost of congestion per driver as of 2018. We need to fix I-405. Our legislature failed to fund our I-405 corridor program 2020 goals that they issued in 2002. We need to continue to partner with Innovation Triangle (i.e., Redmond and Bellevue) and our other regional partners to complete the I-405, which includes the upcoming direct access ramp on 85th. We should pursue financially strategic solutions to address our local issues such as paint, signage, and structures to redirect traffic in the safest and faster manner we can within a fiscally conservative budget.
Autonomous vehicles would allow for additional transportation for workers (e.g., more trips, available hours, and flexibility than vanpool) and help ensure transportation for our elderly community. We should commit to zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero crashes through electric and self-driving vehicles.
How do you intend to help keep long-time low/fixed income residents living in Kirkland?
Falcone: We are facing an ever-increasing need for affordable housing in our region for both low- and middle-income individuals and families. A lack of housing impacts all of us one way or another. I’ve seen this firsthand as PTA president of our local elementary school, where many of our teachers are facing 1-2 hour commutes each way. Businesses in our area cannot find employees who can live in or near the city. Seniors struggle to age in place. This is not sustainable.
As co-chair of the Kirkland human services commission (HSC), I am dedicated to ensuring neighbors can remain in their homes and out of homelessness, as it prevents trauma and is significantly more cost-efficient than rehoming folks once they are homeless. Last year, the HSC proposed a pilot legal aid program to city council to help prevent homelessness in our city. It was funded and is being implemented this fall, providing innovative solutions such as a full-time lawyer and other needed resources to help those in Kirkland who are on the verge of homelessness stay in their homes.
One important approach to helping low/fixed-income residents stay in Kirkland is increasing the supply of diverse housing options, in terms of size, type and price point. The city can do this through zoning, offering affordable housing incentives to builders, and through innovative solutions such as transit-oriented development, which concentrates affordable multi-family housing next to public transit hubs and in areas walkable to urban centers.
Hamilton: People need legal representation and to be able to pay rent or mortgage payments.
According to a city of Kirkland department of parks and community services March 20, 2019, memorandum , the Kirkland city approved $200,000 pilot program in response to the Kirkland human services commission recommendation to provide legal services including the residents concerned with housing. We should consider growing this initiative to protect our city’s most vulnerable. While people attribute homelessness to drugs, mental, and physical health, those are all factors wealthier individuals would not necessarily be vulnerable to lose their housing over.
We can achieve cheaper rent and housing costs (i.e., demand) throughout the upcoming decades with a greater supply of housing units, and should consider reducing the roadblocks to multi-family housing units to achieve this goal. To minimize the potential impact on current homeowners, we should first look at what Kirkland Councilmember Toby Nixon discussed at the Sept. 9, 2019, Moss Bay Neighborhood candidate forum. He suggested exploring the potential for recovery of underutilized land within the cloverleaf interchange area, which could be used for high-density housing within easy walking distance of transportation and shopping (personal communication).
How will you be inclusive of unhoused residents in the city?
Falcone: I will represent all of Kirkland’s residents, including those currently unhoused. For any government to do its job well, it needs input from a diverse representation of its residents. The traditional way of doing all business at City Hall unfortunately poses barriers to participating in government for many in our community. I will work to identify and remove as many of those barriers as possible. For example, this past month, as co-chair of the Kirkland human services commission I led our first-ever meeting outside of City Hall. It was held at an Imagine Housing community in south Kirkland that provides affordable housing and services for low-income residents. Since we were onsite instead of at City Hall, we were able to hear firsthand from a panel of residents and staff about their needs. This is valuable input that we likely wouldn’t have otherwise received.
Domestic violence is the leading cause of homelessness for women and children in King County. It is vital that we protect and provide needed resources for this vulnerable population. As part of the regional approach to address homelessness, Kirkland has chosen to lead the effort to house women and families in our community. A permanent 24/7 women and families shelter is scheduled to open in Kirkland next year.
Hamilton: Treat these people with dignity and respect while ensuring we maintain our resident’s public safety.
To clarify, unhoused residents, are people with a wide array of circumstances. For example, there are retail workers in Kirkland who live in their car. These are workers, families, survivors of abuse and discrimination among other characteristics.
Unfortunately, “homelessness is no longer a symbol decline” as in the 2008 Great Recession for example rather than ”a product of prosperity” due to the rise of housing costs (e.g., “a $100 increase in monthly rent in big cities associated with a 15 percent rise in homelessness”) according to the Huffington Post. Even Salt Lake City’s no-strings-attached-apartments according to the Huffington Post. Rather than shift to punishing the homeless (which just makes it harder for them to find and hold jobs), we should constantly continue to support those in need that the Kirkland human services commission and Kirkland City Council partner with charities and organizations to care for and protect in their time of need.
We also pressure our representatives to return to providing services on a federal level.
How do you intend to find a balance between development and maintaining the city’s identity?
Falcone: Growth and change are inevitable. It’s up to us how we choose to grow. I want my kids and yours to grow up and be able to live, play, shop and work in this beautiful town. I want them to feel safe and be able to afford a home here. I want my husband and me to be able to age in place in Kirkland when we retire. I want this not just for my own family, but for everyone in Kirkland. To achieve this vision for Kirkland’s future, we need to take this opportunity to take a step back and be intentional about how we grow. We must balance affordable housing with preserving parks and greenspace. We need to minimize the impact on traffic in our neighborhoods by creating more walkable and connected communities. We need to preserve the charm of downtown Kirkland and protect our public waterfront. We can do this together.
Hamilton: What we consider to be Kirkland’s identity would be far different than the “Pittsburgh of the West” Peter Kirk dreamt of in 1890. Through the efforts of the Kirkland City Council, we already are shifting from a small-town feel to adjust for our work and housing demands. Focusing on keeping our parks up to code and well-maintained will help us in this effort.
General election day is Nov. 5.