Neal Black and Martin Morgan. Courtesy photos

Neal Black and Martin Morgan. Courtesy photos

Kirkland council candidates Black and Morgan vie for Pos. 5

The candidates answered questions based on reader comments.

  • Wednesday, October 2, 2019 8:30am
  • News

Candidates campaigning for Pos. 5 on the Kirkland City Council are city resident Martin Morgan and Houghton Community Council member and Adkins Black, LLP partner Neal Black.

How will you contend with increasing traffic problems in the city?

Neal Black: I plan to take a four-pronged approach to trying to reduce congestion. The first involves helping the city to prioritize public works projects that will mitigate the effects of bottlenecks that exist along many of our arterial streets, especially in the north-south directions and especially at intersections. But I also see the creation of more bus turnouts along some of those same arterials as part of the solution. Secondly, I want to encourage a thoughtful approach to growth, planning and zoning throughout the city that encourages more housing in and among new and existing transit hubs and within walking distance of existing commercial centers. That makes public transit options more viable, more efficient and more attractive. The third approach also involves thoughtful planning, but it focuses on creating more areas within the city where residents find it possible to live where they work, which is attractive to many. This involves encouraging the right mix of housing, retail and commercial development in the right areas. Finally, for some residents, biking is a more and more attractive option for getting around, especially commuting to and from work. But to make biking more attractive, it has to become easier and, more importantly, safer. The city needs to create more bike routes that are protected from traffic, especially along busy arterials and especially at major intersections.

Martin Morgan: Traffic will continue to increase as the population grows. We will need to explore all modes of transportation and transit orientated developments along with an increased ability to work within walking distance.

How do you intend to help keep long-time low/fixed income residents living in Kirkland?

Black: Housing affordability is an important issue for low-income residents, residents on fixed incomes, members of Kirkland’s workforce and some of our community’s teachers, nurses, city staffers and first responders. And among the hidden costs – sometimes overlooked – are the increased costs to our small businesses, schools and city services that rely on those sectors of the region’s workforce. I will encourage the development of a greater mix of housing types, especially within walking distance of our existing urban villages, along with transit-oriented development in and among new and existing public transit stations. Also, I will continue to encourage the city to look at ways to reduce the barriers to the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), which allow long-time residents on fixed incomes who want to age in place a viable option to maintain the affordability of their existing properties and, perhaps, make the biggest difference in supplying the workforce housing that is needed.

Morgan: Accessory dwelling units would help offset income to assist in aging in place. Along with this, we would work with all local agencies and nonprofits to identify those needs of low/fixed income residents. If Kirkland can help offset the cost of employee housing then we should be able to find a way to assist all residents in need.

How will you be inclusive of unhoused residents in the city?

Black: When you examine the current trends related to our region’s unhoused residents, you find that one of the fastest-growing demographics is young families and neighbors who have jobs but who work for less than a living wage. Unlike at other times in our history, it’s our region’s economic success that contributes most to an increase in the number of unhoused residents, not an economic downturn. Growing income disparity and a lack of affordable housing in our region is leading too many families that suffer a temporary setback to wind up unhoused. We need to support public initiatives that help people on fixed incomes or who work in low-wage jobs and who suffer a temporary setback be able to stay in their homes. Time, money and effort spent helping people stay in their homes are well spent – it reflects our core values as a community, it saves lives and it saves money.

I want to add that, for me, inclusivity is a touchstone. This involves, among other things, community leaders asking the questions, “which residents’ voices are not being heard? And, why?,” along with “which residents are not able to participate in this city program? And, again, why?” Included are our community’s unhoused residents, who are frequently not heard (and not able to be heard) and also have difficulty readily participating in certain city-sponsored and/or city-encouraged programs.

Morgan: My neighborhood is South Rose Hill. I support the new women and families shelter being built on 120th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 80th Street and the car campers at the local church. I believe Kirkland should support all nonprofits that assist with the care of residents in need.

How do you intend to find a balance between development and maintaining the city’s identity?

Black: Kirkland is ideally located close to Seattle and the technology centers of the Eastside. Through the foresight of community leaders that came before us, it developed into the region’s most vibrant and livable city. Its waterfront parks, beautiful downtown and tree-filled neighborhoods are just some of the elements that make it so. And because of that vibrancy and livability, Kirkland will always be a very attractive place to live. But another important characteristic of our Kirkland community is that it has always comprised a diverse mix of residents from different walks of life. As Kirkland continues to grow, change and improve, it will continue to be a place that people want to live and, without forethought, that part of the Kirkland character that involves a diverse mix of residents from different walks of life is at risk. That’s why we’ll continue efforts that encourage more housing affordability. It will be a difficult, ongoing challenge. We have to plan far into the future, be thoughtful about the right kind of growth in the right locations and be diligent. But it’s worth the effort, not just for preserving a diverse community but also for allowing Kirkland residents to live where they work; providing our schools, city and businesses with a reliable workforce; reducing congestion on our streets with more effective and efficient transportation options; and ensuring a welcoming community.

Morgan: It’s important to me to have the bulk of development along main arterial streets, around transportation hubs and current urban centers in hopes of preserving the character of our lower-density neighborhoods and waterfront areas.

The general election is Nov. 5.

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