Kirkland Conversations survey: From good to great

Today we begin an experiment in grass roots democracy – Kirkland Conversations.

Kirkland Conversations is an attempt to inform Kirkland residents about local issues, encourage small group discussion and invite citizen response to questions relevant to all of us. Every few months the Reporter will publish a briefing paper that will give background information about a topic of concern. A brief opinion survey with two or three options regarding the topic considered will follow each article. Kirkland residents are encouraged to read the article, gather in small groups, discuss and express opinions by completing the survey below.

We will publish the results and pass along ideas to the Kirkland City Council.

We hope small Kirkland Conversation groups will develop naturally throughout the city in coffee shops, at the family table, Kirkland Alliance of Neighborhoods, service clubs, schools, churches and book clubs.

Too often we are better informed about national and international issues than we are of local issues. Let’s read the background articles, have our discussion and let our opinions be heard – grassroots democracy at its best!

From Good to Great

As we begin this series of Kirkland Conversations articles, we decided to celebrate the many good things we already have in our city. To introduce this positive approach we have been inspired by the book “Good to Great,” by Jim Collins. In his book Collins discusses his study of the way good organizations can be turned from “good” to “great.” Collins believes that the biggest challenge to becoming great when you are already good is that the process requires changes, something that can be controversial and stressful.

Three of the characteristics Collins found critical to success were selfless leadership, rigorous focus and a culture of discipline. If we were to apply these characteristics to our city, it would require that we develop a focus on where to commit our time and resources and be disciplined so that once we decide on a course, we see it through to completion.

The January 2010 city Citizen Survey has identified many of the positive aspects of living in our city. Residents continue to value the small town atmosphere, quality of life, its location and physical environment. 9 in 10 rated Kirkland “excellent” or “good” as a place to live. Citizens continue to give high marks to Emergency Medical Services, Fire, Police, Garbage, Recycling and Parks.

We believe this is the ideal time to have this conversation as June 1, 2011 will mark an important point in Kirkland’s history. That’s the day annexation of the Finn Hill, Juanita and Kingsgate neighborhoods will officially happen, taking Kirkland from a city of just under 50,000 people to one of over 80,000. No small change. Annexations are nothing new for Kirkland. Over its 104-year history Kirkland has grown through five major annexations, (a few minor ones) and in 1968, a consolidation with Houghton.

We know how to do this. From welcoming our new neighbors, to providing “Kirkland Quality” services; the appropriate processes will be set in motion and done well. And yet, a major change like this provides us with an opportunity, an opportunity to assess and continue what is “good” about Kirkland today but also to begin the discussion of how we can make our expanded community “great” for tomorrow.

To begin this conversation, we have posed some questions below. Create your discussion groups, get together and discuss the questions. Please fill out the survey below. We will publish the results that will be relayed to the Kirkland City Council.

Again, we are fortunate to live in a wonderful community. Given the challenges that lay ahead, how do we keep it special and hopefully make it even better. Let’s have a conversation.

Kirkland Conversations is a partnership between the Kirkland Reporter and various community leaders.

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