By Amy Walen and Cassandra Sage
Kirkland has placed Proposition 1, a community safety sales tax measure on the November ballot. We would like to share with you how approving it will keep our students safer.
Numerous school shootings in our nation galvanized youth and adults across the country to demand that governments at all levels reduce gun violence in schools. Throughout the spring, parents and students marched to Kirkland City Hall and the Lake Washington School District and implored the city council and the school board to take action. The city and the district also hosted a joint Town Hall to hear how we could work together to keep our students safer. We listened and we acted.
On March 19, the school board unanimously passed a proclamation committing to comprehensive and concrete actions to ensure safety at all schools in the district. Placing a school resource officer in each middle school is an example. As outlined on the LWSD website, “These officers not only protect our schools, they connect with our students. As they get to know students and gain their trust, the school SRO is often the person who students will confide in about possible safety concerns.”
On May 1, the city council unanimously adopted resolution R-5312, launching extensive community engagement to identify specific actions to reduce gun violence and improve community safety. We received hundreds of comments from experts, parents and children, and from stakeholders on all sides of the gun safety conversation. We found extraordinary common ground in the comments. Our community seeks a comprehensive approach to reduce gun violence, especially mass shootings, suicides and homicides. Our residents want to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children and those with mental illness or suicidal thoughts. They want effective mental health services, student counseling services, after school programs for at-risk youth, and suicide and domestic violence prevention programs. They encouraged us to help homeless families and children, and keep our schools safe and secure. Residents and businesses also asked that we improve community safety by stopping mail theft, car prowls, burglaries and shoplifting.
Kirkland’s Prop. 1 contains funding to provide all of these programs by adding just one penny on a $10 purchase through a 0.01 percent sales tax increase. Prop. 1 will generate $1.8 million per year that will be invested in new proactive police positions to focus on property crimes. Prop. 1 will fund a new neighborhood resource officer, paired with a mental health professional to help those struggling with mental illness. Prop. 1 provides hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for human services, mental health services, youth counseling and assistance to homeless families and students. The measure also pays for gun safety education and gun safes and gun locks to prevent firearms from being lost or stolen.
Finally, Prop. 1 will match school district funding to provide SROs in Kamiakin Middle School, Finn Hill Middle School, Kirkland Middle School and the International Community School. These SROs are intended to keep students physically, socially and emotionally safe and to build positive relationships between students and police. Our SROs follow best practices, are selected by the Kirkland Police Department and complete extensive training in crisis de-escalation and working with students before they are assigned to a school. SROs do not enforce school discipline. They teach classes, provide counseling, create connections and divert kids from the criminal justice system. SROs in middle schools would be new to Kirkland. Both the school board and the city council are committed to engage the community to ensure the new SROs provide positive support to students of regardless of race, religion, ability, immigration status or income level. Working together, we can make our middle school SRO program one of the best in the nation.
Prop. 1 will make our schools and our community safer. That is why Prop. 1 has been endorsed by every member of the school board, every city councilmember, the Kirkland Police Guild, Kirkland Chamber of Commerce, Houghton Community Council, neighborhood leaders, church leaders and many more.
Please join us. Vote yes on Prop. 1!
Amy Walen is the mayor of Kirkland and Cassandra Sage is a Kirkland resident and Lake Washington School District school board member.