Kirkland City Council candidates participated in a forum hosted by Lutheran Peace Fellowship on Oct. 14. The forum was a collaboration with Faith Action Network and Indivisible Kirkland. The forum was held at Holy Spirit Lutheran Church and moderated by pastor Mary-Alyce Burleigh.
Included in the panel were candidates Kelli Curtis (Pos. 1 and unopposed), incumbent Toby Nixon and David Schwartz (Pos. 4), Neal Black and Martin Morgan (Pos. 5), and Amy Falcone and Jory Hamilton (Pos. 6).
The purpose of the event was to give the candidates a chance to introduce themselves, speak on key city subjects and respond to questions posed by the community. The focus of the forum was on social justices issues including racial equity in Kirkland, climate change, police reforms and homelessness/affordable housing.
The candidates were asked if they would support hiring a city staff member dedicated to fostering racial equity in Kirkland, like Bellevue has.
Hamilton said Kirkland can look to Bellevue as a model but he didn’t know if it would be worth tax payers’ money.
Falcone said she supports efforts for the city government to have a focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. As a PTA president and as a mom with an individual with a disability, Falcone said diversity is important and it’s something she’s advocated for. She believes it’s important to have a variety of diversity, whether that be racial and ethnic, age, gender, and socio-economic status diversity. She noted that hiring a full-time city staff member would be a priority decision the city would have to make for funding. To encourage more engagement and diversity engagement at City Hall, Falcone said she would like to see more efforts like appointing commission and board members with more diverse backgrounds or having child care at City Hall for those residents who cannot afford it.
Curtis, who is running unopposed, said bringing on an equity diversity hire would depend on budgets but otherwise, she would support the effort. Curtis said a small fix she is currently pushing for is changing the board and commission application form. The form currently asks how long the applicant has lived in Kirkland, their education, and what their job is. Curtis said she thinks that can be a barrier for many people and she would rather have the form ask questions like what skills and passions they bring and why they are interested in the position. She also added that the city could could create smaller commitments like civic ambassadors who reach out to their communities to get people involved.
“We need to use an equity lens on everything that we’re doing in the city and move towards creating a diversity position staff,” she said.
When asked about what Kirkland can do beyond Proposition 1 to reduce gun violence, various candidates said the issue lies at the state level.
Morgan, who grew up hunting, said weapon owners should beheld accountable. He said there is no need to have automatic weapons as they’re not needed anywhere. Morgan suggested if needed, bullets could be taxed and limit clips.
“The safety of our kids in our area is more important than somebody that needs to have a gun to do whatever they want with it…You’re never going to take guns away from everybody,” he said. “You [have to] regulate it somehow.”
Schwartz shared a list of what can happen for gun safety. He suggested there needs to be a database for handgun registry, raise the requirement for handgun possession to that of conceal carry, repeal the Second Amendment, let guns become a state rights issue, mandatory training and education for handgun purchases and handgun owner purchase insurance.
Candidates spoke on their engagement with affordable housing and homelessness.
Nixon, who spoke first, said homelessness is an issue that is “near and dear” to his heart. He currently serves on the board of Attain Housing and said he has supported the organization’s work for many years. Nixon said he’s been actively engaged in the work that’s been done in the city to make it possible to build more types of housing, including the women and family shelter that is currently being built.
“I don’t think that we’re doing enough yet,” he said. “We need to find more ways to build more housing that more people can afford…we need to look at the regulations that we currently have that drive up the cost of housing that make it difficult for the developers to build the type of housing our community needs.”
Black said the issue of homelessness is going to require many different solutions to solve. Being on the board of trustees at the King County Bar Association — which oversees the housing justice project that represents low-wage earners who are being evicted form their home — Black said he has testified before the Senate and the House in support of modernizing the Residential Landlord-Tenant Act to give people more time and to give judges more equitable discretion.
“This is really important work we’re doing at the King County Bar Association and Housing Justice Project,” he said. “We’re also putting checks in the hands of lawyers in the courthouse in King County through the home base program, so they can make spot grants to people who are having a temporary setback. We can pay the landlord right there on the spot.”