Exterior of Kirkland Fire Station 22. This station was funded through a bond approved by the public in 1978 similar to the developing November 2020 ballot measure. Blake Peterson/staff photo

Exterior of Kirkland Fire Station 22. This station was funded through a bond approved by the public in 1978 similar to the developing November 2020 ballot measure. Blake Peterson/staff photo

Kirkland council establishes advisory group for upcoming fire ballot

The ballot measure will be voted on by the public in November 2020.

The Kirkland City Council unanimously voted at its Sept. 17 meeting to establish a community safety advisory group (CSAG) for developing a fire and emergency services ballot measure.

The group will review and recommend funding mechanisms, council capital and operating elements for the measure. The measure is slated for the November 2020 general election.

Council had previously discussed the CSAG at its Sept. 3 meeting.

The ballot measure is considered the second phase of a public safety program adopted by the council in June 2018. The first part of the proposition, which predominantly focuses on enhanced police service in Kirkland, was passed in November 2018. It began tangibly making progress in the community in September through the implementation of a proactive police unit, which is one of several included components.

The second part of the program will upgrade fire stations and resources, and support increased hiring. The ultimate objective of the second phase of the approach is to update the accessibility and quality of emergency medical and fire services in the city.

The fire ballot measure connects to the 2012 fire strategic plan, which showed a need for more staffing, equipment and technology for fire and emergency medical services. The plan also necessitated improvement on Kirkland fire stations.

In response to the findings, council adopted resolution R-5239 at a February 2017 council meeting, which, according to a letter to the city manager shared at the Sept. 3 meeting, gave direction to the city’s 2017-18 work program “to explore potential ballot measures for fire station modernization and public safety operations to further the goals of public safety, dependable infrastructure and financial stability.”

Continued exploration of the fire measure, however, was deferred by the council in December to 2020 so that it could first address property tax concerns in the city. The measure became part of the two-part safety improvement program structure in June 2018 following a proposal for the multi-pronged approach a month earlier. In February, the 2019-20 city work program ranked the fire ballot as its No. 1 priority.

The ballot measure is due to King County by Aug. 4, 2020. At the Sept. 3 meeting, Kirkland Fire Chief Joe Sanford presented a preliminary list comprising potential advisory group members and asked councilmembers for feedback on who they would like to see in the group. The list included delegates from each of the 12 neighborhood associations and a former or current councilmember acting as the head chair. Additional representatives from Kirkland organizations included The Sophia Way, Hopelink, Kiwanis Club of Kirkland, Google and EvergreenHealth.

The majority of councilmembers cited specific organizations they wanted in the group at the Sept. 3 meeting. Councilmember Dave Asher recommended the addition of someone from the Eastside Business Association, with councilmember Kelli Curtis calling for representation from the Houghton Community Council. Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold voiced interest in including someone involved with the city’s senior council; Mayor Penny Sweet said that she would like to see someone from the Kirkland Business Roundtable.

Councilmember Jon Pascal asked that people who aren’t affiliated with any general city groups still be considered.

“It’s important to me that we have different representatives from different areas…I want those people that are passionate, not just those people that are representing organizations because they need to,” he said at the Sept. 3 meeting.

As a result of council feedback, representatives from six community organizations, including the senior council and the Kirkland Business Roundtable, have been added. Sweet has been confirmed as the chair-slash-convener of the group. Applications for the two at-large community member positions will soon be open to the public. According to a Sept. 26 press release, the CSAG is on track to have representation from 40 groups.

An amendment was also made to the resolution, R-5386, for the group adoption, regulating city manager recruitment of CSAG members. After the council’s establishment of the group, Sanford said that he and his colleagues will begin the process of contacting all stakeholder organizations and begin the at-large community member appointment process.

Before the council unanimously passed R-5386, Curtis underlined the importance of keeping diversity in mind during at-large position recruitment.

“I would love for these at-large positions to be as inclusive as possible,” she said. She also suggested that the application focus on general interest questions rather than background and education.

Although city manager Kurt Triplett noted that the meetings will be open to the public and that the city is in the process of setting up a regularly updated landing page, Asher stressed that the city be further diligent about transparency as the development of the ballot measure progresses at meetings.

“We need to be pushing this info out,” he said. “We need to be getting it out to each of these groups … we need to invite the media, give them a ride, whatever is necessary…we need to get this published throughout the process. A post-meeting summary is one thing, but we need to actively push.”

The first CSAG meeting is currently scheduled for Oct. 29. CSAG recommendations on the measure will be presented to the council in March 2020.

For more information about the measure, go to the most recent council agenda.

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