The city of Kirkland recently launched a community outreach campaign in response to the recent Menchie’s incident that left Byron Ragland feeling unwelcome as a black man in the community.
Nearly 100 locals rallied together at City Hall on Nov. 27 to discuss issues, work toward a solution to make Kirkland a more welcoming place and avoid future incidents similar to Ragland’s in favor of resolving potential issues in a positive way. The city teamed up with Kirkland Safe and Kirkland Indivisible to host this meeting, which was the first of several in an efforts to help locals understand their neighbors’ different points of views.
“While I would have preferred that this Menchie’s incident never happened, it could not have happened in a better city,” said city manager Kurt Triplett reading a statement from Kirkland City Councilmember Tom Neir. “When the dust settles I’m confident that we as a community will be stronger, fairer, more self aware, more inclusive and, if possible, an even a better place to visit, work, play and live. The first step towards achieving that vision starts here tonight.”
The event was a town hall meeting, during which attending community members took turns speaking on how they felt and what they’d like to see happen. Listening locals were then able to show how much they agreed or disagreed with what was being said.
CEO of Leadership Eastside, James Whitfield moderated the event alongside Debbie Lacy, co-founder of the Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition.
“Part of the work that I do on a daily basis has to do with helping people navigate what they share, what’s different and how do you bring those things together to make progress,” Whitfield said. “Many times it starts with simply understanding that there are different perspectives in the room.”
The main theme of the event was acknowledging the varying views within Kirkland’s community and future event will further expand on this. Whitfield doesn’t know where this outreach effort will go, but he expects the city will work with community groups to interpret and implement what locals want to happen.
“Right now, the city and several community groups are trying to figure out the most effective way to engage the largest number of people,” Whitfield said.
Whitfield acknowledged that the event couldn’t be a perfect representation of all the views within the entire community because many people didn’t attend for one reason or another. However, he and city officials emphasized that all respectful views are welcome at any future events and will be met with equal respect.
“We can talk about [being] safe, inclusive and welcoming, and yes, those are words on paper,” Lacy said. “Anybody can put those words on paper and pass a resolution at a council meeting. But here’s the thing, times like this are tests for the actions that follow the words.”
For more coverage on the Menchie’s incident and local outreach efforts, visit www.kirklandreporter.com.