Community involvement shows with selection for vacant city council seat | Editorial

The Kirkland City Council had a tough decision this week. The city received 26 applications for the newly vacated Kirkland City Council position. In 16 years as a journalist, I have never seen so much interest in a vacant council position. Last time the council had an open position 17 people applied, but that is still a nearly 50 percent increase. Kudos to all the residents of Kirkland who threw their hat in the ring. We always need more voices to come forward and participate in the governing process.

All of those residents will have another chance to participate in the governing process next November when position 2, along with four other Kirkland City Council positions, is up for re-election.

But the council has shown a knack for finding good people to represent the residents of Kirkland.

Former Kirkland City Council appointee Shelley Kloba was elected to the state Legislature from the 1st District in November, opening up position 2 on the Kirkland City Council. No matter your political bent, we all can say that we wish Kloba nothing but the best in representing Kirkland in Olympia. The Kirkland City Council has a rich history of sending its members to Olympia. Rep. Larry Springer is a former Kirkland mayor, along with Rep. Joan McBride.

We almost lost another very talented council member, and someone who cares deeply about our community, to Olympia in Toby Nixon. The former state representative would have been a great pick to replace Andy Hill in the state Senate. We also wish Sen. Dino Rossi, who ultimately was chosen for the 45th District seat, good luck in Olympia. Nixon often has a minority voice on the Kirkland City Council, but it is important to have all ideas represented so an informed decision can be made, not just one idea that bounces around in an echo chamber. It is the sign of a good governing body when conflicting perspective can be heard, represented and debated without animosity.

Nixon also represents another minority on the council — those from the 2011 annexation neighborhoods of Kirkland. The annexation of the Juanita, Finn Hill and Kingsgate (Evergreen Hill) neighborhoods nearly doubled the size of the city.

Even the people who have been finalists for open positions in council have turned out to be good council members.

Deputy Mayor Jay Arnold, who narrowly lost out to Kloba in 2013 and won election that same year, has shown himself to be a good voice for many in the community. He is also someone who has the ability to digest complex issues, listen to the public and make informed decisions.

The newest pick for the Kirkland City Council, Jon Pascal, was also a finalist in 2013. He understands the issues the annexation neighborhoods face and currently resides in Juanita after living on Finn Hill for many years. He is also a former Kirkland Planning Commission member, Finn Hill Neighborhood Association board member and a former transportation commissioner.

I have personally known Pascal and his family for five years. I can’t imagine a more thoughtful, level-headed and qualified person to represent all Kirkland residents.

I think it is an extremely beneficial that the council has chosen someone with an extensive knowledge about transportation issues. His knowledge will be invaluable to the council as it grapples with the region’s continuing congestion issues. Being a former Planning Commission member is also an invaluable experience. Many council members have served on the commission prior to moving on to the Kirkland City Council, including Arnold.

Like most of the council members in the area, including those in Bothell and Kenmore, I believe the Kirkland City Council members have their neighbors’ best interests at heart — even if we don’t always agree on every issue. They are elected to listen and make decisions on our behalf and they take that seriously.

As the editor of the Kirkland Reporter, I also have a job to do, and we will hold all the council members collective feet to the fire if things get hot.

Your city council impacts your life more than any other governing body, so get involved and let your voice be heard respectfully.

Matt Phelps is the regional editor of the Kirkland, Bothell and Kenmore Reporter newspapers.