Time for Kingsgate-Juanita-Finn Hill to explore free agency | Scott St. Clair

To those living in Upper Juanita, Finn Hill and Kingsgate (the Proposed Annexation Area), the message is now clear: On annexation Kirkland fiddles while the PAA get burned.

To those living in Upper Juanita, Finn Hill and Kingsgate (the Proposed Annexation Area), the message is now clear: On annexation Kirkland fiddles while the PAA get burned.

After months of delay, postponement and navel gazing by a majority on the Kirkland City Council — and especially in light of King County’s budget crisis and recently announced intention to slash public safety efforts in unincorporated areas of the county — it’s time for the PAAs to Curt Flood.

Remember Curt Flood? He was an all-star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals in the ‘60s who effectively created free agency for professional athletes by challenging — all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — baseball’s reserve clause, which made a player the property of a team even after his contract expired. While Flood lost his case, his argument prevailed in salary arbitration for two other players that struck down the clause.

Politically the PAA is in Flood’s shoes. Consigned years ago to be within Kirkland’s sphere of influence, the PAA was without options. State law and County policy favored annexation by Kirkland with significant legislative efforts enacted to grease the financial skids in the city’s favor.

But that was then and this is now. The realities of today are that the City Council is deadlocked on development issues; financially, Kirkland is beginning to gasp for breath; existing city residents aren’t thrilled with annexation; growth in the PAA and in the surrounding cities of Bothell, Kenmore and Woodinville have rendered moot much of the underlying rationale of 14 years ago when the boundary lines for the PAA were drawn; and – this is new and significant – Kirkland is rapidly not just losing friends among elected officials at the county and state levels, but making enemies.

In politics, when you make enemies there is a price to pay.

Sources within county government tell me County Executive Ron Sims is so upset with Kirkland that if the city needed the loan of a paper clip to save it from ruin, he might not return the call. Last month, he wrote a letter to Kirkland Mayor Jim Lauinger that chastised the city for its delays and threatened it if the city attempted any piece-meal annexation of revenue-producing bits of the PAA.

The letter, co-signed by County Councilwoman Jane Hague, closes with this sentence: “It is now time to move forward and allow Kingsgate-Juanita-Finn Hill residents and the county to explore other options.”

In other words, it’s time for the PAAs to pursue their own destiny – to become free agents and affiliate with whomever is willing to cut them the best deal.

With whom might that be? Of the three candidates mentioned earlier, two are too small and too new as city governments to swallow the entire PAA – it has to be an all or nothing deal. Only one, Bothell, has the municipal heft to get the job done. Not only that, but Bothell is ready, and — here’s the rub — eager to pursue annexation.

So eager, in fact, that if Kirkland continues to cut bait rather than fish, look for Bothell to make a unilateral move, and soon. Action — how refreshing.

In the meantime, PAA residents will have to decide whether to orient themselves to an indecisive and conflict-ridden south or a pro-active north that’s looking forward to embracing them. Since what will drive their decision-making are concerns over public safety and other municipal services, the city that makes the best offer will get the most attention.

If only one city actually has a proposal to make, however, then the decision should be self-evident. The time for tabling the issue or postponing the decision is gone – those who live in the PAA deserve better, and right now Bothell is looking pretty doggone good!

Kirkland – you in this game or not?

Scott St. Clair plays his bagpipe and looks at the world from his Kirkland home. Learn about him at www.scottstclair.com. Reach him at scottstc@comcast.net.