I am running for re-election to City Council because I want to continue to help shape the future of our wonderful community, especially at this pivotal time as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. My work as a councilmember and many years as a community volunteer continue to shape the issues that I work to champion as one of your representatives on the City Council. I plan to continue working on the following priorities:
Providing Greater Transportation Options
Working to improve and invest in our transportation system continues to be a major passion of mine. There is no single solution to improve our mobility, so my goal is to focus on a range of investments to all modes of travel. This includes small safety projects in our neighborhoods to help manage cut-through traffic and make it safer to walk and bike to school. It also includes larger corridor investments such as improving Juanita Drive and enhancing Central Way between downtown and the eventual bus rapid transit station at the I-405/85th Street interchange. We must also continue making progress in improving the transportation system in and around Totem Lake, such as working with WSDOT to build the NE 132nd Street interchange and creating safe and accessible connections to the Cross Kirkland Corridor.
I have been successful at implementing specific policies and projects that have benefited the City, such as the Transportation Master Plan, Safer Routes to School Action Plan, Neighborhood Safety Program, and improvements to the 100th Avenue NE corridor and Eastrail/Cross Kirkland Corridor. As a transportation professional, and member of King County's Regional Transit Committee and Washington State's Active Transportation Safety Council, I bring a strong background and existing relationships to work with our regional partners to address ongoing congestion issues, improve pedestrian and bicycle safety, provide reliable and convenient transit options, and implement the latest technology to better operate our existing infrastructure.
Investing in our Parks and Open Space
As our community grows, there is a greater reliance on our natural open spaces and park system for places to gather, find solitude, and recreate. I am proud of my past efforts in advocating and bringing people together for the shared purpose of preserving our remaining open spaces, and enhancing our existing parks. This desire of mine was cultivated through my involvement with the Finn Hill Neighborhood Alliance, where I had the opportunity to help secure funding to expand Juanita Heights Park and preserve a forested ravine along Simonds Road.
Due to our northwest weather, many of our athletic fields are not able to be used regularly, but there is an increasing demand for our facilities. I am proud that my work on Council has led the City to invest in its first all-season field at 132nd Square Park that will be completed by 2022 and provide greater opportunities for a range of activities and sports leagues. I also will work to continue the expansion of the Green Kirkland Partnership, which is critical in helping maintain our existing parks and open spaces. I also want to look for ways we can better manage and protect our trees in publicly owned rights of way. Finally, I will continue to work with King County and our other regional partners to help preserve and enhance our remaining forested open spaces, such as Finn Hill’s vision of a Green Loop Trail.
Enhancing our Community Safety Services
The safety of the public is our number one priority as a local government. That is why a majority of the tax revenue we collect goes towards our Fire, Police, and Human Services Departments. However, our existing resources and emergency services staff are being challenged to maintain the high levels of service our community expects due to the growth we are experiencing, as well as the incredible demand for more social services to address issues involving homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. Many of these issues are becoming more pronounced as we navigate the pandemic.
As a member of the public involved in the Fire Strategic Plan and Fire Station Siting Committee, I worked hard to improve emergency response times to our northern neighborhoods. Locating fire stations strategically to provide the best overall response to our community benefits the entire City. I plan to continue working to see the construction of a new Fire Station 27 on the east side of I-405 and refurbishment of Fire Stations 22, 26, and 21. I also plan to work hard to ensure the additional fire and emergency services investments that voters approved in 2020 are implemented as promised. I am committed to finding innovative ways that we can continue to provide high levels of emergency services, and proud to have helped champion the hiring of full-time mental health professionals who work alongside our police officers and firefighters to assist those in crisis.
Responsible Planning with Improved Community Engagement
Our region is experiencing unprecedented growth which is resulting in additional pressures on our existing infrastructure and services. While our future as a City is guided by our Comprehensive Plan and individual neighborhood plans, things do not always occur "as planned." I believe we need to place a higher emphasis on responding to the development pressures we are facing, so that we grow in a manageable and responsible way. Over the past 10 years we have been focused on initiating redevelopment in our downtown and Totem Lake commercial areas. With that development a few years away from being completed, we must continue to find ways to accelerate the completion of our infrastructure to support the new housing and jobs.
I offer a background of navigating land use and planning processes throughout the state, knowing what has and has not worked well. Kirkland is unique in many ways, but one differentiator is how much residents care about the future of the City. I want to continue to look for ways to improve our processes and community engagement so we can have meaningful dialogue with the public, including more town hall style meetings, to discuss the impacts and benefits of current regulations and any proposed changes. I believe the City and neighborhoods have a responsibility to educate residents and business owners on what our current plans envision, why, and what benefits or impacts may result. Planning is often overlooked by many officials, but I see it as critical to the success of how we respond to our housing crisis or need to support small businesses. It is at the planning stage when we are able to have conversations with the community about what they want to see changed and what they value in Kirkland.
Maintaining a Strong Local Economy and Fiscal Responsibility
As a part-owner of a long-standing Kirkland business, I bring the perspective of employers and small business owners. With my business being located in Totem Lake, I have experienced the need for additional commercial space to grow, so it is my desire to achieve a significant and prolonged transformation of this area into a robust and diverse economic center that will retain and attract employers, and bring more housing close to job centers and transit corridors. During my time representing Kirkland, I have actively worked to develop policies, regulations, and infrastructure strategies to achieve that vision.
With a significant funding gap identified for the 2022-2023 budget cycle, I will bring an eye toward the future, ensuring that the decisions we make today consider the long-term cost impacts down the road. In order to address increasing demand of City services, I plan to work hard to seek opportunities to boost economic development to generate additional sales tax revenue, leverage existing tax dollars with outside revenue, and consider ways in which technology can improve efficiencies to maintain and enhance the services our community demands.
Working to Address Housing Affordability
With housing prices at an all-time high in Kirkland and housing shortages across the region, it is increasingly important to provide more housing options that are affordable for those who want to live here. Each demographic—elderly, families, immigrants, students, recent graduates, and those who simply struggle to get by—have unique situations, and distinct needs as it relates to housing. We need to ensure that we have a variety of solutions that can address many different needs, lifestyles, and income levels.
As a former Planning Commissioner, I supported regulations to encourage more cottage housing, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), transit oriented development, and residential suites in the City. All serve a different purpose, and all are needed to help address housing affordability. I am proud of my work on Council in supporting affordable housing options such as revised regulations to promote the "missing middle" and reducing regulatory barriers that provide efficiencies in building houses or multi-family units. I have helped make sure that Kirkland leads the way in piloting workforce housing options and works collaboratively with our regional partners like A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH) and the King County Housing Authority to implement housing solutions that support our diverse population. I am particularly proud of working to fund and locate a shelter for women and families that provides emergency housing and services to help people get back on their feet. The shelter opened in 2020, which was an important milestone as it addresses a significant need across the eastside. I plan to continue to support efforts to address our housing affordability issues, help transition people into permanent housing, and doing more as a community regarding all things housing.