The Kirkland Mystique - What is it and how do we keep it?

Kirkland has a great reputation. Those of us who live here know what a special place it is, but Kirkland is admired in the Puget Sound region and around the country. Our town has a unique and special quality that I call the "Kirkland mystique."

What makes Kirkland wonderful? In my opinion, it is a combination of many things. People who live and work in Kirkland care about it. Our residents, citizens and business owners are very involved in Kirkland civic life and in planning for its future. Our city has incredible natural beauty. We have Lake Washington as our western border and Bridle Trails State Park to the south. We see the Olympic Mountains to the west and the Cascades to the east. Kirkland has beautiful trees and landscaping, our park system is superb and our roadways are well maintained.

We have a wonderful variety of interesting neighborhoods, from the older, historic neighborhoods, to our downtown condominium communities, to the newly built innovative housing developments. Norkirk, West of Market, Everest and Houghton are the ultimate urban neighborhoods that are close to everything and have a variety of well maintained housing types and sizes. North and South Rose Hill retain much of the beauty and character of their rural roots.

From Juanita and Totem Lake to Highlands, Lakeview and Moss Bay, all the Kirkland neighborhoods have special qualities.

Downtown, the heart and soul of our city, has a traditional Main Street ambiance while providing a delightful variety of shopping experiences. Kirkland's restaurants, located downtown and in neighborhood shopping areas, are excellent. We even have a hardware store coming to Bridle Trails Shopping Center.

Kirkland has a small town feel. I experience this every time I see someone I know when I shop, walk, visit a park, go to a restaurant or coffee shop or attend an event in Kirkland. Everywhere I go, I see people to say hello to. This makes me feel bonded to my community. This is the importance of civic life - meeting and greeting people you know. This is what human scale and pedestrian oriented means.

This is what I call the Kirkland mystique, and it is something to be proud of. What can we do to preserve the Kirkland mystique? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Get involved in your community. Everyone has something to offer. Become involved in community activities and planning. Start at the beginning and help shape decisions. Don't wait until the planning has been done and the decisions have been made, and then complain. Even if you only have a small amount of time, your input is important. Kirkland needs to hear from all of its citizens.

2. Attend local events. In order to have "community" you must interact with your community. Meet your neighbors by attending the community events sponsored by the city of Kirkland and other great organizations.

3. Be a leader; mentor a leader. Leadership is something anyone can learn. Whatever your interest or talent, share it with your community and take the lead in an organization or project. I started working on local issues years ago with no knowledge or experience. I joined with others and we learned as we worked. I have encouraged other community members to do the same. Today, many of the people I worked with are on Kirkland boards and commissions, are active in neighborhood organizations and are making a difference in their community. Community leadership is something we all have the potential for.

4. Keep partisanship out of local politics. Partisanship is something that divides us. In local politics, it doesn't matter what side of the political aisle we are on, we can unite around what is best for Kirkland.

5. Learn about your city budget and finances. It takes resources to preserve the Kirkland mystique. From our dedicated police and fire services, to our road maintenance, to our parks, to our city government, money is needed to run our city. The revenue that funds our city budget comes from sales taxes, property taxes, utility taxes and business taxes. Only 15 percent of the property tax you pay goes to Kirkland and that 15 percent is invested in services that protect and enhance your quality of life. Our city is very well managed, but our expenses are rising and our revenue must also rise. Learn about your city budget and decide how important our quality of life is and how much you are willing to pay for it.

6. Be civil. We have our differences, yes. We don't always agree on issues. But we can remain friends and work together if we treat each other with civility and respect. I have seen groups of people with differing opinions and agendas unite around a shared goal or vision and accomplish amazing things.

7. Cherish and protect our natural beauty. This precious resource needs constant stewardship. Lake Washington, our tree canopy, our streams and waterways and our urban forests are just some of our natural resources. We have so much natural beauty it is easy to take it for granted. It is fragile, and needs our care and commitment.

8. Go beyond your own area of interest. Become educated on issues that are important to other neighborhoods. Consider the needs of Kirkland businesses. Expand your horizons and learn more about the entire community of Kirkland. Learn about how many of our quality of life issues are affected by regional decisions.

9. Spend your dollars in Kirkland. The dollars you spend in Kirkland translate into tax revenue that pays for our excellent city services, including public safety. The more we collect in sales tax revenue, the less we have to rely on other tax revenue. This is the best opportunity we have to keep our property tax low.

These are some of the ways we can work together to preserve the Kirkland mystique, the excellent quality of life we enjoy in Kirkland. Please join me in doing what we can to protect our beautiful city and make it even better. Thank you.

Jessica Greenway has been a member of the Kirkland City Council since January 2004 and is a certified financial planner. She has lived in Kirkland for 16 years.

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