Let me begin by saying I appreciate all the hours of hard work and the professionalism you put into your jobs as city council members. As many of you are aware, I’m a big fan of the work you’ve done on the Cross Kirkland Corridor. The interim trail is incredible. The Master Plan is thorough and well thought out.
I am also a big fan of the outreach you’ve done to the neighborhoods, including ours, Central Houghton. After the council visited our neighborhood association meeting in November, I was convinced to take over as chair, because I heard a commitment from City Council, that you would listen to what my neighbors were saying and would act with their interests in mind.
That brings us to the Waddell property purchase. In the name of expediency, the City seems be taking steps that bypass the type of public discussion and process that should be associated with this type of purchase. It is unclear exactly what the City gains by not being more transparent in this transaction, especially given the contentious history of these properties.
As chair of the Central Houghton Neighborhood Association people are asking me whether the Association thinks this purchase is a good thing or not. I have difficulty saying one-way or the other because the criteria by which the property was selected for purchase has not been clearly defined. The City should only enter the real estate public marketplace when it is in the clear interest of the City and it follows a very clearly defined public process. This is not the case with the Waddell property.
The memorandum recommending the purchase of this property does not have objective evidence to support the purchase at a premium over a value arrived at by the City’s own appraisal team.
There has been no public process to determine whether the City should purchase the property. How can the public understand what the costs should be or what the benefits are going to be, without any transparency and openness to this purchase?
Another reason I have difficulty supporting the purchase at this time is because there has been no effort to see where it ranks with regards to the City’s other goals. Last week, I sat in on the State of the City Address sponsored by KAN. The two most discussed items from the audience were the ARC and the status of the North Kirkland Fire Station. Without even being part of those neighborhoods, I’m aware of the hard work done by the City and the neighborhoods in vetting those projects as they wind their way through a very robust public process. I also heard Finn Hill ask about the expansion of their parks and where the money might come from for that. The City Manager and the Mayor gave thoughtful, well-reasoned responses regarding these projects, exactly because of the public discussion that’s gone on around them. Where is that public discussion for the Waddell purchase?
So, I’m urging the City to postpone this action until a sharper picture of how this purchase affects our neighborhood; and how this purchase, as well as future purchases along the CKC, will be publicly vetted.