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Kenmore Council choices: Trust me or include me | Letter
I want to live in a community that includes me rather than asks me to simply trust it.
In 2010, we chose Kenmore as our home over all other Puget Sound communities (my wife, beagle and two kids).
Having regularly attended and listened to council meetings since April, the council’s approach to some topics feels like “trust me” rather than “include me” – especially in relation to my professional expertise in government financial matters.
Did you know that our city started 2013 with a brand new “strategic opportunities fund?" Did you know it was filled with more than $2.5 million of reserve funds the city had accumulated in excess of state law?
That amount is a lot of our money, would you like to be asked how to spend it, save it or return it?
I wanted you to be involved, and decided to run for city council (www.KenforKenmore.com). My proposal back in May was to use a method called participatory budgeting that has been successfully applied around the world and in cities like Chicago and New York. Check out the short (49 second) explanatory video at www.participatorybudgeting.org.
Unfortunately, for those of us who want to be included, more than $1 million of the strategic opportunities fund has already been spent or committed with little or no opportunity to understand or comment on the choices our council has made.
(Technically, the city has exceeded its legally-adopted budget in this strategic opportunities fund by more than $500,000 as of the monthly August financial report at the city’s website).
Three examples of “not being included” are:
1. The $238,100 “pilot” business incubator – which does not have a formal business plan for itself but requires one of participants (per staff report, page 2 to the council on July 15).
2. The $776,800 purchase in July of an empty lot on State Route 522 that citizens never had time or information to comment on. It was not in the budget and all discussion seems to have happened in closed sessions.
3. The roughly $3 million generated by manipulating the “affordable housing” definitions on June 24 for the sale of the upper parcel of Kenmore Village. This also resulted in 30 less affordable housing units than were anticipated in the deed restriction from King County. I don’t yet know where this money is headed; hopefully we the citizens will have substantial input.
I worked as a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) in California, am the president-elect of the Association of Government Accountants – Seattle Chapter, and serve on the financial review committee for the Arrowhead PTA. My hope is to live in the best possible community, and I think that means we listen to each other before making big financial decisions.
Participatory budgeting is a readily available tool to help us as a community and I will do everything possible to get you more involved if you vote for Ken.
Ken Smith, Kenmore