Polls slam City Council, Staff, Manager

Opinion polls gave failing grades to six of seven City Council Members, the work of the City Council as a whole, the City Staff and the City Manager.

The polls, conducted on this blog, are, to be sure, unscientific. But an unscientific poll conducted to gauge support for the Community Center proved to come within 2.5 percentage points of the final result.

Graphs of the Opinion polling about the City appear below the jump.

Except for Council Member Ramiro Valderrama, whose Favorable score was 78%, each council member’s favorables-unfavorables fell below any passing grade metric anywhere in any school.

Approve-disapprove polling for the City Council as a while, the City Staff and the City Manager also were failing scores.

And Don Gerend, who has been a council member since the formation of the City in 1999 and who has told people he intends to run for another term next year (after 14 years in office), should retire, respondents voted. Gerend, Mayor Tom Odell, Deputy Mayor John James and John Curley are up for election next year. Curley said when he was campaigning in 2009 he planned to serve only one term. If he follows through, this guarantees one open seat in the 2013 election.

My analysis of each poll results follows the graphs.

City Council

Government generally is not well-regarded these days and this result probably is not only indicative of a general disenchantment but may also be influenced by the hotly debated Community Center. Although the City’s own Herbert polling gave the City glowing remarks, doubts arose about whether the survey was flawed. Given the data cited in the sruvey–88% were reported satisfied–I think the survey is questionable. Given how close my poll for the Community Center came to the final vote, I’m thinking the polls in this post are probably closer to the mark.

City Manager

City Manager Ben Yacizi has been in his position for about 12 years. In Sammamish’s council-manager form of government, the City Manager is the Chief Executive Officer; the Council acts as a Board of Directors and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are, essentially, figureheads. Yacizi hires and fires staff and runs the daily operations. The Council sets policy and Yazici is supposed to carry it out–though I can point to a few times when he hasn’t.

If you talk to some Council Members and some of those in other jurisdictions who deal with Yacizi, and if you talk with some staff members candidly, you’ll find a general consensus that Yacizi is a micro-manager. In the eight years I was on City committees and Commissions, I found that Yacizi was pretty inflexible and not particularly open to ideas not his own. I found the staff to be far more willing to be flexible and creative but were stifled by orders from Yacizi.

Citizens generally deal with the staff and not Yacizi–but the results above clearly indicate a problem.

City Staff

See my comment above under City Manager; they are completely relevant here. The greater Disapproval rating reflects the fact that citizens deal more with the staff than with the City Manager.

Council Members

I found these results to be the most fascinating. I expected Whitten to be at the top of the Unfavorable rating, and she was. She’s not well regarded by her fellow Council Members. In the eight years on the Council from 2003-2011, her fellow members rebuffed her every attempt to be selected Mayor. Every other Council Member who wanted the slot got their turn. This says volumes. She was vulnerable in the last election but faced a candidate who did less campaigning than Whitten, if that’s possible–and cleverly and effectively got labeled the “ghost candidate.” Whitten was reelected as a result.

Tom Vance, who won 68% of the vote against an ineffective candidate who also largely didn’t campaign, has a surprisingly high unfavorable rating. I didn’t expect this.

Also a surprise was Don Gerend’s high unfavorables. Although he was reelected in 2009 with a huge margin, he ran against one of the more unpleasant and obnoxious candidates in Sammamish history, who stood no chance of beating Gerend. I observed at the time that if a credible candidate had run against Gerend, I believed he was vulnerable. I believe this to be even more so in 2013, when Gerend is up for election. He has already told some Council Members he plans to run again.

The results for Valderrama, the only Council Member with a favorable rating, tell me two things: his base with Citizens for Sammamish is reflected in the vote and his fiscal conservatism plays well in the City.

But I am also a bit suspicious that there is a little ballot-stuffing going on. He received 10% more votes than any other question. Still, if I adjust for this and recalculate, he still gets a 75% favorable rating. His base with the Citizens for Sammamish is clearly a strong one.

Don Gerend and another term

Gerend has been on the Council since the first one was formed in 1999. When next year’s election comes up, that will be 14 years. Another term would make it 18 years.

Gerend is clearly the most knowledgeable of the Council Members. He represents Sammamish on various county and state groups. His institutional knowledge is very valuable. But Gerend has changed since he was first elected.

In his early years, Gerend proactively sought to reach out to those with differing opinions and welcomed views other than his own. But beginning in about 2007, other Council Members began complaining he no longer listened to other viewpoints and by 2009, Gerend groused that the Planning Commission (of which I was a part then) “wasn’t listening to the Council” because we forwarded recommendations with which he and the Council disagreed. We then had a Commission meeting in which the Staff reaffirmed that we were supposed to be an independent body forming independent recommendations, not a rubber-stamp for the Council.

At a recent Citizens for Sammamish meeting that became a general bitch session about frustrations and complaints with the City, from the Council to the City Manager to the Staff, Gerend’s initial reaction was to essentially dismiss the group as a bunch of complainers. The view was reminiscent of former Council Member Michele Petitti characterizing lakefront homeowners as possessing a “mob mentality.” The backlash was so great that Petitti did not seek reelection; she knew she was going to be targeted for defeat.

The poll result above acknowledges Gerend’s contributions but concludes 14 years is enough.

2 thoughts on “Polls slam City Council, Staff, Manager

  1. I am confused about your “aaccusation” of balot stuffing in the case of Valdirama, without a shred of evidece presented to support it.
    Further, your contention that Gerend represents Sammamish in several other other forums is, I think, losing sight of the fact that he appears to be more closely attunded to representing himself.

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