Update, Sept. 23: Deb Sogge, executive director of the Sammamish Chamber, responded today to the emails sent Sunday about the objections Sammamish Comment reported coming from Mayor Tom Vance about videotaping the October 7 candidates’ forum.
Sogge was one of four people to make the decision to not tape; the other three were Bob Toomey, president of the Chamber; CJ Kahler, treasurer of Rotary and Bill Shaw, publisher of the Issaquah-Sammamish Reporter, who will moderate the event. Shaw could not be reached when any of The Comment’s articles were written because he was on vacation.
Kahler told The Comment that “a couple of candidates” objected to videotaping. The Comment verified that Ramiro Valderrama, Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish favor taping. Valderrama said he encountered Mark Cross at the Farmer’s Market last week, who said he also favored taping. Cross did not respond to an email from The Comment. That elft Vance, who also did not respond to an email asking if he objected and why.
In a later interview with Toomey, he said Vance objected and provided detail surrounding the issue. He said Sogge spoke with Vance and told him that a commitment made to Vance not to tape should be honored.
In today’s response, Sogge denied all of this. She said Vance agreed to taping. Vance continues to stonewall The Comment. As noted in the report below, Kahler is, appears, the key holdout.
The Sammamish Rotary and Sammamish Chamber of Commerce have stuck to their
decision to not videotape the Sammamish City Council candidates forum, which will be at 7pm October 7 at the Boys and Girls Club, Inglewood Hill Road and NE 8th St.
A Chamber official confirmed the decision Friday to Sammamish Comment.
Sammamish Comment also confirmed that Mayor Tom Vance, who is running for reelection, objected to videotaping and the groups agreed to forego taping. The four other active candidates favor videotaping. Vance did not respond to a request for comment for the original story last Thursday when it first appeared he had objected.
“I think this shows a lack of transparency in our government leadership,” said Tom Hornish, Vance’s opponent in the November 3 election.
Transparency has been a persistent theme of Council Member Ramiro Valderrama, who has repeatedly called for it throughout his four years on the Council. He’s been especially at odds with Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay, the leadership on the Council, over what he terms a lack of transparency throughout Vance’s tenure as Mayor.
“I can’t imagine why anyone would one would not want to give all our citizens the opportunity to view the candidate forum and hear each candidate’s view on the city’s issues and problems,” Valderrama told Sammamish Comment.
Valderrama, Hornish, Christie Malchow and Mark Cross, the other active candidates running for City Council, favor videotaping and broadcasting the candidates forum. So does Bob Toomey, president of the Chamber.
Opposition to proceeding with taping comes from CJ Kahler, treasurer of Rotary, and Deb Sogge, executive director of the Chamber, say those familiar with the situation. Sogge believes the commitment made to Vansce two weeks ago to not videotape should be honored, says a person close to Sogge. Sogge did not respond to two emails seeking comment.
The question arises is why, when the other four candidates favor taping, the Chamber should bow to Vance’s objections.
Kahler is worried about potential liability, according to two people close to the situation, although the Rotary has taped the forum in the past.
Bill Graf, president of the Rotary, said the subject of potential liability didn’t come up at a Rotary board meeting. He told Sammamish Comment Sunday he favored taping the forum and for the City to broadcast it. He added that he wanted to talk with Kahler, however, and get back to The Comment Monday.
Here is his response Monday:
“I discussed this matter with CJ. He has not changed his opinion on the recording issue. I support his position.
“Our organization is non-partisan. We favor no candidate over another and don’t get involved in politics. We are co-sponsoring this forum as a civic endeavor.
“Unless the City of Sammamish wants to pay for recording the event as they do for other City broadcasts on Channel 21 and all candidates agree to it, we do not support recording the event in the manner outlined below,” Graf wrote in an email.
Objections raised concerned the involvement of Harry Shedd, chairman of the Citizens for Sammamish, who offered to pay the $1200 cost to hire a videographer. Shedd and CFS have close ties to Valderrama and Malchow. Shedd agreed to simply donate the money to the Chamber, removing his “control” over the taping. He subsequently told Sammamish Comment that Hornish advised Rotary of a videographer who would donate his time, removing the cost issue entirely.
Another objection was the fear Shedd would edit the tape for partisan purposes. Shedd denied any such intent, and added that the Chamber and Rotary would have control of the finished, unedited product for delivery to the City, which agreed to broadcast the forum in its entirely over the City’s government channel 21 (Comcast). This removed this objection.
But, according to a person inside the Chamber, Sogge believes the prior agreement with Vance to not videotape the forum should stand.