- There will be a candidates forum tonight, Wednesday, October 7, at 7pm at the Boys and Girls Club, Inglewood Hill Road and 228th Ave. NE. It is sponsored by the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and the Sammamish Rotary. It will not be videotaped or broadcast on Sammamish TV Channel 21, so this is your only chance to see the candidates and ask questions in a forum.
- Here’s how the story evolved.
When Sammamish Comment learned last month that Sammamish wasn’t going to
participate next June in Cascadia Rising, a massive earthquake preparedness drill from British Columbia to Northern California, it was shocking. It was unbelievable. It was a dereliction of duty to public safety of massive proportions.
Issaquah, Redmond, Kirkland, the county, the state, the Sammamish Plateau Water & Sewer District, the University of Washington Medical Centers, fire and police, and on and on signed up last year to participate–but not Sammamish. Training for these agencies was well underway. But not Sammamish.
The issue came to light at the Sept. 1 City Council meeting when Member Ramiro Valderrama asked why wasn’t the City participating in the drill. City Manager Ben Yazici brushed aside the question, a stunning reaction in its own right considering Yazici is a native of Turkey where devastating earthquakes occur, with huge losses to life and property. He of all people should know the importance of being prepared.
Equally stunning was that Valderrama didn’t get one word of support from any other Council Member. Not one. Mayor Tom Vance, who’s the City’s titular leader, sat mute through the entire exchange.
- City reverses self, will participate. Yazici responds at the end of this post.
City officials like to call Sammamish “family friendly, kid safe.” How friendly and safe will Sammamish be if an earthquake occurs of shocking magnitude that collapses the infrastructure (roads, water, electric, gas), buildings and injures scores or hundreds or thousands? It will be hard enough for properly prepared emergency and city services to cope–there are only nine fire fighters and two or three police officers on duty in Sammamish at any given time–let alone what the response from city officials will be if they are running around wondering what to do, fumbling decisions and generally being incompetent.
Sammamish Comment began chasing down this story a week ago Monday. By the end of the day Tuesday, it was clear beyond a reasonable doubt that Sammamish had no plans to participate in Cascadia Rising.
On Monday, The Comment filed a Public Records Request with the City for all emails since January 1 relating to Cascadia Rising. The production of these emails revealed only those emails from the drill’s organizers to the City notifying them about meetings and presentations. There was not a single one to or from any Council Member or staff member otherwise talking about the drill, or even acknowledging the meeting/presentation notices.
Interviews Monday and Tuesday with people from other jurisdictions and organizations made it clear Sammamish wasn’t signed up to participate and had no plans to participate.
By Wednesday, The Comment began reaching out to City officials. Council Member Don Gerend couldn’t explain why the City wasn’t involved. Neither could Valderrama, who raised the question at the September 1 Council meeting–and who was still waiting for a response from Yazici.
The Comment left messages Wednesday for Yazici and Deputy Manager Lyman Howard. Yazici emailed he was deferring to Howard, who called back Thursday to say the City will participate in Cascadia Rising. Further interviews Thursday revealed that Howard began notifying the relevant parties Thursday morning of the City’s plans.
The initial decision by City officials to skip Cascadia Rising is a blunder of monumental proportions. It’s inexplicable. And damage control is underway (see below).
Thank goodness they’ve now come to their senses. Citizens of Sammamish will be better off for this. Let’s just hope it’s not lip service.
At a City Council meeting yesterday, City Manager Yazici responded to Sammamish Comment that City officials are dedicated to emergency preparedness, having held several drills in the past, along with upgrading the Emergency Operations Center at City Hall.
Yazici expressed dismay that there was a perception created that the City Council and City Manager didn’t take emergency management seriously. He cited a list of actions, exercises and drills of past action.
Yazici said Cascadia Rising is nine months away–but he did not address the issue that sign-up was last year and training already began for those governments and volunteer corps that had signed up.
Yazici claimed the City planned to participate in Cascadia Rising, but as Sammamish Comment revealed with detailed interviews with principals involved, this decision wasn’t conveyed until last Thursday morning, hours after Sammamish Comment began inquiries–and a year or more after the deadline for the sign-up, with training already underway.
Also as reported, City Council members had no information about this “participation” until after The Comment began inquiries.
Yazici dismissed the concerns as part of the political “silly season.”
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