The only Sammamish City Council candidates forum was held Wednesday, Oct. 7, sponsored by the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and the Sammamish Rotary. The event was not video taped for broadcast on government Channel 21 (Comcast).
Bill Shaw, publisher of the Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter, is the moderator.
Sammamish Comment’s coverage is a running log of the event, with quotes paraphrased. This method provides the ability to post immediately after the end of the event.
This is very long.
The forum begins:
Q. About regional and global transportation issues: Sound Transit is expanding; what kind of transportation services do you want for Sammamish.
Valderrama: We should advocate on multiple levels. We are woefully under-served by bus services. We need to partner more with Microsoft and others for transportation. Better transportation for middle and high school students. We need more walkways and trails. Our city is non-walkable and we need better walkways.
Hornish: “Ditto.” There definitely have to be more buses. Down off the Plateau, there is no transportation to get on to the Plateau or into the City. We need more roads. We should think about how to connect our citizens to the potential Issaquah light rail service. Bottom line, more buses, more ability to get to buses.
Vance: The new Sound Transit 3 ballot is interesting. It brings rail to Redmond and potentially to Issaquah. One of the things that’s a problem is lack of parking. We’re working on a park and ride at the north end of the city and better use of the south end park and ride. We’re looking at a transportation corridor for Issaquah, Redmond and Sammamish. We’re making progress.
Cross: We’ve had a lot of good suggestions tonight. A couple of things occur to me from recent experience. We don’t have enough staff to manage and build the road projects we have planned. We don’t have two years to find out we are understaffed or don’t have the right people to do the job.
I agree with idea of multi-modal transportation. We can’t leave the trail by the lake half gravel and half paved, we have to finish it.
Malchow: We inherited an interesting road system from the County when we incorporated. When we can’t get to buses by walking, on a bike or in a park and ride, we default to driving. We need to look at how to get buses up here and how to get people to the buses.
Q. Where would you rank non-motorized transportation in priorities and how would you fund them.
Hornish: The sidewalks, multi-modal are important and understand the need for it and we need to come up with other systems to ease the overload in traffic. It should be a high priority, but dealing with traffic would have to be much higher priority.
Vance: We do have a budget for non-motorized transportation. We started with a great deficit 16 year ago with sidewalks and pathways. We’ve come a long way. I’d add more money to it. I added Vision Zero in the Comp Plan to adapt it to Sammamish for safe roads for drivers and safe pathways for walkers, bicyclists.
Cross: You need to have a network of non-motorized to connect across the cities, with ey sidewalks for to and from schools. We’ve accomplished much of that. The new roadways have sidewalks. We can look at small circulator bus to provide rides for seniors and children. As we map out the city with development, we should have connectors. I’d like to see people identify in their own neighborhoods what is needed.
Malchow: We need to get citizen input for needs. We need new bike lanes on 228th. We need to fill in the gaps.
Valderrama: With Klahanie, we are now 65,000 people. We now have some gridlock in some areas. We don’t have an extra million dollars to throw into sidewalks. We need to have engagement with the citizens. We’ve been putting down sidewalks at a million dollars a mile when we could do less expensive paths. We face serious financial needs for roads and we haven ‘t prioritized.
Q. What is your stance on strict tree retention ordinances, and how would you balance environment and property owners.
Malchow: It is critical to have a balance between these two. Trees provide a very important storm water runoff and canopy element. Developments have seen trees completely removed. We have to be cognizant of the cumulative effects.
Cross: I applaud the city council for adopting a stronger tree retention ordinance. The only trees we can really control are those we own in parks. Storm water drainage is something we are only starting to grapple with. We have to do a better job of water quality if we are going to protect Lake Sammamish, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake. We have to work with water districts to work on storm water drainage.
Valderrama: The tree ordinance is a good effort, but it is eight to 10 years late. The rape and scrape of the lake trail and the Kamp property forced us to do something. Today there is only 2.5% of our land left to develop. We have to watch King County to be responsible and respectful [along the tail].
Hornish: This is close to my heart. The current council has been stated to be one of the most environmentally sensitive but the record is far different. The city center has been changed to 60% storm water retention, with downstream damage. There was talk about development on steep slopes. The city has never required an EIS for a development.
Vance: I agree with a lot of what people have said. We have come a long way in 16 years when there was little interest by King County. We have about a 43% tree canopy in Sammamish. We can make that 50%-60% over the next years with our new tree ordinance. We’ve saved hundreds of acres of property inside and outside our city and should keep doing that.
Q. Creeks are home to the kokanee. Many creeks saw dramatic decline in salmon due to development. Explain how you will protect these environments while allow development.
Valderrama: The rules for development are in place. The problems have been the variances that have been given. Laughing Jacobs Creek is under threat because the city isn’t following its rules. No money is being given to replace culverts. $2m would replace these. Instead we are spending $4.2m on a passive park at Big Rock Park. We need to have priorities.
Hornish: Trees and water do the same thing, retaining water on site. We need to retain trees on site, which allows to retain water on site and prevents downhill runoff. Low impact development to retain water will help. If we continue to allow variances, we won’t have kokanee coming back.
Vance: Our tree ordinance last night will help. Keeping hydrology on site is one thing to keep trees alive. We have a lot of old septic systems in the city. There is a direct relationship to pollution to lakes. We need to work with water districts to take care of that. Culverts–we’ve been working with city staff to work on culverts.
Malchow: The tree ordinance will only help if we enforce it. The city has not been enforcing it. If we take away what’s holding our hillsides, we will have landslides that will damage the creeks. In 2011 we had a landslide in Ebright Creek.
Cross: We have to have a comprehensive look at the basins and use our science to work on how much water is retained, the hydrology, how much can be diverted from one area to an other to help our creeks.
Q. In politics communication is everything. Last summer the county apologized for poor communication for the lake trail. Using this as an example how would you improve communication?
Hornish: No. 1, the communication that the council can listen to can be improved tremendously. The current council, some members anyhow, is they don’t want to listen and have give and take. We should have a town hall meeting on a quarterly basis. Without communication we may not know what the citizens want. There needs to be a change in mindset n city hall.
Vance: That’s an issue cities struggle with all the time. We are working to make it better. We are revamping our website to make it better in the next year or so. Our public comment system is pretty much the same as every city in the state, so if you don’t like it here I guess you don’t like it anywhere else. Communication is very important.
Malchow: I like the idea of Town Hall meetings. We need to alter the way we communicate. The city newsletter isn’t the best way to pump our information. Social media is important. Having public comment at 630 or 930pm doesn’t lend itself very well to busy families.
Cross: We are doing two or three major road projects at a time, park projects, so we need better communications. We need to lay out the key points when we bring in citizens so they have an expectation. We need better website for information. You have to staff for that and fund it.
Valderrama: My first point is that we listen and value our citizens. We have public comment but very little sinks in. The Sammamish Review said council, listen to your citizens. It took one year for my fellow councilmen to bring in King County on the trail. We have tin ears. There’s a real problem on Sahalee Way: the work scope is done and now we’re going to bring in public in November.
Q. Winter is coming. How will you prepare for disaster?
Vance: We are prepared, and continue what we are doing. We spent a lot of money in our emergency operations center. We have manuals. We partner with water districts to plow roads. We have places for people to go, city hall, schools, fire departments, and work with regional partners.
Hornish: My time in the air force, I can’t tell you how valuable the training and practice is, unless you practice, you will wind up sitting around asking, What do I do next? I will guarantee you if we do the exercise, we will not have enough communication. To support preparedness, we need to exercise and do the practice.
Valderrama: We have a lot of equipment but we are not practicing. I have never seen the city participate. We also have to be looking at fires. The one at 32nd St. and Klahanie took 50 firefighters to put out.
Malchow: Participating in drills is a great way to prepare. We need to encourage our neighbors and neighborhoods. Who has the chain saws? Who have the generators?
Cross: We need to build preparedness into the public events that we do, how to prepare, how to have duplicate communications. Do the water districts have extra pipe to replace hat will be broken? Earthquakes can happen someplace else and knock out the grids.
Q. What is biggest issue facing our youth and what would you do to address it?
Cross: We have to make sure we have places for young people to engage, like the skate park and the Boys and Girls Club. We need a Running Start program. We don’t have enough places for kids to hang out, but where there is adult supervision, to interact in a healthy way.
Malchow: A lot of our middle school and high school age students don’t have a place to go. I know there is a drug issue in Sammamish, we need to have conversations with our children. We need to provide healthy venues for our children.
Valderrama: The biggest problem for kids is there is too much time and too much money in Sammamish. The best way to deal with it is to keep our kids busy. We have to make sure the parents are engaging the kids. This city has an epidemic of drug and alcohol problems that we don’t want to talk about. The city council has to pull together town hall meetings with other groups to engage.
Hornish: As a father of a 15 and 12 year old, I’m very concerned. The biggest concern is underage drinking and driving. There are opportunities like the Y that can address activities.
Vance: The Community and Town Center will be a great place to go for activities and education. There are groups that are addressing drugs and alcohol issues from the elementary schools on up.