Tuesday is Election Day, but ballots have been out for more than two weeks. As we count down to Tuesday’s voting for City Council, a few closing thoughts are in order.
Stepping up to the front lines
First, I want to say right up front that as much as I have come to disagree with the direction of the current City Council, I respect and applaud each member’s willingness to step up, serve and be in a position to take the criticism that comes with a public position. Having served eight years on the Planning Advisory Board and the Planning Commission, I was subjected to more than my share of abuse from the public. But let me tell you: each person serving on any city commission and on the City Council deserves the recognition that too few people step up to do the job, and those that do deserve at least a modicum of respect and thanks for doing so.
New Voices, New Perspectives Needed
Having said that, our City Council needs new voices and new perspectives.
I’ve chronicled all year issue after issue on which this City Council and its leadership has failed its citizens. Public records obtained through the Public Records Requests, documents on the City website and through interviews paint a picture of a City Council that has lost touch with its citizens and which has become more interested in maintaining its own power structure and agenda.
Even though the self-branded environmentalists indignantly protest criticism over a belief they have strayed from their brand, the evidence is compelling. The variances routinely granted by staff on traffic and environmental issues in approving development are well documented. Where have these self-branded environmentalists been in providing the oversight of the City Manager, and through him, the staff, for which they are responsible? One letter writer to The Sammamish Review supporting Mayor Tom Vance for reelection said the next council needs to focus on the environment. That’s what this Council and this mayor were supposed to do. The letter writer wrote, “Soon the current city manager will be leaving and I’m hoping that a new era will start – one that focuses on the environment and the original intention of incorporation.” Where was Vance’s leadership, as Mayor for two years and a Council Member for four years, in upholding the “original intention of incorporation”? There has been a huge failure of leadership–Vance’s leadership–and of the self-branded environmentalists on the current City Council. Why reelect the failed leadership in hopes of a “new era?”
When you have a staff that routinely ignores City codes in traffic and environment, and follows unwritten policies, something is very wrong.
When you have a Council that still does not get that the movement behind the Initiative and Referendum was the manifestation of citizens feeling unheard—not because of any burning issue to put up to an Initiative–something is very wrong.
When 55.5% of the people who voted approved the I&R and you still have members of the Council who attempt to diminish the result, something is very wrong.
When you have City Council Members who try to throw a planning commissioner off the commission because she supported the Initiative and Referendum, something is very wrong.
When you have the mayor of the City (not Vance in this case) calling the school superintendent to discipline a school principal because she supported retention of the Eastside Fire and Rescue in contrast to the mayor’s position, something is very wrong.
When you have scores and scores of property owners pleading with the City because King County is trashing the environment and over-reaching on property concerns to build a freeway-like lake trail, only to be ignored until it is too late, something is very wrong.
When the Ruling Majority blithely dismisses the minority members because they can, something is very wrong.
When you have members of the Ruling Majority undertake frontal and covert assaults on one Council member through front-people filing massive email Public Records Requests in an attempt to dig up dirt that doesn’t exist, something is very wrong.
When you have a City Administration and City Council give lip service to disaster preparedness, something is very wrong.
The examples go on and on.
Here’s why Valderrama, Malchow and Hornish deserve your vote
Ramiro Valderrama is seeking a second term. As an incumbent, one would think he’d be a target in this anti-incumbent year. He is—from the Ruling Majority. Citizens, on the other hand, are glad he’s there as the Citizens’ Advocate—and taking the shots in the process by his own colleagues. He deserves reelection.
But he also needs help. The other Citizens’ Advocate—and the strongest environmentalist on the Council—Nancy Whitten is retiring after three terms. She’s been worn down from the constant isolation of her fellow Council Members (and the City Administration). She’s tired of the abuse of the Leadership. She’s just tired, period.
Christie Malchow is running for her seat against Mark Cross, a former two-term Council Member who also served as Mayor. Cross seeks to return to the Council after a four year
break. I supported Cross in his first two elections, but not this time. The first thing he did was to endorse Mayor Tom Vance for reelection and he received the endorsement of the Gang of 4. We don’t need a Gang of 5.
Malchow, despite a nasty whispering campaign (and not so whispering as time went on) to paint her as a Tea Party member and a pro-development candidate, is not. She’s appalled at the City Staff’s routine Variances-R-Us/Greenwashing approach to development and the City Council’s acquiescence to it. She vows to hold the City Manager and through him, the staff, accountable to the codes of the City.
Charges that she is pro-development are laughable. She spent $15,000 of her own money in a winning fight against a development even the Hearing Examiner found was improperly approved by staff.
Tom Hornish is also unfairly being cast as a pro-development, anti-lake trail candidate. The opposite is true. Hornish led the fight on behalf of lakefront owners against King County and the City to hold the County accountable to City codes, codes that once again were ignored by staff. If your neighbor were building something that encroached on your property, wouldn’t you fight it? This is what Hornish has done. Neither he nor most of his neighbors want to stop the lake trail, but they do want environmental regulation followed, trees protected and property rights honored.
He’s challenging Mayor Vance for reelection. Vance’s ending campaign has become a bitter attack on Hornish, using dubious logic and arm-waving pleading to be reelected.
We, the citizens of Sammamish, need a level-headed approach that listens to citizens and a Council Member who, like Valderrama and Malchow, will hold the City Manager and Staff accountable, not be complicit in greenwashing the environment.
New voices, new perspectives and new ears are badly needed.
By Scott Hamilton