Although votes are still being counted and the election results won’t be certified until Nov. 24, Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish have been elected to the Sammamish City Council; their Election Night margins were too great for Mark Cross and Tom Vance to overcome. Their vote tallies have only increased each day additional votes have been tabulated.
So the questions become, What’s next? What’s next for the balance of 2015 in what is now a lame duck period of the City Council, and What’s next in 2016?
What’s next in 2015
Sahalee Way road project
It was one of those things that the current City Council and City Administration flubbed in the closing weeks before the election on Nov. 3.
City officials wanted to move ahead with quickly with contract approval to hit a bidding window before project prices rise, and not so coincidentally approve it before the election, giving Mayor Tom Vance the ability to boast of the project in his reelection bid.
- Sahalee Way project draws fire
- Officials tried to advance contract approval for Sahalee Way project
- City revises Sahalee Way timeline for public input
Despite approving the “final” decision, a public relations disaster over excluding public comment caused Staff to pull the approval back to give a new round of opportunity for public comment.
A major public open house Nov. 4–the day after the election–saw a huge crowd of citizens show up to see plans and to weigh in. Council Member Ramiro Valderrama estimated the crowd was several times larger than a previous open house.
A compilation of public input is to be presented to the Council tomorrow night.
A procedural matter needs to be taken up: The Council didn’t officially reverse approval of the “final” project design when Staff came back Oct. 20 to reverse the process. It’s unclear if this will occur tomorrow night.
The revised schedule for approving the Sahalee Way project slips to next year.
Location of the January Council retreat
The City has already scheduled the annual Council retreat for Jan. 14-16. It’s unclear where this will be. It was at Suncadia Resort last year, and for several previous years, east of the Mountains in Roslyn.
The location reduces accessibility for citizens wanting to attend. The location is roughly an hour or more away, over the mountains in winter time and requires what can be a pricey stay at the resort or nearby facilities.
City officials like the remoteness because they won’t be interrupted by citizens and because it also makes it more difficult for their own Council Members to bail on meetings. But open government advocates criticize the remote location because of the unlikelihood citizens will attend.
Valderrama and Council Member Nancy Whitten are on record favoring a local site. Council Members-elect Malchow and Hornish also want to local site, but they don’t have a vote. The site location will be made by the current Council, if reservations haven’t already been made.
The Council should site the retreat in the Puget Sound area.
Final preparations have to be made for the Jan. 1 effective date of the Klahanie area annexation.
The City Council has the following meetings through the end of the year:
- Nov. 10: Study session
- Nov. 17: Regular City Council meeting
- Dec. 1, 8 and 15: Scheduled City Council meetings. Historically, the mid-December meeting could be cancelled. If the Dec. 15 meeting is cancelled, the Dec. 8 meeting will be the last for Whitten, who is retiring after three terms, and Vance, who was defeated by Hornish.
What’s next in 2016
Selecting the Mayor, Deputy Mayor
The skids will be greased before the first Council meeting Jan. 5–these backroom negotiations have been the tradition of Sammamish since its incorporation in 1999–but this time, the outcome is unpredictable at this time.
With the defeat of Vance and Cross, the presumption–articulated by Cross as far back as August–that Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay would be selected as Mayor for the next two years went out the window. The Ruling Majority of the last two years, Vance, Huckabay, Tom Odell and Bob Keller, lost Vance. Keller, who came under criticism last January for being the deciding vote to give a second one-year term to Huckabay as Deputy Mayor, was characterized later in the year as more circumspect about Huckabay as Mayor.
If one assumes the remaining Ruling Majority coalition remains intact–and this is not certain–you have this faction lined up against the Valderrama/Malchow/Hornish coalition (the “V-3”) with Council Member Don Gerend in the middle. Gerend tends to lean with Valderrama on many issues, but not all.
Today’s view: the Mayoral slot will be a behind-the-scenes contest among Huckabay, Valderrama and Gerend. Huckabay is highly unlikely to prevail. There are already three votes against her, and Gerend is known to be unhappy with her–the fourth vote against her, if he’s so moved.
Valderrama, who survived all efforts by the Ruling Majority to find a viable opponent, tamper with his endorsers and dig up dirt against him, prevailed with about 83% of the vote. It will be awfully hard to make a case against his becoming Mayor.
But Gerend is in the last two years of what will be 20 years on the Council in 2017. He’ll be around 76 years old then and perhaps ready to retire. A final two years as Mayor would be a fine end-cap to a long and distinguished career of public service.
My bet: The leadership will be a combination of Gerend/Valderrama; it’s just a matter of who comes out on top.
In a show of public unity after a bitter campaign, members of the Ruling Majority could back this team.
This becomes effective Jan. 1. There are still new police to hire, priorities to be established for the area, implementation of these priorities and all things related to integrating this major merger into Sammamish.
The January retreat will set the priorities for the City in 2016 perhaps the next five years. With two new members
Design and contract letting for the Issaquah-Fall City Road project will be a top priority this year. It’s not only a commitment to the Klahanie residents, but it’s a high priority project for all of the legacy Sammamish residents who live north of Klahanie in High Country, Trossachs, Aldarra and other subdivisions. The only controversy is which section of IFC Road comes first: the South end, as City officials want, or whether they might be persuaded to do the north end first.
The Sahalee Way road project will be a big issue. It’s not at all clear that the “final” design approved by the City Council in July will wind up being what citizens want.
Every year the City Council makes appointments to the various commissions that provide review of policies and recommendations to the Council.
I’d like to suggest and encourage Mark Cross to apply to join the Planning Commission.
This will raise some eyebrows–and protests. Yes, I came to have some profound political differences with Cross and vociferously opposed his election to the City Council. But I also know Cross quite well. Aside from knowing what I consider to be his weaknesses, I also know his strength. He is a good man with good intentions.
Cross would make a good addition to the Planning Commission. His environmental advocacy and knowledge of municipal codes would provide a sound base on the Commission, where all land use, environmental and transportation policies and regulations must land first before going to the City Council. Cross could use his long experience to help formulate these for recommendations to the City Council. Cross admirably served eight years on the City Council–I supported each of his elections in 2003 and 2007–and while I firmly believed his opponent, Malchow, was the better choice for the Council in 2015, Cross’s talents can contribute to the Planning Commission.
I’d like to also encourage Tom Vance to get involved in some regional organization, like Save Lake Sammamish, lobbying Issaquah, Redmond and Bellevue about protection to the Lake. Vance listed officials from Redmond and Issaquah on his endorsement page. Issaquah continues to discharge storm water runoff into the Lake. Providing laser-like focus on saving Lake Sammamish would be a good effort by Vance.
Vance’s key strength is that he is one of the best policy wonks I know. He knows the issues and in fact has good ideas. He would be a good fit as an advocate.
Water Districts, Eastside Fire & Rescue
Ambitions within the City government to assume the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and exiting the Eastside Fire & Rescue consortium never seem to die. The current City Council was widely assumed to be planning to move on these next year. The new City Council, not so much. Gerend may be a deciding vote on both issues.
East Lake Sammamish Trail
Continuing tension with King County over the development of the north end of the East Lake Sammamish Trail has to be resolved. The County’s appeal of the design of the south end moves to hearings next year. Design of the center section hasn’t begun. Appeals of residents over the south end design also move to hearings.
Hornish will have to recuse himself. As president of Sammamish Home Owners, he’s an appellant over whether the County has claims to the titles it says it has. SHO doesn’t object to developing the trail on the 12 ft railbed, but it does dispute the County’s claim it has the rights to an 18 ft wide right-of-way.
Holding staff accountable to its own codes
It emerged throughout the year that the City Staff routinely ignores City Codes when approving development. The V-3 vows to hold the Staff accountable. Government staff bureaucracy is tough to turn around. The City Council is the Board of Directors to the City Manager’s CEO position. The Council will have its hands full directing its CEO, and through him, the Staff.