A new, inclusive approach for citizens was immediately apparent following the swearing in of two new Sammamish City Council members and selection of a new Mayor and Deputy Mayor.
Virtually since the forming of the City, public comment has been limited to three or five minutes. It was very rare that there would be interaction between the public and the Council, who usually sat mute while citizens often went away wondering whether anything they said sunk in.
That changed Jan. 5.
Don Gerend was selected as Mayor and Ramiro Valderrama as Deputy Mayor. Gerend, who now is beginning to serve his fourth term as Mayor in the 19 years he’s been on the Council, opened what was typically a monologue from the citizens to a dialog with the Council. Members were afforded the opportunity to ask questions of the citizens, who actually had an interaction with their elected representatives.
It was a dramatic departure from all previous Councils.
The night before, Gerend was the guest speaker at the monthly Citizens for Sammamish meeting. At the meeting, Gerend indicated that dialog would be forthcoming in the future. Gerend also indicated that broader opportunities for dialog, such as Town Hall meetings or perhaps occasional dedicated, extended times at Council meetings would be discussed at the Council retreat Jan. 14-16 at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma. (The agenda has yet to be published.)
The balance of the Council meeting appeared to have a more relaxed atmosphere than those in recent times.