Name: Jason Ritchie
Position: Sammamish City Council Position 1
Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?
I believe in public service. I want to be a part of creating a future for our City that we can all be proud of. This means managing growth with significant investments into our infrastructure, protecting our environment, including heritage trees and wildlife and making sure we are creating a transparent, accountable and balanced budget process. I own and operate a small business here in Sammamish helping to create housing for people with physical challenges. I want to be a voice for the small business owner on the Council.
What do you hope to achieve?
Our current City Council is divided and has been for quite awhile. In my day job, I’m responsible for bringing divergent opinions together into compromise. I’m open to hearing from all stakeholders on every issue. Every member of our community has an opinion that deserves to be heard. I hope to be a resource for every member of our City and to build trust and transparency within the City of Sammamish. Most importantly, I’ve learned that communication is key. Being open to hearing from everyone and taking the time to explain a decision is my primary goal
What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?
Creating a sustainable budget, preserving our environment and investing into our infrastructure to ease traffic.
What data did you rely on to help you arrive at these priorities?
Listening to my neighbors, these are the concerns I’ve heard and share with them.
How would you solve these issues?
Building consensus is key. I believe in meeting people halfway. I am not a winner-take-all type of person. That means compromising to get buy-in from other stakeholders. If I’m able to be elected by the citizens of Sammamish, I will strive to listen to competing perspectives. Only through mutual buy-in will we build consensus and create a Council and community that is representative of our values.
Please state your view of the current state of city finances? (IE, are they solid, precarious, neutral.) Please state why you reach your conclusion.
After meeting with our current elected officials, City manager and a through review of the current and projected finances of the City, I’m convinced we are on stable footing. As we move forward, we will need to have an open mind and sustain our commitments. I’m not convinced we are at a precipice. We need stable and forward-looking leadership on our Council and not fear-mongering.
Do you feel a tax hike or imposition of a new tax is needed? If not, why not? If yes, why?
At this point, I do not believe a tax hike or new taxation is needed in our City. When or if the need arises for additional revenue, I want to understand why and to be able to explain to the citizens of Sammamish what we have done to mitigate the need for additional or new taxes.
If a new tax is needed, what tax would you favor?
We have not had a property tax increase from the City Council in more than eight years. This is because it hasn’t been needed. Our growth has sustained our revenue needs. If new revenue is needed, the Council better have a good reason for it.
What are some ways our city can increase revenue without raising taxes?
As our Town Center is growing, the revenue from existing sales taxes will grow. As more housing becomes occupied, the revenue from existing property taxes will grow. While I’m not a proponent of debt, I would support bonds, given our zero bonded debt and outstanding credit rating, to support infrastructure investments.
Parks and Recreation
Are more parks with ball fields needed? If yes, how would you achieve these?
With the annexation of Klahanie, we have added several new parks in the City of Sammamish. While I’d love to see more parks and opens spaces in our City, I’m comfortable with our current commitments.
East Lake Sammamish Trail: Only the Middle section, Section 2B, from the 7-11 north to Inglewood Hill Road, remains under permitting review and appeals by King County. This is the most difficult section to develop given the tight proximity of homes permitted by the County before Sammamish became a city. Please state the issues as you understand them and what your position is to resolve them.
The Sammamish Trail has become a litigated morass of competing issues. I support the investments into the trail but I am concerned that property owners along the trail have had their home and property values diminished. I do not think King County has done an adequate job of working with Sammamish to make these investments tenable for the residents along the trail. I’d support pausing the development so that we can step out of court and find an amicable solution.
Developing the YMCA land adjacent Pine Lake Middle School is a contractual obligation to Sammamish in exchange for the YMCA’s financial contribution, program development and management of the Community Center. The City’s obligation is to develop an active use for the property, which is currently thick woods and encompassing sensitive areas. Some neighbors prefer a passive use, such as trails, to protect wildlife and the wetlands. Please state your understanding of the issues and the outcome you support.
While I understand the obligation for an active use of the land, I support finding a compromise that fulfills our obligation but maintains the use of the land in a passive way as much as possible.
Roads and Transportation
Council Member Tom Odell has stated Sammamish neglected road improvements for 10 years. The City today is about to receive a draft Transportation Management Plan (on July 11, after this questionnaire is due back to us). This will perhaps make recommendations for priorities in road improvements. Until then, the only “plan” is the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
The TIP is available on the City’s website. Please state your opinion of the TIP projects and the cost of the projects listed in the TIP.
I support the TIP in its current form but will retain final judgment until after the new data comes in after July 11. I agree with Councilmember Odell that the City has neglected infrastructure investments for too long. Now we are trying to catch up. This means multiple road closures, heavy trucks and capital spending that should have been done over time.
Do you believe the City can pay for these projects under its current financial condition? If not, how would you suggest paying for them?
Based on my read of the TIP, we are well positioned to pay for these investments. However, being a small business owner, I know that projects can run into unforeseen circumstances creating cost overruns. When this happens, I’d support utilizing our bond capability to complete these investments, knowing that the return on these investments will pay off our debts and make Sammamish a better place to call home.
Issaquah-Fall City Road improvements were promised to the Klahanie area residents if they voted to annex to Sammamish. At the time, in 2014, City officials estimated the cost of this project would be about $23 million. The latest estimate is $32 million and this may rise. Do you support the current proposed design of the project, and how do you believe the City should pay for it?
I do support the current plans to improve the IFC Road. We are on our way to creating more infrastructure capaCity and we need to complete this project as soon as possible. I’d support bonds to complete these and other infrastructure investments.
Sahalee Way became a highly controversial project, both in design and in cost. Initially it was promised that it would relieve congestion. However, the City’s contract traffic engineer stated it will not because Sahalee Way empties onto SR202. As a result, any improvements will be principally for safety, such as stop lights, turning lanes, bike lanes and a sidewalk on one side of the street. The project is estimated to cost $15 million-$16 million. Do you believe there is sufficient return on investment to support this cost, or do you believe the design should be modified to reduce the cost?
Investments being made into Sahalee Way are for the benefit of the neighborhoods along the road and to aid in congestion downtown. The safety provided by adding turning lanes and stop lights will make Sahalee Way safer for motorists, walkers and bikers. We need to work with our neighboring cities, Redmond in this case, and King County to solve the SR 202 problem.
What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?
Concurrency requires that cities like Sammamish take into account traffic and infrastructure capacity as we take on growth as mandated in the Growth Management Act. How a City gathers and utilizes the information and makes projections is key to determining if we are meeting our requirements. I’m open to learning if the current method of concurrency measuring is serving the community well. Specifically, are the data points being gathered a true representation of the real world issues Sammamish commuters are dealing with on a daily basis? If changes need to be made, I’d support those changes. It’s critical that the new Council coming in 2018 take a new and fresh look at the data and make decisions going forward that are based on facts that the data supports.
What data are you using to inform your positions on traffic management?
I’ve attended the Council transportation committee meetings as well as the Sound Cities Association meetings on regional transportation concerns. I travel in and around Sammamish everyday. I’ve listened to and reviewed the positions of those that support a continuation of our current concurrency, development and traffic management plans, and those that have expressed sincere concern that not enough is being done. I believe changes need to be made, many of which have already started. I’d support additional data on peak traffic conditions and what can be done to mitigate traffic by working with our regional partners.
Certain members of the current City Council occasionally suggest assuming the two water and sewer districts into the City, so that the City government has control over all operations of the districts; all assets; all revenue (and liabilities); and the ability to set rates.
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District? Please state your reasons for your position.
Given our current financial position, I do not support the City of Sammamish assuming control of the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District. The City government has enough on its plate right now and I do not see the pressing reason for assuming control.
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and sewer district? Please state your reasons for your position.
As stated above, given our current financial position, I do not support the City of Sammamish assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District. The City government has enough on its plate right now and I do not see the pressing reason for assuming control.
Storm water management is a City function. For the past 12 years, the Tamarack subdivision has had increasing storm water runoff issues from uphill development approved by the City. Residents have persistently appeared before the City Council asking for a City-funded solution. The current Council is split on (1) how to proceed), (2) whether more study is needed and (3) who should pay for resolution of these problems.
Please state your understanding of the Tamarack storm water management issues.
Based on my doorbelling thus far, I know the residents in the Tamarack area are very concerned about this issue. I’d support investments made by the City to mitigate this problem. Frankly, if we as a City don’t do something about this ongoing problem now, it will only continue to get worse. Home values will be diminished and safety concerns will rise. We as a City owe it to the residents of Tamarack and surrounding neighborhoods to fulfill our obligations and make these investments.
Please state how you would resolve the issues and who should pay for them.
Storm water management is an essential component to our City budget. Maintaining these commitments is as critical as any other infrastructure investments. If we are not able to commit available resources to maintain and reinforce these critical investments, I’d support tapping our bond capability to make sure these critical commitments are continued.
What other storm water management/runoff issues are you aware of?
The City of Sammamish has made significant investment into storm water management and runoff over the years but this is an ongoing challenge. As a Council, we will need to monitor these investments and make sure we are protecting neighborhoods and our environment with wise improvements. Of specific concern is how runoff affects the Kokanee salmon in Lake Sammamish.
Please state your positions on environmental issues:
- Protecting Lake Sammamish, Laughing Jacobs Lake, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.
I love and enjoy our local lakes. I feel a special commitment to making sure we are preserving these unique natural resources for generations to come. This means managing development and infrastructure investments to make sure we are not only doing no harm but repairing the harm that has already been done.
- Protecting wetlands and streams.
Our City is blessed with incredible streams and wetlands. I want to help maintain and protect these incredible natural resources. We need to make sure development and infrastructure investments are not infringing on our streams and wetlands and that the wildlife that defines our City is able to coexist with our growing City.
- Preserving trees.
When I see development happening across our City, I see huge swaths of old growth trees being clear cut and new small trees being planted in their place. This is not a sustainable solution. I want to make sure that future development is focused on preserving as many old growth trees as possible and not packing as many houses as possible on a parcel simply for profit sake.
Is the City doing enough, too much or not enough?
The City should be doing more.
Any Other Issues You Wish To Address
Please briefly identify any other issues that you wish to address.
I’m honored to have the opportunity to run for City Council and I hope to be part of building consensus on the Council next year. I’m confident that everyone running for Council and those currently serving have the best interests of Sammamish at heart. I’m looking forward to seeing what challenges await our City.