- The City’s video of the City Council Candidates Forum will be played on the Sammamish website and YouTube channel after processing today.
By Scott Hamilton
There were no break-out candidates during the only Candidates Forum for the Sammamish City Council last night, although there were a few minor rookie mistakes.
Given today’s national political environment and the bitter City Council elections two years ago, last night’s forum was a marked contrast for its civility and friendly nature.
A standing room crowd was here to listen to the nine candidates for the three of four Positions that are contested in the Aug. 1 primary: 3, 5 and 7.
- Position 3 candidates are Minal Ghassemieh, Karen Howe and Karen Moran.
- Position 5 candidates are Ryika Hooshangi, Rituja Indapure and Chris Ross.
- Position 7 candidates are Melanie Curtright, John Robinson and Pamela Stuart.
The candidates said traffic and development were the issues they most heard from resident during their campaigning.
Ross (Position 5) was the only candidate to hit hard on City finances, carving out a position that his professional finance background for Boeing will be needed as the City approaches the so-called cross-over point (operating deficits) in a few years. Others including Moran (Position 3), touched more lightly on finances.
It was no surprise that the candidates cited traffic as the number one issue with residents. They all had similar suggestions for dealing with it.
Coordination and cooperation with Redmond and Issaquah is needed on traffic issues, the said. Ghassemieh (Position 3) and Curtright (5) also advocated cooperation with Fall City. However, this area is miles to the east of Sammamish on SR202 and isn’t a “city” at all. Fall City is a sub-area under King County government rule.
None of the candidates mentioned King County or the State in the need to coordinate and cooperate on roads. Both have jurisdiction over roads around Sammamish.
There was split advocacy for internal public transit or shuttles for Sammamish.
Howe (3) said easing traffic is a multi-stage effort: get parents out of cars, “bus-walking” kids [in groups] to school; and having a shuttle bus inside Sammamish, getting young and old out of cars. “Transit is the ultimate solution, it’s the best people mover we can have,” she said.
Moran (3) said the intra-city shuttle is a good idea but that there is a need to work with largest employers for ride share.
There are no easy solutions, Hooshangi (5) said. “We like the comfort of our car as opposed to sitting on a bus and waiting for a bus.
“We need to work with our partners, Issaquah and Redmond. It’s critical and we haven’t focused on it.”
Indapure (3) also supported a “loop bus,” on which parents could send their their kids to the YMCA and the shopping centers.
She also advocated increasing the connectivity to streets, an often controversial proposition to neighborhoods that don’t want through traffic.
She advocated increased walkability or more friendly for bicycling.
Ross (5) noted that only 3% of citizens work in Sammamish.
“A circular bus won’t help that much,” he said. “We need to have telecommuting to reduce the people in and out.”
Curtright (7) noted “roads take a long time to build and cost a lot of money. I like shorter term solutions. Circular buses, bus pull outs, telecommuting.”
Growth and Development
Growth, development and trees follow traffic as the top concerns of citizens, the candidates reported.
The candidates largely echoed each other in supporting creating a “tree canopy” for Sammamish, clustering tree retention in development (as opposed to a line of trees) when land is cleared, perhaps hiring an arborist for the city staff and—in a suggestion that reflected some rookie thinking—dialog with developers to impress upon them the “importance” of trees and wildlife.
Developers often view trees as hindrance to easy building and often point out, with facts to back them up, that removing a group of trees and leaving a line of them subjects the remaining trees to damaging winds.
Resolving this issue is more of a code creation and code enforcement issue rather than a sit-down with developers.
Ghassemieh (3) suggested the City needs a 20-year vision plan. This is what the Comprehensive Plan is, but she didn’t indicate how this fails to achieve what she envisions.
Plastic bag and Styrofoam ban
The candidates largely supported a ban on plastic bags and Styrofoam, with some nuanced exceptions for plastic bags
Although specifics on the exceptions weren’t discussed, there was one clear, major omission—plastic bags for Fido.
The topic brought the most notable quote for the night. Stuart (7) quipped, “If we aren’t careful, all we’ll have left is plastic, Twinkies and cockroaches.”
Housing and diversity
All the candidates favored a better mix of housing for Sammamish to accommodate young families, the working class, including fire fighters, police officers and teachers, and seniors. Housing and the taxes that go with it are getting too expensive.
Robinson (7) suggested tax relief for seniors, although Sammamish has little control over the annual property tax bill. School, Sound Transit and State property taxes make up the bulk of bills.
With about 30% of the population made up of people of color, the candidates also endorsed efforts to support diversity, including themed social events.
Robinson (7) cited a “moral obligation” for his run for Council. Recently retired, Robinson said he feels a moral obligation to give back to Sammamish in the form of public service. He also said his retirement gives him the ability to work as many hours as necessary on the City Council.
Other candidates, including Indapure (5) and Ghassemieh (3) cited their love of Sammamish and a desire to make it a better place.
Moran (3) cited her decades-long experience in Sammamish, the Sammamish Plateau Water District, on King County commissions and civic groups as giving her an edge over her opponents.
Hooshangi (5) said, “I’m running to make sure Sammamish is the best place on earth to raise a family. Preserving the natural environment. Develop real solutions for traffic.”
Position 3 Candidates
By Jen Baisch
Position 3 candidates Karen Howe, Minal Ghassemieh, and Karen Moran displayed their different styles of communication at the forum. Howe consistently responded to questions with the “fail fast” attitude of the tech world. “Try new ideas, if they don’t work try something different.”
Moran leaned on her years of experience having been involved in the Sammamish community since the city’s incorporation. “History, knowledge, and experience set me apart.”
Ghassemieh, while acknowledging she’s not an expert on every issue, says she is open to listening to the citizens and appeared to be advocating for most of the ideas proposed including affordable housing. “I’d like work with builders to ensure there’s capacity so anyone who wants to work or live here can do so.”
On the issues of traffic management and the current methodology for measuring concurrency, Moran said that the Level of Service (LOS) metrics have been “watered down,” over the last several city administrations. All three candidates propose some form of in-city shuttle, or connector, although it’s not clear if there’s any data that this will help reduce the most challenging traffic problems. Ghassemieh and Howe said they’d like to review the data to make better informed decisions, with Ghassemieh pointing out the need to better understand capacity and Howe being one of the few candidates to specifically call out trade-offs citizens will have to make on LOS in order to prioritize traffic improvements.