Name: Jason Ritchie
Position sought: Sammamish City Council, Position 1
- Primary Questionnaire in Sammamish Comment
- Questionnaire for General Election from Sammamish Friends
Questions to All Candidates
Traffic and Transportation
We are not measuring traffic, as part of our concurrency requirements, in a manner that accurately represents true traffic patterns. More weight should be placed on traffic during rush hours. The Council subsequently voted to review traffic issues at every meeting and to make this a priority. I strongly support this action and believe that with citizen involvement and speaking out, the Council is acting more proactively.
What, if anything, do you see a need to fix?
There are two specific points where the Council could act now to relieve traffic congestion. First, the Council needs to work with the City of Issaquah to widen all of Issaquah Pine Lake Road, all the way to Issaquah Fall City Road. Additionally, the Council needs to work with King County to widen 228th/Sahalee Road from 8th Ave. to SR 202. This will be my top priority if elected.
At the July 18 City Council meeting, the Council declared traffic to be the “No. 1 priority for Sammamish” and voted to have this as the first topic on the agenda for the foreseeable future. Do you agree or disagree with these actions, and why?
I agree with this decision by the Council. Traffic is the top concern I’ve heard from voters. The Council needs to not only talk about traffic; the Council needs to take action. I’ve outlined my top priority above.
There is a proposal to create a “tree canopy” for Sammamish that involves reducing the tree retention requirements from 35% to a level to be determined (but no less than 25%). The difference would then be planted in neighborhoods, with the types of trees being agreed upon by the neighborhoods. Do you believe this to be a good, neutral or bad proposal and why?
The two top issues I’ve heard from voters are less traffic and more trees. I oppose any proposal that would reduce our tree canopy. The trees and our environment make Sammamish the beautiful place that it is.
If you do not believe so, what would you propose instead?
As we have seen, Sammamish is under construction all over the place. New neighborhoods are popping up and trees are coming down. If elected, I’d support ordinances that set up lot sizes that have treed barriers between existing roads. While developers may lose some profit, it’s critical that we maintain our trees.
During 2015, it was revealed that Staff acknowledged in a Land Use Appeal that they don’t always follow code. During the July 10 City Council meeting, the Staff and Consultants acknowledged they have not followed policy on certain transportation issues. Under the City Manager form of government that governs Sammamish, the City Council cannot “reach down” to staff level. How would you hold staff accountable for failing to follow code and policy?
Code and policy are set by the Council and implemented by the City Manager and staff. If there is a specific reason why a policy or code is not being followed, it is the responsibility of the Manager and staff to explain why this is happening. If there is a conflict or a good reason why this is being done, changes can be made. However, if the Manager and staff are acting beyond their scope, the Council must seek answers and shine a light on the actions of the city staff, both good and bad. The Council must trust but verify.
Community Feedback and Communication
Community feedback comes in many forms: emails to the City Council and staff; appearances during Public Comment and Public Hearings; Letters to the Editor; Virtual Town Halls; Social Media; and the periodic City-sponsored community survey.
The City’s Communications Manager was dismissive of social media as a feedback resource. He stated that he: “consistently made the case to the City Council and senior staff that social media feedback does not provide an accurate view of the community’s perspective. Noting that contented residents are unlikely to jump on the ‘Save Sammamish’ Facebook page, [and] suggested that everyone should pay more attention to the results of [the] random, statistically valid community survey.”
Please state your views of community feedback, the most important avenues and the value (or not) of social media as a gauge of feedback.
All avenues of community feedback are important. No member of the Council or staff should be dismissive of feedback from our community. Social media is a great avenue for members of our community to voice their perspective.
What do you believe the City can do to better communicate with citizens?
Timeliness and responsiveness are critical. Being dismissive is inappropriate. I respect the efforts made by the Council and staff to provide information and clear explanations for code and policy. Being accessible and communicating with the members of our community is priority one for our City government.
Do you believe the City is “hearing” resident concerns and properly addressing them?
The Council and staff can always do better. This is part of living in a democracy. It is critical that the Council hears, responds and reacts to the concerns of members of our community.
Most of you stated concern over affordable housing in Sammamish. The recent 2017 Housing Affordability Response Team (HART) Recommendations report from the Affordable Housing Advisory board proposes several directions for policy at the local level. Which of these regulatory changes and policies would you support at the local level? Which would you be opposed to?
I support workforce housing in Sammamish. This means creating housing that is affordable for the members of our community that are teachers, nurses, grocery clerks and sales associates. These jobs are not going to pay a salary that will purchase a typical Sammamish home. By creating workforce housing within Sammamish, we are reducing our traffic and diversifying our economy. Having worked closely with the King Country Housing Authority, I know this tool has been effective in other communities around our County.
All candidates have stated that they’re opposed to raising taxes to cover the revenue gap that is forecasted for Sammamish, and you’ve all proposed different ways to raise revenue for the city. What do you recommend as your top revenue raising ideas and how much incremental revenue do you estimate for each?
I maintain my opposition to a property tax increase. I’m open to listening to options to bring in new revenue and I’m hopeful that the growth of the Town Center will bring in new sales tax revenue. We need to diversify our revenue, which is now primarily property tax. Keeping a watchful eye on our budget is a critical role of the Council and I will make sure that if a revenue increase is needed, we are pursing every other option before going down that path.
Revisiting your July Questionnaire
Since you answered our Primary Election Questionnaire July 7, you have had the chance to campaign, talk with citizens, see the Candidates Forum and see emerging issues (principally surrounding traffic). This is your opportunity to return to your July answers to revise or change any of them. If you do not wish to make any changes, do nothing. If you want to revise your previous answer, copy-and-paste the question(s) here and insert your new answer(s) after the question.
Why should Sammamish citizens vote for you over your opponent?
I’m a husband, father and small business owner and I love calling Sammamish home. I’ve listened to the community and heard two things repeatedly: less traffic and more trees. If elected, I would focus on these two issues and make them my top priorities on the Council. At the same time, it is critical that our Council be good stewards of our financial resources. Accountability and transparency are essential to our budget and policy processes. I will strive to ask the tough questions and get the answers that make our City a better place.
The Sammamish City Council is a non-partisan position. All of the endorsements you list on your Web site are Democrats and Democratic organizations. Several of your campaign contributions are from Democratic-leaning labor unions. Why haven’t you reached out to Republicans in a bipartisan manner consistent with the non-partisan nature of the City Council office?
I disagree that “all” of the endorsements I’ve received are from Democratic organizations. As evidence, I’ve been endorsed by Eastside Fire and Rescue, Washington Conservation Voters and Washington Bikes. These are non-partisan organizations. I have also met with the Eastside Business Alliance, Master Builders and the King County Realtors. In each meeting, I’ve tried to listen and learn from their perspective. I believe that through listening comes understanding and respect. I hope to bring this perspective to the Council.
On your website, you talk about “balancing residential and commercial growth and development while maintaining the unique character of neighborhoods.” Specifically, what do you mean by this?
As Sammamish grows, I want to be conscious of our unique neighborhoods and not lose our character. Some growth is good but it shouldn’t come at the expense of how Sammamish and our neighborhoods interact with each other. For example, our schools are the hubs of our neighborhoods. As we grow, I want to make sure we are keeping our schools and the paths and streets that create access to our schools safe from congested traffic. We are doing great things with our Town Center. I hope we can focus development there and keep our residential growth on a slower scale.
How would you achieve this?
If elected to the Council, I would ask that we take a step back and look at our zoning. Are we allowing too many houses per acre? Can we utilize the Town Center to absorb more growth while keeping our neighborhoods more residential? How can we connect neighborhoods, including the Emerald Necklace? I want to utilize the tools that the Council and City have to keep Sammamish the City it is and not become a series of disconnected neighborhoods with no real character.
On your website, you speak of “cherishing and protecting our environment.” Specifically, what do you mean by this?
Preserving our environment, our air, our water and our open spaces, is critical to our future. Sammamish is blessed with beautiful environmental resources. It’s one of the main reasons people want to live here. If elected to the Council, I will make sure that in every step we take the impact on the environment is front of mind.
How would you achieve this?
With all of the development that has been happening recently in Sammamish, I’m concerned that we are not protecting our environment. I’m focused on preserving our tree canopy, our streams, our lakes and our open spaces. We cannot allow overdevelopment to encroach and overwhelm these sensitive areas. This can mean purchasing sensitive lands, restoration and making sure that not every possible building site has a house on it.