Position 1: Mark Baughman Questionnaire

Mark Baughman

Name:                                  Mark Baughman

Position sought:               City Council Position 1

Questions to All Candidates 

Traffic and Transportation

After your Primary Questionnaire was returned, the City Council on July 10 had a presentation from Staff and Consultants about “Concurrency 101.” What are your take-aways from this presentation?

Currently, the City isn’t measuring traffic performance objectively to arrive at concurrency determinations or to measure existing traffic flow within the City. The City Council has begun the process of evaluating alternative methods that are based on industry best practices and that will make more intuitive sense to most people. The outcome of this effort should result in higher confidence that concurrency evaluations are reliable, and that future tax dollars spent on non-concurrency projects are being allocated in a more disciplined, evidence based manner to create a better travel experience for everyone within Sammamish.

What, if anything, do you see a need to fix?

The underlying method of traffic analysis, both for concurrency and other projects, needs to be changed. When evaluating current or future peak traffic performance, a method that measures directional travel flows against a ‘free flow’ baseline makes much more sense. It would be more accurate and defendable in the event a developer challenges a concurrency ruling. It also may lead to a stronger position when advocating for improvements to roads outside of the City such as SR202 and the East Lake Sammamish Parkway segment in Issaquah.

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?

The Citizens of Sammamish have repeatedly expressed concerns about traffic in Sammamish and the need to take action to improve the driver experience. The City Council has the responsibility to broadly represent the Citizens of Sammamish, and if traffic is widely expressed as the issue of greatest concern, then this action is appropriate to communicate to the community that their concerns are heard and taken seriously, to demonstrate the commitment of City leadership to improve the situation, and to focus the momentum of the Council and Staff in acting to respond to these concerns.

Environment

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?

Tree retention and tree planting are both important strategies in protecting the long-term character of the City. However, it is more appropriate to implement and manage these strategies separately. Tying the two together introduces complications that are unlikely to be helpful, and creates opportunities for developers and others to find ways to follow the letter of the ordinance, but not the spirit of the ordinance. Keeping rules and ordinances simple makes them easier to enforce, and harder to ‘variance’ around.

If you do not believe so, what would you propose instead?

The revised tree retention ordinance needs a chance to demonstrate if it will reduce development driven tree canopy impact, and then subsequent adjustments may still be necessary. Additionally, the Council should act to eliminate granting of variances from the ordinance without Council knowledge and, possibly, approval.

Separately, the City should capitalize on passionate citizen groups and organizations to pursue tree planting and consider requiring developers to do some planting or provide financial support to these groups. Tree retention and tree planting should not be tied together, and the recently updated tree retention ordinance should not be weakened or diluted.

Accountability

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?

The City Manager and staff must be given appropriate authority to use judgement in day-to-day matters while conducting the City’s business. Micro management by the City Council is counterproductive. However, the Council must keep careful watch over this process and when it appears that the staff is going beyond the wishes of the citizens in their implementation of code & policy, the Council should and must take action to clarify policy, reaffirm standards, demand more frequent reporting from staff, and when appropriate limit the staff’s authority on certain specific matters such as tree retention compliance or large development plan approvals.

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.

Social media can indicate community sentiment so it shouldn’t be discounted, but it can sometimes be the expression of a specific or narrow group and not necessarily reflect the broader community, so it must be viewed through that lens. A great deal of valuable interaction happens on Facebook, but discussion about the City’s very real issues must also move beyond this venue and happen face-to-face, in surveys, in commission & committee meetings, and in City Council public hearings. Social media is a leading indicator, but cannot be the sole source of information for prioritizing City business or setting policy.

What do you believe the City can do to better communicate with citizens?

First, the apparent disconnect in culture and communication between City Council and City staff needs to be improved. City Council shouldn’t provide direction to City staff individually and directly, but more informal communication and establishment of a culture of common purpose will help everyone focus on communicating a consistent message rather than internal conflict. Additionally, the City’s current approach to social media seems haphazard, poorly planned, and not well coordinated. This venue is becoming a standard way people get news and community information, and the City must more cohesively embrace this rather than fight against it.

Do you believe the City is “hearing” resident concerns and properly addressing them?

The City Council’s reaction to issues around traffic raised at the initial Candidate forum is concerning. It appeared that the Council shifted this issue from low gear to overdrive only in reaction to the comments from candidates. In the course of conducting the City’s business, it is the obligation of the City Council to bring the concerns, opinions, and issues into the discussion as a result of their participation in community groups, neighborhood associations, and direct connection with citizen activists. Their next-day reaction to the candidate forum did not present the appearance that this has been happening consistently.

Affordable Housing

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?  

In Sammamish, the Town Center plan addresses many of the recommended regulatory changes for zoning, storm water management and density that will lead to better options to respond to the challenge of housing affordability in the City. Further regulatory revisions that incentivize builders and developers to provide more housing diversity in each development may also improve housing affordability. Changes in ordinance and policy requiring designation or use of taxpayer dollars or use of City owned property are poor choices that will not have a significant long-term impact on housing affordability.

Raising Revenue

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?

In January, the City’s finance director indicated a total deficit of $1.8M in the first two years after ‘crossover’. The City manager has indicated 2020 is 2 years earlier than reality. This suggests that a reduction in the City expenditures of ~$360K per year (0.75% of 2018 operating budget, less thereafter) would push the crossover to the year 2024 when the Town Center should be contributing enough property tax and retail sales tax revenue to improve the City’s financial picture and further push the crossover into the future. This math is simplified, but suggests fiscal prudence will resolve the problem.

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.

[No change.-Editor]

Why me?

Why should Sammamish citizens vote for you over your opponent?

I’m not a politician and have no political aspirations. I’m an independent Sammamish citizen with no ties to any political party or organization. My long career in the commercial construction industry, building and managing projects as large as $500M gives me specific skills, knowledge & experience that our City needs to manage the challenges we face. Above all I am a Citizen of Sammamish and will always put Sammamish First in all matters. I’ve lived in Sammamish since incorporation and am passionate about our potential to proactively manage our challenges and continue making Sammamish the greatest place to live.

Candidate-Specific Questionnaire

Development and Environment

Your profession in “construction” raised questions on Facebook that you are a “developer” and would support development and growth in Sammamish that has become so much cause for concern and a major issue in the elections of 2015 and 2017. How do you respond to these concerns?

I am, first and foremost, a citizen of Sammamish with a passion for the safe and family-friendly culture of our City. My 27+ years in the commercial construction industry makes me an ideal candidate for City Council as our community continues to deal with the effects of new residential development. My specific knowledge and skills around the technical and cultural environment in the construction and development industry allows me to be the ‘expert’ who can help translate and interpret what’s really going on, and how the City can plan for and succeed in proactively managing this process.

How would you balance development, property rights and the environment?

Sammamish is a desirable place to live so development pressures will continue. A building moratorium would not be defensible, is unfair to residents who are property owners, and only pushes the problem into the future. The City should emphasize earlier and faster Town Center construction, properly enforce current ordinances related to development, properly measure traffic and apply these more appropriate measures to concurrency and non-concurrency traffic improvements, and implement some basic design standards to maintain community character. Right now, the City is attempting to react to growth instead of planning ahead and proactively managing it.

In 2015, citizens were concerned that the City Staff had become “Variances-R-Us” when it came to approving development. Staff even admitted in a Land Use Appeal (Highcroft, the development on 228th at SE 20th) that it doesn’t always follow City code. This was a critical factor in the City Council election that year. This year, traffic congestion has been declared the “No. 1 priority in Sammamish” and Staff once again admitted that it has not been following Council policy in traffic concurrency and Levels of Service testing. Given your background in construction and detailed, knowledgeable responses to our Questionnaire in July, please explain your views of how Sammamish is regulating development and traffic concurrency.

In its early days Sammamish was typically proactive about managing issues. Recently there is a sense of the ‘tail wagging the dog’ where development (and associated traffic) cause the City to react/respond rather than the preferred condition wherein the City has anticipated and planned for growth. No plan is perfect, but Sammamish needs a study showing all significant (5+ units) developments possible, including Town Center, at full buildout and how this future state will affect traffic, stormwater, and the budget. I’m concerned that this level of detail planning does not appear to exist in the comprehensive plan or elsewhere.

Crucial Time and Crossroads

Your website says, “Don’t let others tell you that Sammamish is at a ‘crucial time’ or that we are at a ‘crossroads.’” These two terms can have different meanings to different people. What is your interpretation of these meanings in making this statement?

Sammamish remains a relatively new City and every day presents significant challenges to be met by City government and citizens. Suggesting that now is suddenly a crucial time or we are suddenly at a crossroads is disrespectful to the significant work accomplished and decisions made by past City leaders and dedicated citizens. Our City was founded on the dream of controlling our own destiny, making our own decisions, and separating ourselves from the neglect of King County. We’ve come far in pursuit of those ideals, and the hard work of creating a great City from scratch continues every day.

This statement (in the question above, not the answer–Editor) seems dismissive of concerns raises at City Council meetings by citizens appearing at Public Comment (sometimes by the scores), on Facebook and in other forums. Are you suggesting that those who use these terms are either “wrong” or to be ignored?

There absolutely are many difficult issues that need leadership, attention and dedicated people. However, ‘the sky is falling’ politics betray the fact that, whomever is elected, there will continue to be difficult problems to solve and difficult decisions to be made, both now and into the future. Every day is a crucial time and every turn reveals a new crossroads. This is why we need people in City Hall who will work hard to always put the best interest of Sammamish first. The passionate advocacy of people in Sammamish is a powerful testament to their love of this City.

 Fund raising

You selected “mini-reporting” for your fund raising with the State Public Disclosure Commission. This means you do not have to detail to the PDC who is contributing to your campaign. So that Sammamish citizens can understand who is funding you, please detail all your campaign contributions (including your own) here.

To date, my campaign contributions total $1,100 from 3 personal friends all of whom are individual Sammamish residents not affiliated with any group or organization. My total expenditures (as of September 24th) total $742.

 

 

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