Position 5: Rituja Indapure Questionnaire

Rituja Indapure

Name: Rituja Indapure

Position sought: 5

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?

The presentation on concurrency walked us through the history of policies, ordinances and models that have shaped the traffic solutions in Sammamish. The key takeaways were:

  • Ensure policy instituted by the council is reflected in the models used to determine concurrency
  • Major arterials carry the traffic run North/South, with no ability for the traffic to move East/West
  • Concurrency and LOS calculations are extremely complex and need to be reviewed on an annual basis

Over the years, traffic engineers have developed various methods for measuring and estimating congestion levels on roads and determine the Level of Service.

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

As a city, we need to be proactive with investments in infrastructure and ensure we have a fiscally sustainable transportation plan in order to provide a seamless and efficient transportation experience. We must realize the needs of our community and focus on creating a more connected street network, invest in making improvements to roads that will reduce commute times and support transit use. Acknowledging that calculations and models used to make traffic analysis are complex, we need to ensure we are communicating and educating citizens on policy and implementation of traffic solutions in Sammamish.

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 was in attendance at the Transportation Master Plan roundtable and was able to provide input into what can be done regarding overall ridership experience in Sammamish. Having talked to many residents over the course of past few months- increase in traffic due to growth, lack of transit options and lack of proactive investments in our infrastructure are reflective of the concerns of Sammamish residents. Addressing concerns of the citizens is the council’s responsibility, and ensuring that we are communicating transparently with our community about decisions and discussions related to traffic problems will be critical to addressing this issue in Sammamish.

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?

To reduce tree retention in Sammamish would be contrary to the vision of Sammamish which celebrates the “well preserved natural environment” and takes pride in “its expanding tree canopy”. In addition to creating a robust Urban Forest Plan, we must prioritize hiring an arborist on the city staff who can improve the design of urban planting spaces to increase tree survival rates, strengthen requirements for the establishment and protection of trees in all development projects. This will also ensure that we have uniform policies regarding trees in the city. Tree planting should be encouraged in neighborhoods, schools and communities.

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

We must create a roadmap for preserving and increasing trees in Sammamish via a comprehensive Urban Forest Plan. The plan will present the current status of the urban forest and help strategize on retaining and expanding the tree canopy in Sammamish with the use of the latest science and management practices. We must link the Urban Forest Plan with Stormwater retention.  It is important to plant trees that are native species, non-invasive and suitable for the location. A healthy urban forest will contribute to the economic, social and environmental well-being of the city.

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?

Having served on the Board of Directors for a non-profit, I have the experience of holding staff accountable in situations which lacked full communication and transparency. I am committed to ensuring that the city and the council conduct business in an open, transparent and accountable manner.  These principles must be in our policies, procedures and practices.  At the city level, it is important that there be an atmosphere where leaders are willing to listen openly, respect different opinions and provide constructive feedback. If the city council cannot reach down to the staff level, the City manager should be held accountable.

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.

With a considerable population of Sammamish on social media channels- be it Facebook, Twitter or NextDoor, social media is an integral part of community engagement. Social media should be used as one of the tools to gauge public opinion on projects and it should also be used to disseminate important information about what is happening within the city government. However as with any other tool, it would be important to establish the purpose, goals, rules of public engagement and review process for using social media as a communication tool.

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

By ensuring that the residents of Sammamish have accurate, timely and complete information which will help them make informed decisions, by being proactive about informing residents on City projects, development, policies and resident issues are a few ways in which the city can improve its communication with citizens. I have been a proponent of the city conducting a “resident university” which would seek to educate the residents of Sammamish regarding how the city and its departments work so as to foster a sense of trust and understanding of the workings of the city.

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

With the growing number of residents in Sammamish, the number of inquiries and concerns to the City hall have increased. The city should plan for even more queries and FOI (Freedom of Information) requests and assign the necessary resources to handle concerns of the residents.  In talking to many residents in Sammamish, I have heard from people who have been pleased with the response they have received, but I have met an equal number of people who have not received prompt or valid response from the city. We must do better.

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? 

Lack of affordable housing is not only a Sammamish issue, but a regional issue. With the Town Center, Sammamish has accounted for affordable housing, and we need to do more to ensure that individuals, families, seniors, and others can live in the city in which they work. The city should continue to find opportunities to collaborate with organizations like ARCH (A Regional Coalition for Housing), look at underutilized publicly owned property as an opportunity for affordable housing, provide broad-based education to encourage communities to facilitate the development of more affordable housing.

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?

Raising revenues is a challenge for all cities in our region- and not just Sammamish. New businesses, restaurants and services brought into Sammamish by the construction of Town Center create a potential revenue source. We need to continue to be smart about spending and evaluate processes that can address redundancy in services and find ways to reduce spending. Sammamish has been successful with applying for and being awarded grants, and we must continue to do so.

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 changes—Editor.]

Why me?

Why should Sammamish citizens vote for you over your opponent?

I bring a wealth of diverse experience balancing budgets, analyzing data, managing teams and community organizing. I have worked as an QA Analyst for over 17 years and spent nearly a decade volunteering in our community as a board Treasurer, public speaker for Humanities Washington, Director of Arts Festivals, Precinct Committee Officer, graduate of United Way’s Leadership program.

I am a

  • Collaborator who has worked with students, seniors, athletes, parents and professionals in our community.
  • Listener who will ensure transparency and accountability at all levels and that all voices are heard.

I will bring Integrity, Innovation and Inclusion to City Hall.

Candidate-Specific Questionnaire

Non-Partisanship

The Sammamish City Council is a non-partisan position. All of the major, recognizable endorsements you list on your Web site are Democrats and Democratic organizations. Several of your campaign contributions are from current or former Democratic elected officials or candidates. Why haven’t you reached out to Republicans in a bipartisan manner consistent with the non-partisan nature of the City Council office?

Throughout this campaign I’ve met with elected officials, citizens and organizations across the partisan spectrum. I am honored to have received the endorsement of many local leaders and organizations who share my values and can vouch for my experience and dedication to our community. At the same time, I believe our elected leaders have an obligation and a responsibility to serve everyone in their community and as city councilmember I would be committed to hearing all points of view and leading in a bipartisan manner.

Prior City Service

Your website says you “have the experience to bring people together and ensure strong community engagement so all voices are heard, find solutions to our toughest problems, and will promote common-sense and reasonable solutions.” You were an Alternate to the Arts Commission. Some of your fellow commissioners said you attended very few meetings and contributed little. How does your website claim square with your service record on the Arts Commission?

As an Alternate Commissioner on the Arts Commission, my vision was to cultivate a space that would inspire an exchange of ideas and bring unique and diverse cultural experiences. I presented the commission and Chair with project ideas like oral history of Sammamish and bringing a multicultural Film festival. Over the years, I have been invited to serve on the boards of PTSA, The Seattle Globalist, Tasveer and have fostered an atmosphere of openness, honest communication while helping to find solutions to tough problems the non-profit organizations faced. I have always believed in the importance of giving back to my community – it’s why I have dedicated my free time to volunteering and it’s why I chose to run for City Council.

Environment

Your website suggests that the City “provide homeowners with attractive options for reducing energy consumption.” What do you mean by this? A public relations/information campaign or some tangible choices? Be specific.

As a city, Sammamish can do more to encourage the use of innovative solutions, new technologies and incentives to reduce energy demand and consumption. We can promote energy efficiency incentives like the PSE’s Green Power Challenge and provide education about existing programs that encourage individuals to become energy independent by reducing energy use and/or generate energy for their own use. Some tangible choices reduce energy consumption could be providing incentives to:

  • Install solar panels on new constructions and existing homes
  • Use green materials in construction
  • Develop systems for reusing stormwater
  • Promote easy access and installation of electric car charging ports

 Traffic

Traffic has been declared by the City Council as the “No. 1 priority in Sammamish.” There are certain realities in attempting to relieve congestion: Sammamish does not control then choke points, and those jurisdictions that do don’t have the ability to fix them; Sammamish doesn’t have the money to create four- and -five lane roads for more capacity, nor is the land available to widen roads in many cases; widening the roads has an adverse impact on the environment. Your website suggests as a solution, ”Create channels for Public-Private partnerships to find innovative solutions to commuter traffic issues.” What does this mean? Be specific.

Today Sammamish residents do not have adequate public transit options to get to work or around the city. In addition to encouraging more employers to offer commuter bus services, I would like to explore the possibility of partnering with private providers of transportation services. For example, senior residents from Sammamish can be offered travel vouchers to take them from Sammamish to the Together Center in Redmond for their appointments or CWU can offer free bus passes to their students.

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