Position 7: John Robinson Questionnaire

John Robinson

Name:  John Robinson

Position sought:  Sammamish City Council Position 7

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 Growth Management Act is a guide for Sammamish to plan our road network and infrastructure for population growth.  The City Council determines the Level of Service (LOS) for our residents and whether, in the face of growth, we can maintain our LOS.  The significant part of the July 10th presentation explained the current methods employed for calculating traffic concurrency and its affect upon our road network. The admission by the city traffic engineer that he had not followed City Council policy for the concurrency calculation resulted in favorable outcomes for weighted road segment averaging was a shock for me.

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

The City Manager should direct that traffic counts and calculations be corrected by changing from a 24 hour Average Daily Weighted Traffic count to an hourly calculation supported by the Highway Capacity Manual. The hourly counts will provide realistic data and reveal the unique characteristics of our traffic peak patterns and whether our roads are at capacity.  The new data will determine how future development will stress our road network; and, whether we can maintain the current Levels of Service for our residents.  The admission of staff errors, whether intentional or not, has created distrust at City Hall.

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. The declaration by City Council to add traffic review as the first topic of agenda is an excellent example of the exercise for transparency and accountability in our government. A citizen activist invested significant time in pursuit of information regarding traffic concurrency calculations for our City and he discovered errors in the calculations. He was rewarded with criticism and intimidation by the city manager.  Our local government should strive for complete openness and transparency and welcome legitimate examination of City government by our Citizens. Transparency by City Hall is required for better government for all our Citizens.

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?

This is a bad proposal because the change would be in the best interest of the developers and not serving the Citizens of Sammamish and our environment.  I support a proposal that retains old growth, large diameter trees, when feasible, being not less than the current 35% level, and selectively cut to protect and provide screening of a development.  Additionally, a plant a tree program should be enacted, goal driven, specific to evergreen trees, education oriented and with the number of planted trees providing a result greater than we have today. Our tree resources should remain uncompromised.

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

See my answer in the above response.

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?

City Council functions as a board of directors with oversight for the City Manager. Responsibility for the staff and their results should remain with the City Manager who reports to City Council.  City Council holds staff indirectly responsible through the authority of the City Manager. Requiring government transparency with the City Manager and staff are keys to job performance and policy execution.  City Council must provide more oversight to the City Manager by applying performance metrics, to include staff accountability, that are specific, time-oriented, measurable, achievable and results driven.

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 has become an important communication tool for our Citizen’s. As well, social media has become vitally important for the City to push and receive information to and from the community for safety issues, government education, event planning and the arts. Social media for the City fosters inclusiveness as it crosses most economic and cultural barriers. The keys making community surveys valid are that they involve all residents, are easy to access, are carefully designed to motivate participation, and, are understood and easy to complete so they can provide instant and valid feedback of the survey results.

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

The City Council chambers can be intimidating to our Citizens, so the City should provide opportunities for pre-arranged, informal city council member meetings set in neighborhoods throughout the City.  Each Council Member could provide neighborhood meetings at a church, school or community center per quarter to informally receive citizens’ input.  These meetings are listening sessions with the citizens minus the structured form of the recorded City Council meetings.  Of course, the normal City Council meetings would occur as scheduled with the quarterly informal meetings providing a better pulse of the community for Council Members and the City.

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

I believe the City can do better hearing resident concerns. The City Council chambers can be intimidating to many of our Citizens, so we often hear from the same Citizens regarding their recurrent concerns. I believe that City Council and the City Manager become fatigued when faced with the same recurrent issues in the formal council setting.  I suggest City Council members go to the neighborhoods for listening sessions to hear and appreciate resident concerns.  The Citizen concerns can then be collated and properly addressed at the formal council meetings, if needed.  Listening fosters trust in the community.

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?  

The Sammamish Town Center will be our focal point where we should strive to include the main body of affordable housing.  The policies I support for the City are the adoption of density bonuses for development of affordable and senior housing within the Town Center.  Here it makes sense, as more transportation options will exist for these residents. I support a combination policy to reduce impact fees, city owned land exchanges to incentivize development of affordable homes and the addition of Ancillary Dwelling Units (ADU’s) on ¼ acre lots or greater with the dwelling being less than 1000 square feet.

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?

Governments typically spend or over spend the revenues provided, so efficiency with expenses is key to covering a revenue gap.  City Hall has a fiscal responsibility to be good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars, so I propose that we can cover the projected operating revenue gap of $500-600K in 2020 by reducing City Staff positions by 10% through attrition (no one is fired) for an estimated savings of $800K/year; and, we can save approximately $800K/year by holding back 10% of transfers from the operating budget to the capital budget. It’s the practice of being lean rather than expecting increased revenues.

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 me?

Why should Sammamish citizens vote for you over your opponent?

City Council candidates should be non-partisan for the very important reason that each council member is an at large City representative listening to and responding to all the Citizens of Sammamish. To align with this responsibility, I chose to run as an independent, non-partisan candidate declining political endorsements and money from special interest groups. The Democratic Party and the Master Builder’s Alliance chose to promote and support my opponent – and she has accepted.  I think a fair question for my opponent is who does she listen to – the Democratic Party, the developers or the Citizens of Sammamish.

Candidate-Specific Questionnaire

Traffic

On your website, you write that the City needs to “upgrade our road network lane capacity….” There are certain realities in attempting to relieve congestion: Sammamish does not control the 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. So, what do you propose to relieve congestion that is feasible and affordable?

Accurate traffic data is required from the City to make meaningful decisions for a multi-modal road network upgrade that adjusts to peak demands, includes advanced signal technology, commuter reversible lanes at the chokepoints and safe sidewalks surrounding schools – these are the means to upgrade lane capacities. The fact is we can’t build enough roads as way out of our traffic congestion – it is cost prohibitive and geographically impractical. The key is to alter commuter behavior during peak AM and PM hours.  I advocate for city-employer partnerships targeting shared rider programs supporting driver incentives that change commuter behaviors.

Environment

On your website, you write: “Declare and exercise our responsibilities to preserve and protect our environment at the City Council, City Staff and citizen levels.” The City Comprehensive Plan and policies already make a “declaration.” What do you mean by this and how would you “exercise” responsibilities?

The City comprehensive plan does make a declaration to serve as a leader in natural environment stewardship.  My intent goes further so that all aspects of our city recognize, declare and exercise our responsibilities to preserve and protect our environment from policy to practice and from the City Council to City Leadership, Staff and its Citizens. The City should fully embrace an education process for our citizens and our city permitting process must adhere to protection of the environment. The City Manager should execute consistent staff practices to ensure the consistent application of our environmental protection policies.

You also write, “Assume ownership of all aspects of our environment at our city level and enforce our policies and regulations.“ What do you mean by this?

Nearly 50 years ago, the national government enacted environmental protection laws that still affect us today.  Sammamish adheres to these laws being required to assume and enforce them. The enforcement of clean water for our residents through our water districts is an example.  Yet, gaps remain between what our citizens want, how development and the environment intersect and how the city executes environmental policy, such as tree retention. Assuming ownership at the city level means that we make positive choices at all levels of government, balance development and the protection of our environment.

Finally, you write: “Initiate the practice at City Council and City Hall that “a good environment is good business”. What specifically do you mean?

The theme of “good environment is good business” is the collaboration between government and business to protect our environment.  Leading governments and businesses are embracing sustainable practices, encouraging and requiring energy consumption through energy alternatives such as solar, green products, travel through virtual conferencing and home business development with citywide, reliable Internet service.  Sammamish can be an environmental leader adopting solar energy generation as part of government, commercial and residential buildings, installing electric car recharging stations at municipal and commercial sites within Town Center and requiring reliable Internet service across our City to foster home business growth.

 

 

 

 

 

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