Ramiro’s law: Council member Valderrama distorts reality to gain legal support for his pro-development policies

By Miki Mullor
Deputy Editor

Sammamish Council Member Ramiro Valderrama distorted advice from an organization

Valderrama
Ramiro Valderrama

before the City Council August recess that misled fellow council members about key laws governing growth, traffic and development in Sammamish.

Emails obtained from Municipal Resource Service Center (MRSC), a non-profit legal advice organization, reveal Valderrama’s selective citing of laws and legal advice from MRSC painted a picture that support his strategy to continue over development in Sammamish.

In fact, the emails, when read in their entirety, paint a different picture.

Valderrama claimed city should ignore traffic congestion

Valderrama, who does not have legal background, enlisted the  unsuspecting non-profit to manufacture a legal opinion to back his policy that the city should keep ignoring traffic congestion because otherwise “the residents will be on the hook” to pay for fixing the roads.

When MRSC gave him answers he didn’t like, Valderrama omitted those answers and cherry picked the ones he liked.

This is the latest twist in the concurrency saga that has been consuming city hall for over a year.

Concurrency is a legal requirement to prevent over-development, in which infrastructure is not keeping up with development impact.  In Sammamish, years of deliberate manipulation of the concurrency program allowed development to run unchecked and for infrastructure to fall behind.  

Fixing concurrency will likely result in a defacto moratorium for years, given a 15 years infrastructure neglect.

Misleading posts on Facebook

In a series of facebook posts, Valderrama states:

Screen Shot 2018-08-22 at 1.42.04 PM.png
Valderrama made similar assertions to City Council in this presentation

But emails obtained by Sammamish Comment from MRSC show Valderrama’s manipulation of MRSC representative, making it look like he’s trying to find ways to prevent growth, not to address years of infrastructure neglect:  

  • “ What is the proper role of concurrency in the GMA planning process? Can concurrency be used to prevent growth?” – asks Valderrama

He continued:

  • “Can a city use downzoning as part of a strategy to slow down or stop growth?”
  • “Assume the same logic and defense below logically applies to attempts to use the Transportation Improvement Plan or Transportation Master Plan to stop growth- correct?”

Making it sound like he is looking for ways to limit growth without a valid reason.

Valderrama never gives MRSC the real context to the situation in Sammamish: a massive shortfall of public infrastructure and misrepresents the consultants responses.

The MRSC consultant was under the impression Valderrama was looking for ways to raise the standard, not address a massive infrastructure shortfall:

I think he wants to raise the LOS,” writes Oskar Rey, the legal consultant to his colleague.

MRSC response to Valderrama

Reviewing the complete responses from MRSC, reveal a different picture than what Valderrama painted to council and the public.

In his responses to Valderrama, Rey carefully points to different sections of the law and concludes:

  • “In the course of doing so, a city has some discretion with respect to the areas in which growth will be encouraged and the rate at which growth will take place.”
  • “(C) If probable funding falls short of meeting identified needs, a discussion of how additional funding will be raised, or how land use assumptions will be reassessed to ensure that level of service standards will be met.”
  • “A downzone must be consistent with the comprehensive plan, and not merely the desires of a neighborhood. The primary limitation on downzones is that the community action must meet a public objective.”
  • “Any proposal (large or small) to downzone an area of a city should be reviewed by legal counsel for compliance with land use and zoning law and the Comprehensive Plan.”
Valderrama cherry picks

Valderrama then cherry picks specific lines from MRSC’s response to him and puts together a presentation he presents at a city council meeting.  

Below is a side by side comparison of MRSC complete response to Valderrama and Valderrama’s edited version as presented to the public:

MRSC responses to Valderrama and Valderrama's cherry picking
MRSC responses to Valderrama and Valderrama’s cherry picking

(full view of the comparison)

More obfuscation

One of the questions Valderrama presents to MRSC is whether the city will “be on the hook” to pay for roads that fail concurrency as a result of changes to the standard.

What Valderrama doesn’t tell MRSC is that he already asked City Attorney, Mike Kenyon, the same exact question and was answered during a council meeting (YouTube).

This is the public quote from Facebook Valderrama used in his question to MRSC:

FB Quote.png

But when Valderrama writes to MRSC, he conceals the fact that the quote references City Attorney:

“Here is a quote of one of our citizens today “clarifies that tax payers are not on the hook to pay for concurrency deficiencies if those are found (because the city is under no obligation to fix the roads if the citizens don’t want to pay for them). ” – My understanding of what you wrote below … means that the city MUST address/correct (pay for) identified deficiencies in “a responsible period of time”. IS that correct?”  

Comparing side by side, shows Valderrama clever edit to disguise the quote as coming from a “citizen”, not the City Attorney, by editing out the four words, “City Attorney Mike Kenyon”:

Complete Facebook quote Valderrama’s edited version
City Attorney Mike Kenyon clarifies that tax payers are not on the hook to pay for concurrency deficiencies if those are found (because the city is under no obligation to fix the roads if the citizens don’t want to pay for them).” “Here is a quote of one of our citizens today

“clarifies that tax payers are not on the hook to pay for concurrency deficiencies if those are found (because the city is under no obligation to fix the roads if the citizens don’t want to pay for them).”

Never been challenged, never happened before

At the bottom line, MRSC consultant concludes that no local government has ever been challenged for raising LOS standards, making their advice an opinion at best:

“With respect to the first question below, are you aware of situations where a jurisdiction has been challenged for setting LOS too high?  In my experience the situations come up at the opposite end of the spectrum where cities allow development to occur despite a failing LOS.” – writes Rey to his colleague Steve Butler.

I am not aware of any local governments, however, that have been challenged for having high LOS standards.” writes Butler, on March 28.

At no point does MRSC takes any position on the specific situation in Sammamish.

Nevertheless, Valderrama invokes MRSC in the debate as if a legal conclusion was made on the merits of correcting the concurrency manipulation and recognizing the inadequacy of the public  infrastructure in Sammamish.

References:

All Valderrama emails obtained with MRSC 

11 thoughts on “Ramiro’s law: Council member Valderrama distorts reality to gain legal support for his pro-development policies”

    1. Not sure if you watched the Council meeting this evening. I read the statement below from MRSC to the City Attorney who confirmed his agreement with the statement that GMA regulations even more explicitly prohibit use of concurrency to prevent growth. Furthermore the City Attorney cited that the WAC provisions essentially have the same force and effect as state statue/law. It should be up for viewing in a couple of days. I realize we do not always see eye to eye on the best path forward for Sammamish but demonizing those who disagree with you and questioning motives is not helpful. More can be learned through discussion of our different views. As I have for the last six years I will do my best to represent the city and citizens well and continue to welcome your input in productive discussions.”GMA regulations even more explicitly prohibit use of concurrency to prevent growth. WAC 365-196-840(3)(c) provides”:
      “Counties and cities should set level of service to reflect realistic expectations consistent with the achievement of growth aims. Setting levels of service too high could, under some regulatory strategies, result in no growth. As a deliberate policy, this would be contrary to the act.”

      http://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=365-196-840>(3)(c)

      1. as i said over facebook, again you misrepresent what was said. Not going into to go into the whole discussion with you because it’s useless, but to somehow suggest that development cannot be stopped under the “growth management act” if there is no infrastructure to support it is absurd.

        GMA goal for growth states: “(1) Urban growth. Encourage development in urban areas where adequate public facilities and services exist or can be provided in an efficient manner.”

        GMA other goal states: “(12) Public facilities and services. Ensure that those public facilities and services necessary to support development shall be adequate to serve the development at the time the development is available for occupancy and use without decreasing current service levels below locally established minimum standards.”

        You want growth in Sammamish to continue without adequate public infrastructure and you claim the law supports your position.

        So let me just use the words of the 2005 Growth Management Board decision regarding Sammamish:

        “The GMA anticipates development phasing that is linked to the availability of public infrastructure. That linkage may be spatial, with development allowed first in the locations already served by public services and then following the extension of those
        services, [RCW 36.70A.110(3)], or the linkage may be temporal, with development timed to match an infrastructure investment plan [RCW 36.70A.070(6) (transportation) and RCW 36.70A.020(12) (concurrency)]…. The GMA allows for restrictions on urban growth tied to the location of adequate urban infrastructure, and recognizes that developers may be called on to build infrastructure if they wish to develop beyond the location of the existing and planned public/private improvements. ” (Central Puget Sound Growth Management Board, Case No. 05-3-0041 , page 15)

        And language from Sammamish Municipal Code: (14A.10.050 Level of service standards. (2))

        “If any road, street or intersection operates below the level of service standard, development may not be approved anywhere within the City until the level of service is achieved, or transportation improvements or strategies to accommodate the impacts of development will be completed within six years.”

        Butler vs. Lewis County (““It is clear from the record that the sole purpose of adopting this methodology was to avoid the concurrency requirements of the GMA. As pointed out by Petitioner Mudge there is a point at which the desire to avoid GMA consequences becomes, in fact, a decision to evade GMA requirements.”)

        And i can go on and on….

        Ramiro – stop with the games. you changed your mind and want development to continue even though the roads are congested? just say so. explain to your voters why they should support it. But stop hiding behind manufactured reasons.

    2. Whose cherry picking? And a mind reader to boot. Some might construe some of this content as defamatory. Unbelievable. Mr Valderamma is absolutely correct. Watch the Council meetings and draw your own conclusions. I doubt any of the Council members were mislead. I may not agree with all of them but I believe they are all smart enough to draw their own conclusions.

  1. Mr. Mullor, If your story is incorrect and it is based on falls information regarding Council member Valderama will question your credibility as you are feeding the residents of Sammamish fake news. In the future will no longer trust your publication. Maybe, we as residents should question your articles you put in print as unreliable. Mr. Valderama has always represented us being a sound person of credibility and honor. If you as Deputy Editor lower yourself to misleading representation will damage your profession. As a born and educated European find the Press in general here and abroad with very few exceptions propaganda organizations to destroy the facts hoping the public is stupid enough to digest the garbage.

    Sincerely, H. W. Maine

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10

    1. Sammamish Comment has documented Valderrama’s obfuscations, distortions and outright falsehoods many, many times. Miki has the email exchanges between Valderrama and MRSC, with direct comparisons between what MRSC wrote Valderrama and his representations to Council. Additionally, Valderrama misrepresented to MRSC one of his statements in which the city attorney rendered an opinion, while Valderrama attributed this incorrectly to a “citizen.”

      I do not see, Mr. Maine, how you reach your conclusions above.

      Hamilton

      1. Mr Hamilton, I have to agree with Mr. Maine. The idea that if someone has a different opinion, they must support an extreme view is a tactic used to control the discussion and generate fear. I seriously doubt that Valderamma wants unfettered growth. If more citizens watch the Council meetings, they are going to reach their own conclusions. I actually believe that it has already begun. Typically there’s some truth in both perspectives but the problem begins when someone takes another’s perspective and defines as an extreme position. That is unreasonable. Having an independent opinion is one thing, going on the attack is quite another.

      2. Catherine, the issue is not the different views. Miki and I have very different views about the Town Center. The issue is Valderrama’s history of distorting and even making up facts to support his views.

        In addition to his misrepresentations on the current issue, outlined in Miki’s post, Valderrama outright lied about what former City Councilman Troy Romero said with respect to Tom Hornish, as I documented; Valderrama outright lied in his assertions that he was promoting injection of storm water into the ground in the Town Center and tried to blame Karen Moran for “misunderstanding” the difference between injection and infiltration; he lied about environmentalist Wally Pereyra “supporting” injection when he did not; he lied about Moran, then a water commissioner, and Mary Shustov, another water commissioner, supporting injection when they did not; and the list goes on.

        His obfuscations, distortions, misrepresentations and falsehoods alienated his once-strong allies Malchow, Hornish, Ross, Moran, Muller and me (among others).

        Valderrama has aggressively supported growth in his second term. He has supported a staff and consultants whose manipulation of concurrency has been documented. He’s done a complete 180 from his first term for inexplicable reasons.

      3. Just so it’s clear for the record:

        I was a huge supporter of Valderrama. Before I went public last year with exposing the concurrency fraud, Ramiro was the FIRST council member I went to verify my findings with (along with Malchow and Hornish), trusting him for his pro-residence history.

        This is not about opinions. It’s about honesty and truth. For democracy to work, elected officials have to be above and beyond when it goes to truth and honesty. Ramiro is failing badly in the last year or so.

        For example, I do not agree with some of Don Gerend’s opinions – but I respected the honesty and openness he went about his agenda. Same goes for Paul Stickney – not a public official but certainly a pro growth activist – who is upfront about the financial interest he has in the growth he preaches, or your neighbor, Michael R., with whom i’ve had hours of genuine discussions with.

        I hope this will put an end to your onslaught of public insults on my character just because you feel my exposure of the shenanigans at city hall
        jeopardizes you pro-Town Center agenda.

        I welcome a substantive debate but what you’re doing is the exact thing you accuse me of doing…. ironic.

    2. Mr. Maine –

      The story not only cites public records, it also includes a reference to the source materials so the public can verify. I take it you didn’t invest the time to go through it.

      You on the other hand cite no details, no support and no reasoning. Just throwing mud on behalf of your favorite politician.

      I take offense with your comments. I do this gig as volunteer on my free time, digging through thousands of public records and making sure EVERY WORD I write is twice verified to be true.

      Again, I challenge you to specifically point out a single proof to substantiate your harsh words.

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