It was with regret we learned of the decision by Mayor Christie Malchow to pass on seeking reelection to a second term as Sammamish city council member.
Malchow accomplished more in one term than many council members have in multiple terms.
She didn’t hesitate to take on highly controversial issues. Once she did, her tenacity in solving the issue was awe inspiring.
Discovering concurrency flaws
In her second year on the council, Malchow—along with council member Tom Hornish and then-council member Tom Odell—began diving into the city’s traffic concurrency modeling. This is the “black box” that measures whether new growth will overwhelm roads. Aided by information revealed by citizen Miki Mullor (who subsequently became editor of Sammamish Comment), the three became convinced that the modeling had been rigged so no development ever failed concurrency and thus prohibited to continue.
Malchow went so far as to measure lane and shoulder widths, proving data in the model exaggerated capacity. What other council members over the years would have thought to do this?
The result: after nearly two years of debate, often bitter and which severely fractured the council, Sammamish has a new model that more accurately measures the traffic impact of growth. Development now faces stringent testing rather than pencil-whipping approval.
Changing culture in city hall
As mayor, Malchow and her allies on the council challenged the culture of the city manager form of government that has been in place since incorporation in 1999.
Over the years, the city manager and staff sometimes came to set policy, rather than implementing policy adopted by the council. In a painful transition, the city council approved the departure of one city manager, the hiring of an interim manager and just this month selected a permanent city manager who should take office next month.
As with any entrenchment, this process has been slow, painful and controversial. But changes were overdue and they came under Malchow’s term as mayor.
The Highcroft development on the corner 228th Ave. SE and SE 20th St. symbolizes for many residents the wrong direction development has taken. Malchow led the recent push to adopt new development regulations to improve the neighborhood character of new development with stronger emphasis on lot size, setbacks (space between homes) and prohibition on mass land grading.
Malchow fought for greater tree retention rules, stronger environmental protection and a host of other citizen-oriented issues. She especially fought special interests, which sometimes put her at odds with a minority on the council.
She became a target of developers and others, an unpleasant aspect that comes with the job when you choose to put the interests of the vast majority of residents above that of special interests.
Thanks for Malchow
As Malchow winds up her fourth year in office, she has a few goals left to accomplish, as she outlined in her announcement.
Sammamish residents owe Malchow thanks for her dogged determination, her refusal to bow to harsh, targeted criticism and her commitment to the citizens of this city.
Her presence on the council will be missed.