By Scott Hamilton
July 29, 2019: The Sahalee Way project Sammamish City Council Member Ramiro Valderrama now advocates approving is the same ones he labeled “lipstick on a pig” and “lipstick on a hippo” in January 2017.
Valderrama opposed the 2015 plan, comparing with a proposed set of projects for East Lake Sammamish Parkway in 2011 that he labeled the “most wasteful project in the city’s history.”
In posts on Facebook last week, Valderrama falsely claimed he supported the Sahalee Way project but only after a Transportation Management Plan was prepared.
Valderrama made his remarks on a Facebook thread commenting about the petition filed by former Mayor Don Gerend seeking to overturn a traffic concurrency adopted two months ago.
Development of the next phase of the Sammamish Town Center cannot pass the concurrency standard on Sahalee Way.
In the video of the city council meeting in his discussion against the project at the time, Valderrama made only a passing reference to including the project in a TMP first.
- Valderrama’s reasoning may be seen at 2:28-2:33 hours, 2:59-3:02 hours and 3:27-3:29 hours into the 4 ½ hr meeting.
- Valderrama opposed the project because of cost, noise, tree removal, land required, inclusion of sidewalks, bike lanes and a median. He never expressed support for the project, whether a TMP was done first or not. The Transportation Master Plan still has not been completed.
- Valderrama called the plan he now advocates a “lipstick on a pig” and “lipstick on a hippo” four times during these clips.
Council Members Tom Hornish and Christie Malchow favored preparing a TMP first. Valderrama mentioned seeing how Sahalee Way “fit into” a TMP in a “holistic” way. Then-Mayor Don Gerend didn’t favor a TMP, noting how complex and lengthy doing this study would be.
Gerend also said he had been “pessimistic” about the project, but was “glad” initial plans for a five lane expansion or an uphill truck lane southbound from the northern city limits had been eliminated.
The vote at the January 3, 2017, council meeting was 4-3 against awarding an initial contract for the $16m+ project.
Gerend, Hornish, Malchow and Valderrama voted against it. Then-council members Bob Keller, Kathy Huckabay and Tom Odell voted to award the contract. None of these three is on the council today, all having chosen to not seek reelection when their terms were up.
Had Valderrama voted in favor of the $1.57m contract, further design and engineering would be begun and much of today’s controversies would have been avoided.
Gerend last week filed a petition before the Growth Management Hearings Board challenging a concurrency standard adopted this year for Sahalee Way.
Valderrama today supports the project he once called “lipstick on a pig” or “lipstick on a hippo.”
He flip-flopped because the new concurrency standard adopted this year cannot be met by development proposed by STCA for the Sammamish Town Center. Valderrama has been STCA’s leading advocate on the city council, supported with almost equal fervor by Members Jason Ritchie and Pam Stuart. These three oppose the concurrency standard and advocate raising the v/c ratio, eliminating it or exempting Sahalee from concurrency. An effort to exempt the Town Center previously failed because the city attorney said this would violate state law.
The staff placed a larger $54m Sahalee Way plan on the current Transportation Improvement Plan as part of the state-required TIP annual process. However, the lead staff member admitted she did not support placing the plan on the TIP.
Valderrama has used this TIP listing to politically pummel Mayor Christie Malchow, who is running for reelection, and Member Tom Hornish, who is not seeking another term. Valderrama advocates instead returning to the 2015 plan he voted against in January 2017.
The political gamesmanship is another reason he’s flip-flopped on the 2015 plan.
On Facebook, Valderrama claimed he supported the plan.
“As I cited in the last meetings,” Valderamma wrote Saturday, “Malchow, Hornish and I all supported the plan but wanted the TMP to go first as the comprehensive Transportation Master Plan would impact the Sahalee Way and what needed to be done.”
But a review of the Jan. 3, 2017, council meeting shows no such support from Valderrama, who offered nothing but opposition and no alternative ideas to what staff then proposed. In summing up his reasons to vote against the project, Valderrama didn’t mention the TMP but once more referred to costs and ended by calling the plan he now supports “lipstick on a hippo.”