By Scott Hamilton
Sept. 20, 2019: It is now clear that the Sammamish City Council election this year has come down to one issue: unfettered development across the city vs controlling development so it doesn’t further overwhelm the roads and aggravate the congestion that already exists.
If you support unfettered development, Karen McKnight, Rituja Indapure and Karen Howe are your choices for council.
If you want to control development and moderate traffic congestion, Christie Malchow, Kent Treen and Ken Gamblin are your choices.
Discerning positions of the McK 3
Discerning the positions of the McKnight Three (McK 3) has been difficult though not impossible. None of the three has been forthcoming about their positions.
McKnight doesn’t even have a web page. Her Facebook posts have been a series of selfies on the campaign trail and at rallies. She refuses to answer questions from voters on Facebook, claiming she is too busy. McKnight refused to be interviewed by Sammamish Comment from the day she announced her candidacy.
But she’s president of the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, whose CEO, Deb Sogge, constantly testified before the city council against a building moratorium and a tighter traffic concurrency standard that measures traffic. The Chamber has bashed McKnight’s opponent, incumbent council member Malchow while professing neutrality in the election.
Before McKnight became a candidate, she testified on behalf of the Chamber before the council and planning commission on several occasions. These included revealing remarks at times.
In an appearance March 6, 2018, before the city council, McKnight said, “We are currently thought of as a development-friendly city” and she feared the city would lose this reputation if the building moratorium was continued.
In a July 19, 2018, appearance before the planning commission, she boasted she’s “worked half her career with builders and developers.”
Unlike McKnight, Indapure has a record. Indapure ran unsuccessfully for council in 2017. She answered a detailed questionnaire from Sammamish Comment then. After she declared her 2019 candidacy, she sat down for an interview with The Comment. She has a website but little in the way of concrete information; it’s filled with campaign platitudes.
Like McKnight, Indapure’s Facebook presence consists of campaign selfies. She, too, refuses to answer questions from voters on Facebook.
She’s been on the planning commission, where positions and votes have been recorded. Watching city videos of the commission meetings fills in a picture of an advocate for higher density throughout the city in contrast to her recently stated positions.
At the Sept. 5 candidate’s forum sponsored by the Sahalee and Timberline homeowners associations, Indapure denied supporting a plan that envisions apartments and density scattered throughout the city in mature, single-family neighborhoods. This “egg splat” concept would add 13 dense developments throughout the city.
Indapure’s opponent, Ken Gamblin, called her on it at the Sept. 5 forum. Indapure denied that the commission voted for the concept and said it was put forth by two “citizens.”
In fact, the commission at its July 19, 2018, meeting voted 4-0 for the concept, which was put forth by two other commissioners with full support of the city staff. Indapure was one of the four votes.
At a commission meeting, she previously spoke in favor a high density throughout the city.
Howe also ran unsuccessfully in 2017 for city council. This left a record that can be applied to 2019, for like McKnight and Indapure, her Facebook posts also consist nothing more than selfies on the campaign trail. She, too, refuses to engage with voters who pose questions to her.
Howe answered a Sammamish Comment questionnaire in 2017 but refused sit for an interview this year. Her website is uninformative on the issues.
Malchow, as a council member the last four years, has a well-documented record. She’s been a leader in challenging staff over development. She decided to run for council in 2015 because staff ignored city codes and approved a development adjacent her neighborhood that would have destroyed open space and threatened salmon-bearing Ebright Creek. She and her co-appellants won an appeal to the city hearing examiner and in court.
Malchow led the way in challenging the city’s traffic concurrency model veracity. It was proved data was created to assure there would be no concurrency testing failures by creating artificial road capacity.
The new concurrency model threatened the ability of STCA to pass concurrency for its development of the Town Center, setting off a bitter, long-running battle that is the focus of efforts to defeat her for reelection.
Malchow actively engages with voters on Facebook and on her Facebook election page. Her website is a landing page which in largely uninformative but links to her Facebook and other pages where she details her positions through engagements with voters.
Treen is a newcomer to politics, although his wife, Debbie, served on the Bothell city council and as mayor when they lived there.
Treen is active on Facebook, answering voter questions and stating his positions. He aligns with Malchow on issues of controlling growth, tightening development requirements and protecting the environment.
After Malchow, Gamblin is the most prolific candidate on Facebook, engaging with voters on a regular basis. His website is unusually blunt, avoiding the meaningless platitudes that usually afflict campaign websites.
Gamblin advocates for controlling growth and improving roads before major new growth occurs. He points to the impact growth has on schools and trees.
Malchow’s dedicated deep dive into development regulations and traffic concurrency modeling earned her the enmity of STCA (the Town Center developer), the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and the “V-3”—fellow council members Ramiro Valderrama, Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie.
Stuart and Ritchie are overtly and actively opposing Malchow’s reelection, and by extension, the election of Treen and Gamblin.
The Chamber of Commerce, while professing neutrality in the council races, has been anything but. It’s president, McKnight, is running against Malchow while retaining her position on the Chamber. Ritchie is a board member on the Chamber and contributed to McKnight’s campaign. The Chamber moderator of the Chamber’s planned Oct. 7 candidates forum contributed to McKnight’s campaign and appeared with her at a campaign event.
The Chamber launched a blog, promoting it as “Providing Accurate Accounts on Local Issues.” In fact, it is an overtly anti-Malchow vehicle.
The Chamber leadership initially refused to guarantee it would not change Malchow’s responses to its questionnaire.
The Chamber responded to Malchow’s concerns that it didn’t “want” to edit the remarks.
“We don’t want to edit,” CEO Deb Sogge wrote to Malchow in an email. “I am all for posting what is. Like our perspectives that we don’t censor, I don’t want to change anything a candidate says. We don’t want to twist anything.”
Malchow replied, “You don’t want to edit or you will not edit? I’d like to understand with complete clarity if the potential exists for editing my responses to your questions as your response below leaves that hazy. Please let me know, thank you.”
Malchow had to email Sogge two more over three days to get a guarantee her responses would not be edited.
But that wasn’t Malchow’s only concern.
Because her opponent, McKnight, is the Chamber’s president, Malchow was worried McKnight would see her responses. In the end, Malchow’s responses to the Chamber instead directed readers to her Facebook page.
Whispering campaign turning partisan
In a series of low blows, Malchow’s opponents began telling people, and posting on Facebook, that Malchow voted for Donald Trump and attended his inauguration.
The latter is demonstrably false: she was at the city council annual retreat in Tacoma when Trump was inaugurated. Malchow vehemently denied supporting or voting for Trump.
This whispering campaign with made-up assertions demonstrates the depths to which her opponents will go.
But this pales to the next step.
In a series of Facebook post, opponents took Malchow to task for hosting a events for local Republican legislators who represent Sammamish and who, by today’s standards, are Republicans In Name Only (RINOs).
Sammamish voters, these opponents urged, should support the Democrats running for council.
These efforts are attempting to turn the non-partisan city council races into partisan ones.
The problem: this latest tactic was unveiled after Malchow flew out of state to be with her mother, who underwent emergency surgery for brain cancer.
This is a truly low blow.
There is a huge irony in the partisan effort.
In the upside down of partisan politics, it is the Democratic politicians in Sammamish who are hell bent on unconstrained growth: council members Pam Stuart and Jason Ritchie and candidates Karen McKnight, Karen Howe and Rituja Indapure.
It is the Republicans (though in reality they are RINOS) who are for controlling growth: Christie Malchow (in her case, she’s actually an independent), Chris Ross, Tom Hornish and Karen Moran.
The city’s leading environmentalist, Wally Pererya, is backing Malchow, Kent Treen and Ken Gamblin.
Substance vs Selfies
Malchow, Treen and Gamblin are discussing the issues with voters on Facebook. McKnight, Indapure and Howe don’t and rely on campaign selfies for their presence.
Voters have a choice between unfettered development supported by the Selfie Slate or controlled growth supported by three candidates who deal in substance and detail.
It’s really this simple.