By Scott Hamilton
In a maneuver reminiscent of Sen. John Kerry’s infamous “I was for it before I voted against it” declaration in the 2004 presidential election, Sammamish Council Member Pam Stuart declared she would support taking the 1% property tax increase allowed by law.
Then she voted against it when the vote was called.
She was the deciding vote in causing the motion to fail.
The vote came after the council on Nov. 19 added $270,000 to the city’s expenditures for the next year that hadn’t been budgeted.
This included $120,100 for the Technology Fund and $150,000 for a grant in the Health and Human Services Commission dedicated for youth mental health.
Election year issues
These were two election year issues used against Mayor Christie Malchow in her campaign for reelection. Stuart opposed Malchow’s reelection. She supported the additional funding.
In speaking to the motion to take the 1% levy—which would raise property taxes from $1.50 to $1.51 per $1,000 assessed valuation, Stuart said the increase is necessary.
“This would be the 11th year in a row we would not take the 1%,” Stuart said. “We have been effectively lowering the tax rate for residents, which is fine, except for the fact we are running operationally in a deficit situation at this point. I would be supportive of taking the 1% if for no other reason than we have an extra $270,000 of expenses we just passed which will further erode our operational budget.”
Stuart voted for levy last year
Stuart and Malchow were the only council members to support the 1% levy last year.
This year, Council member Tom Hornish—who opposed the increase last year—made the motion to adopt the levy this year, citing the operating fund deficit spending.
Member Jason Ritchie opposed taking a levy increase in between the bi-annual budget process. Member Chris Ross opposed the increase without prioritizing spending before doing so.
Deputy Mayor Karen Moran, historically an opponent of tax increases, said the election made it clear that voters wanted infrastructure, so she supported this levy increase to cover funding for the additional expenditures. General funds, which have been used for roads, would not be reduced accordingly.
Shortly after Moran’s statement, Stuart voted against approving the levy. Because Council Member Ramiro Valderrama, who called into the meeting, dropped off the call, the vote was a 3-3 tie (Malchow, Moran and Hornish were yes; Stuart, Ritchie and Ross were no). Motions fail on a tie vote.
Stuart did not explain her flip-flop into a live microphone.
But Moran said Stuart looked at her after the vote and said, “There.” Moran said she asked Stuart why she voted no, to which Stuart replied she didn’t get everything she wanted.
Thanks for this information as it helps us keep our elected officials accountable.
The answer seems so obvious. The city has several monetizable assets which by all rights SHOULD be monetized, so let’s start by selling the pool. That will recapture at least some of the money we taxpayers had to sink into it, and it gets the government out of the business of competing with the private sector–an enterprise it should never have undertaken in the first place.
And no tax increase whatsoever is necessary.
Since the darned thing already sits on public property, the public can lease the land back to the new owners to generate a stream of income–which is a substantially better deal than the city’s “partner” soaking us for money that they promptly send off to Seattle or wherever.
The pool was a mistake, notwithstanding the unsurprising fact that a vocal minority enjoys having their memberships subsidized by everybody else.So if we’re not going to correct this mistake NOW, and convert what value remains in it to a real city-wide benefit, when are we going to correct it?
Positions change, look at Moran’s track record. I likened her ever changing positions to a barn door swinging in the breeze. Fact is, the Malchow voting block hasn’t much cared whether they received input from Valderamma, Stuart or Ritchie. In fact, to prove that point, they’ve cancelled the rest of this year’s meetings. Guess they’re waiting for a larger voting block. This Council knew when they voted the last time that they were operating with a revenue deficit, so to imply that all of a sudden they realized that the voters wanted infrastructure and needed higher taxes to pay for it, is a silly position. Sammamish doesn’t have enough revenue coming in to meet its spending needs even without funding infrastructure. But true to form, some on council are now going to blame the voters for causing tax increases.
Positions change—within 5 minutes?
Don’t suppose you thought to ask her? What about Ross; why did he vote no?
“Member Chris Ross opposed the increase without prioritizing spending before doing so.” This is in the story.
Of course I thought to ask her.
If the council had approved the recommendation by the Health and Human Services Commission the way it had been proposed going into the meeting, our town could have had additional services for our youth within 4-5 weeks, but instead our council decided to create a new grant proposal that will take at minimum 4-5 months to add services that we know our youth already need.
More dire, is that our Police have been asking for additional funding and a study recommended 2 levels of funding proposals that would meet some of the needs and those were completely taken off the table until February (maybe).
So, we don’t have the time to discuss funding our police department for 3 more months, and we are ok with saying the kids can wait another 4-5 months for mental health services. But we can pay additional severance as yet another City Manager bites the dust.
One can never fully trust a politician – they are never stable.
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So another words, The city was counting the chickens again before the eggs were hatched.
Luke Shaff, resident of Sammamish.