By Miki Mullor
Sammamish planning commissioner Josh Amato yesterday announced his candidacy for City Council for the November election. Amato is also seeking the city council’s appointment for Jason Ritchie’s vacant seat, to be decided by mid-March. Ritchie resigned Jan. 20.
Amato, a newcomer to Sammamish, moved here in 2018, according to his website joshforsammamish.com. Under his priorities, he lists transportation, development code, youth mental health, police and senior services.
Amato is a political consultant with affiliation to the Republican Party and a former spokesman for the Washington Republican Party. In a blog post, he says his affinity with the Republican party is now close to zero.
The candidate also shares his personal journey of family hardship and his own past issue with the law as a window to who he is today.
Development – community character
Amato wants to protect the community from overdevelopment, which he defines as protecting community character.
“Many newer developments with their clearcut lots and minimal setbacks are in stark contrast to older neighborhoods where trees have been preserved… I will work hard to ensure any new development respects the natural area by adhering to strict development standards,” says Amato.
Amato does not address the question of growth in the city, the Town Center or the controversy around traffic concurrency rules.
“I am a strong advocate for private property rights, which means protecting the property rights of those wishing to make a change to their property and property owners impacted by those changes.”
Traffic – $20 Sammamish car tab tax
Amato points to the City’s draft Transportation Master Plan (TMP) and its $500 million price tag.
“For years, residents have heard promises to improve infrastructure that have not come to fruition, resulting in an erosion of trust, ” he says.“While the city must still work out the details, there is essentially no funding identified.”
Amato proposes to enact a Transportation Benefit District, a legal mechanism that will allow the city to levy taxes specifically for transportation projects. Amato proposes a $20 car tab tax charged for every car registered in Sammamish, which will raise about $850,000 every year.
“Too often, politicians make promises they can’t keep because they aren’t willing to tell the truth. The truth is, we cannot fix our roads without higher taxes,” Amato claims.
But over the years Sammamish invested hundreds of millions of dollars in road projects, including widening 228th Ave and Issaquah Fall City Road, the 244th Ave. bridge, reconstruction of Snake Hill (the southern end of 212th) and East Lake Sammamish Road phase 1. These were largely funded by traffic impact fees paid by developers and from budget surplus in the early years. Another $30 million in fund intended for road projects was instead invested in the YMCA project.
In fact, Amato posted the following picture of the Issaquah Fall City Road $44 million road project in a blog post on his website:
Amato promises to discuss specific transportation projects with estimated price tags and commentary in a future blog post.
Youth mental health, senior services, more police funding
Amato wants to increase funding for mental health services for Sammamish youth.
“The City must take proactive measures to address the mental health crisis impacting our youth,” he wrote on his website. Alcohol and substance abuse are major issues. He wants more funding for in-school counselors, expanding Lake Washington School District’s Mental Health First Aid program and to provide more recreational opportunities for youth within the city.
Amato applauds the City Council’s increase in police funding in the latest budget cycle, but warns not to be complacent.
“The officers that were just added and will be on the streets within a year will be providing critical relief for our understaffed police, it does not add enough…as your councilmember, I will push to increase funding for more police,” says Amaton on his website.
Senior services are also a priority for Amato.
“It is our duty to ensure those Seniors who continue to call Sammamish home are not left behind in our budget decisions,” he writes “There are currently very few services provided for our Seniors and no gathering place for activities. That must change.
“I understand the YMCA was providing some level of services for Seniors, but my phone call to them to determine what was offered pre-pandemic was not very informative,” says Amato. He also wants to expand the shuttle service provided by Eastside Friends of Seniors and maintain a volunteer bank and.
“I will push to make our Seniors a budget priority and work hard to follow through on old, unrealized promises.”
Addressing personal criminal history
In a video posted on his website and in a blog post, Amato tells his personal story that included the unsolved murder of his mother when he was six years old and his own entaglement with the law in 2009.
“The only way for me to earn your trust is to be open with you from day one,” says Amato in the video. “In 2009, I was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor”. Court records show Amato was charged for threatening a bodily injury.
“I had a family member who told me she was in an abusive relationship and her baby needed out…. I gave her a car to use and allowed her to live in my rental house. The only requirement was that the boyfriend not be allowed inside the home,” explains Amato. “One night I learned he was there and I went with my brother and his two friends to try to get him to leave to protect my family member. An argument took place between me and the boyfriend but it became clear she wanted us to leave before it escalated.”
Amato doesn’t expand on what exactly happened but was later arrested and charges were filed. He says that in order to avoid a jury trial that he could not afford, he tooks a deal that as long as he wouldn’t be arrested for one year, the case would be dismissed.
A court record synopsis shows a no contact order was issued against Amato and indeed a year later the case was dismissed by the prosecuting attorney. The court records were destroyed in 2015.
“I’ve come to realize I was letting a past incident define me. What should define us is how we respond to adversity. I’ve had my share of challenges but I have always had control of my response,” Amato says in the video, “As a city, we need to ask ourselves what our response is going to be to the challenges we face.”
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What I want to know is why this candidate is hiding his former involvement with the Republican Party. If he’s serious about being up front from day one, he should let voters know how closely he was associated with the GOP, being it’s public spokesperson in this community. He can say it’s a non-partisan office, but that doesn’t change his own personal affiliation as a Republican.
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