Financial statements show Seattle YMCA siphons at least $1.4m annually from Sammamish

SAMM_LocationThe Sammamish Community Center, a $33m facility funded with $28m of  Sammamish taxpayers’ money and operated exclusively by the Y, generated at least $1.4m in surplus that is being sent to Seattle Y, raising questions regarding accounting methods.

The Community Center exceeded all expectations set forth in the city’s original plan.  The city thought the Community Center will attract 1,750 members, with a monthly membership rates for a family at $68.  In reality, more than 5,700 memberships were sold, with monthly membership rates for a family at $138.

The difference is sent to Seattle, although it supposed to stay in Sammamish.

Continue reading “Financial statements show Seattle YMCA siphons at least $1.4m annually from Sammamish”

Sammamish finance retreat Thursday to ponder whether new taxes needed

The Sammamish City Council will hold a five-hour financial “retreat” Thursday at City Hall to determine whether the City’s financial condition is sound enough to avoid a tax hike, new taxes or new debt.

The meeting begins at 2pm.

Sammamish faces large road building expenses if it follows through on everything it wants to do or thinks it should do.

Continue reading “Sammamish finance retreat Thursday to ponder whether new taxes needed”

New battle brewing over Ebright Creek development

Wally Pereyra, gearing up for a new land use appeal over development affecting Ebright Creek.

A tiny, two-home short plat is at the heart of what’s likely to be another appeal to protect environmentally sensitive Ebright Creek.

The Sammamish City Staff Monday approved development “to subdivide one parcel comprising approximately 2.97 acres into two single-family residential lots. The site is located to the east of Ebright Creek, west of the Greenbriar subdivision. The site is constrained by the buffer of a Type F stream (Ebright Creek) and landslide hazard area buffers.”

The applicants, Clifford and Pauline Cantor, first filed for development 16 years ago.

Continue reading “New battle brewing over Ebright Creek development”

“Greenwashing” in Sammamish: A Special Report

  1. Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”), or “green sheen,” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.–Wikipedia.

Since the 2003 Sammamish City Council election, in which environmental-leaning candidates swept the election, the Council prided itself on pursuing “green” policies and ordinances.

The City Manager was far less gun-ho, often lagging his own staff, especially when it came to a concept called Low Impact Development, or LID (not to be confused with Local Improvement Districts, also LID, a special tax option–so context of “LID” is always important to understand).

The current Council is comprised of what would ordinarily considered to be environmentalists. Of the seven, only Member Don Gerend leans “development” over the environment–or so its appears. Tom Odell and Bob Keller proved to have strong environmental credentials. Ramiro Valderrama evolved into a strong backing of the environment. Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Mayor Tom Vance not only consider themselves environmentalists but have an historical track record supporting this.

Image via Google Images. Click on image to enlarge.

Without question the leading environmentalist on the Council is three-term incumbent Nancy Whitten, who decided to retire at the end of this year. And Whitten has been increasingly critical of the collective Council’s direction on a number of environmental issues over the past four years.

While “greenwashing” isn’t the term that comes to the top of the conversation with Whitten, she didn’t disagree with its use when it comes to how Sammamish approaches the environment now. And she’s especially critical of Vance’s evolution away from his historical green leanings.

Continue reading ““Greenwashing” in Sammamish: A Special Report”

Yacizi resigns, effective in February; legacy positive despite controversies

Ben Yacizi.

Ben Yacizi has resigned as Sammamish City Manager, effective in February.

Yacizi has been City Manager for nearly all of our existence after incorporation in 1999. He became City Manager in January 2001.

Having served on City commissions for 8 1/2 years, I know Ben quite well. We’ve debated issues, we’ve fought over issues, and we’ve collaborated on issues.

A City Manager is the Chief Executive Officer of a city; the City Council is the Board of Directors. A City Manager is responsible for all hiring and firing, operations, the budget and carrying out policy set by the Council. Some cities, with an elected mayor (as opposed to a mayor selected by fellow council members like Sammamish), who serves as the CEO, usually have an Administrator as well.

Ben, as CEO of Sammamish, has come in for his share of criticism from citizens. With additional benefit of an insider’s view, he’s also come in for my criticism on more than one occasion. But I can tell Readers that on balance, I would give him four stars out of five for his oversight of Sammamish. Continue reading “Yacizi resigns, effective in February; legacy positive despite controversies”

Sammamish taxpayers, beware: More than $100 million in spending on the way and climbing

  • Community Center: $35 million and probably more.
  • Developing the former YMCA property next to Pine Lake School, at a cost of $15 million proposed in the park plan.
  • Sahalee Road improvements at an unidentified cost, but probably in the low millions at the least.
  • Millions of dollars in the park plan for the Sammamish Landing, the Pigott property and more.
  • Klahanie Annexation: $32 million for road improvements and who knows what else on top of this, almost certainly amounting to tens of millions of dollars more.
  • Widening Issaquah-Pine Lake Road at a cost of $16.5m.
  • Rebuilding “Snake Hill Road” (it’s really 212th Ave. SE, down the windy, snake-like drive to East Lake Sammamish Parkway): Millions of dollars.
  • Desires to take over the Northeast Sammamish and Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer Districts: tens of millions of dollars, at a minimum.
  • Town Center improvements.
  • And this is on top of the normal operations of the city, including millions of dollars for road maintenance, parks, services and overhead.

Sammamish is embarking on a spending spree over the next few years that will make your taxpaying eyes water. For a city that prides itself on not raising property taxes and imposing no utility tax, one has to wonder how long this will stand in the face of this pending spending spree.

Let’s look at the issues.

Continue reading “Sammamish taxpayers, beware: More than $100 million in spending on the way and climbing”

Highest cost estimate on Community Center a big concern

The news that the proposed Sammamish/YMCA community center is already $4m over the price presented to voters is a real concern.

With only 30 percent of the project designed, city officials hope that when 60% is designed, costs will be fined-tuned and closer to the $30m taxpayers were told this project would cost.

I’m not so sanguine.

Buildings and construction projects seem to have a habit of gaining costs. Unknown unknowns can add to the cost. Project delays can increase the cost. Any number of things can do so.

Based on the Sammamish Review article linked above, it sounds like the City Council is pretty much going to bite the bullet and move ahead with a shrug of the shoulders (to mix metaphors).

This project started out as a $64m Taj Mahal. I sure hope it doesn’t have design creep that drives up the cost even more than it is coming out of the box.