Sammamish needs to open up with transparency on TIP; there’s a “now you see it, now you don’t” show happening

Illustration via Google images.

Sammamish officials have a serious transparency and credibility problem.

The side-by-side comparison of the 2014 and 2016 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plans (TIPs) shows what appears to be creative “book keeping” to present a financial picture that is rosy when it’s really not. Sammamish Comment also reviewed prior TIPs to compare projects and projected costs.

Sammamish Comment spent this week dissecting the TIPs for the Readers. The issues are these:

Continue reading “Sammamish needs to open up with transparency on TIP; there’s a “now you see it, now you don’t” show happening”

City shifts $23m from City Roads to Klahanie project–but had vowed not to affect legacy Sammamish

When Sammamish officials in the summer of 2014 lopped around $19m off its 2015 Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan from four long-standing road projects, they had already pledged to improve and widen Issaquah-Fall City Road along the entire length of the east side of the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area if voters there agreed to annex to Sammamish.

Klahanie PAA voters rejected a plan the previous January to annex to Issaquah. Sammamish, which campaigned against the Issaquah vote, promised to take on the road project if a subsequent vote to annex to Sammamish was held and approved. King County at one time placed a price tag of $32m on the project. Sammamish officials studied the plan and concluded King County had double-counted some of the work in a two-phase plan and estimated the cost was closer to $23m.

For several consecutive TIPs, costs for four key projects within Sammamish remained constant. Facing the Klahanie project, the 2015 TIP cut$19m from these projects. Another $3.6m was further reduced from the 2015 TIP for the 2016 TIP, approved last month.

The analysis that revealed City officials shifted $22.5m from road projects to fund the $23m Issaquah-Fall City road widening to fulfill a commitment for the Klahanie area annexation appears to go back on a pledge to Sammamish residents that they wouldn’t be impacted by the annexation.

It also appears to be an effort to mask early statements by City officials that Sammamish would have to issue $23m in bond debt to pay for the Issaquah-Fall City/Klahanie road widening project.

Continue reading “City shifts $23m from City Roads to Klahanie project–but had vowed not to affect legacy Sammamish”

Transparency (or the lack of it), the evolving Sammamish City Newsletter and taxpayer dollars

The August Sammamish City Newsletter contained a front page article about the state of the City’s finances and the Six Year Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

This was followed on the next page by the Mayor’s Message, in this case from Tom Vance, who is in his second year as mayor.

The articles are clearly responses to public questions about the TIP funding and proposed City expenditures in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next six years for a variety of projects, notably from Council Member Ramiro Valderrama. He’s repeatedly questioned the financial viability of the road projects and how these will be funded.

This column also questioned the TIP and its ending fund balance as adopted, showing a near-depletion by 2020.

The article is a clear response to Valderrama and to The Sammamish Comment. The Mayor’s Message is a clear puff piece, transparently touting policies and promotions as Vance heads into a reelection campaign that will get underway after Labor Day.

The City Newsletter has transformed from a means to inform citizens to a propaganda piece to refute questions raised by members of the City Council and the Public and, in the case of the Mayor, to defend his own practices from criticism.

Continue reading “Transparency (or the lack of it), the evolving Sammamish City Newsletter and taxpayer dollars”

Sammamish acknowledges County appeal on Lake Trail, ignores citizens’ appeals in statement

Sammamish issued this statement at 5pm Friday, after Sammamish Comment reported on Thursday three appeals had been filed against its permit issued to King County for development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

City Manager Ben Yacizi didn’t mention two appeals by others, a resident along the trail, and one by Sammamish Home Owners and two residents.

Continue reading “Sammamish acknowledges County appeal on Lake Trail, ignores citizens’ appeals in statement”

Metropolitan Market project for Sammamish Town Center breaks ground

MetroMarket Groundbreaking
Sammamish City Council members participate in the ceremonial ground breaking for the Village at the Town Center, anchored by Metropolitan Market. L-R: Mayor Tom Vance, Council Member Don Gerend, Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Council Member Bob Keller. Vance and Keller served on two planning commissions that created the Town Center Plan. Scott Hamilton, editor of Sammamish Comment, served with both on the two Commissions, also participating in creating the Town Center Plan. Click on photo to enlarge. Photo by Scott Hamilton.

The first commercial/retail center for the Sammamish Town Center broke ground this morning at the corner of SE 4th St. and 228th Ave. SE.

This is a major milestone in the history of Sammamish.

The Town Center plan was some six years in the making, involving five citizen committees and commissions comprised of about 70 citizens; City Councils spanning 2004-2010; and staff time to this day.

Hundreds of citizens participated in charets and public meetings over the course of this time.

The creation of the Town Center Plan truly began in about 2004. The area, roughly bounded by an area extending to the Mars Hill Church on 228th (the church lies just outside the northern boundary) to Skyline High School and Mary Queen of Peace on the north; and from the Eastside Catholic High School (which is outside the Town Center) on the East to roughly 222nd St. on the West. The Sammamish Commons is part of the Town Center Plan.

Continue reading “Metropolitan Market project for Sammamish Town Center breaks ground”

Why Klahanie annexation, water fight matter to Sammamish

This is the “Sammamish Comment.” So why am I spending so much time on a water fight between Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and the proposed annexation by Issaquah of Klahanie?

Because of the impacts on Sammamish, which could be profound.

The water fight and the annexation are the crescendo of long-running disputes between Sammamish and Issaquah, in which Issaquah has basically stiff-armed Sammamish at nearly every turn–most notably years-long efforts to adjust the financial contributions of the many partners in the Eastside Fire and Rescue (EFR) service.

Sammamish, by assessed value of the homes and land, pays the largest share into EFR. But Issaquah generates more calls. By Sammamish’s analysis, Issaquah should be paying about $500,000 a year more than it is based on the actual calls.

Issaquah refuses to adjust. Relations between Sammamish and Issaquah have reached a breaking point. Sammamish will decide soon whether to withdraw from EFR and form its own fire department or possibly even an alliance with Redmond.

Sammamish might close “Klahanie” fire station

Sammamish has warned that if Klahanie annexes to Issaquah, Station 83, more commonly known as the Klahanie fire station–which is owned by Sammamish and located at SE 32nd and Issaquah-Pine Lake Road–may be closed. Issaquah, according to our information from Sammamish, has already told our leaders it won’t buy the station.

This didn’t stop the Issaquah police chief from telling Klahanie residents that he could co-locate a police sub-station at the Klahanie fire station, a comment that came as a surprise to Sammamish officials.

Issaquah’s arrogance over EFR matters–and the continued unfair financial burden Sammamish taxpayers have because of Issaquah–is an issue unto itself but it’s also tied to the Klahanie annexation.

Continue reading “Why Klahanie annexation, water fight matter to Sammamish”

Looking ahead to 2013 for the City of Sammamish

Here are some of the big issues I see facing Sammamish and our citizens for 2013, in no particular order except for….

  • The future of Ace Hardware. Time is running out. Ace needs a building permit by March (February would be better) if it is to have a new building ready by August, when its lease expires. Staff was directed by the City Council in December to expedite a review of issues facing development of some of the most environmentally constrained land in the city, next to the Washington Federal Bank and the Mars Hill Church on 228th. A land swap with the City is a crucial component. Procedurally, an “emergency” probably would have to be declared to speed up processes required by state and local laws, but there are still certain requirements that suggest to me that even on an expedited basis, I don’t see how it can all come together by February or March. I hope I’m wrong. The City Staff is to report back to the City Council at the first meeting in January (the 8th, I think). Let’s hope. What happens could play into the 2013 City Council race. If a positive solution isn’t found, the issue is certainly going to become a major campaign event. Four seats are up for election: Mayor Tom Odell, Deputy Mayor John James, and Members Don Gerend and John Curley. Failure to find a solution will be used against these guys, and the issue will become a major one. Success will be used by these guys.

After Ace, here are some of the other key issues I see:

  • Staying with or defecting from the Eastside Fire and Rescue (EF&R): This is going to be a Big Deal. A decision will be controversial. The outcome has the possibility of becoming a major election issue for the 2013 City Council race. There is some significant sentiment to leave EF&R because of the costs (it, along with police service, is the highest single item in our budget and it’s going up) and long-running disputes over Sammamish’s fair share of the EF&R budget. Ambitions to expand the district by other EF&R members would have the effect of neutralizing our influence on the EF&R board and place our two representatives at a disadvantage to protect our taxpayers. But, according to several City Council members and others we’ve talked to, our City Manager Ben Yacizi is adamantly opposed to the City forming its own fire department because he doesn’t want to deal with unions. The City Council, which in my long-held view, is too subservient to the City Manager, may well be out-maneuvered by him in his opposition. A committee of former City Council members appointed by the current City Council to study the issue recommended leaving EF&R. The committee included Ron Haworth, a former fire chief himself, Kathy Huckabay and Lee Fellinge. Our City Council so far has ignored this recommendation. A decision comes before the election in November. It will be interesting to see if the four Council Members whose seats are up will have the political courage to withdraw from EF&R; the time, I believe, has come to do so.

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