The opening date for filing for the Sammamish City Council election is just around the corner: May 11 is the first day.
Three Council Members are up for election: Tom Vance, who also currently serves as Mayor; Ramiro Valderrama; and Nancy Whitten. None has announced if they will seek reelection, although word-on-the-street is that Vance intends to. Valderrama and Whitten should announce soon whether they will or won’t in order to give potential opponents notice or those interested in running for an open seat notice.
Christie Malchow, who has lived in Sammamish for four years and who is a newcomer to politics here, announced she will run but hasn’t said which position she will seek.
Sammamish City Council members have declined to reaffirm statements at January retreat they made indicating they would honor citizen vote in the Advisory Ballot April 28 on whether to grant voters here the right to Initiative and Referendum.
By a 5-2 majority, members of the Sammamish City Council currently oppose giving the right of Initiative and Referendum to the voters of our City. It was a split vote to even put the issue to an Advisory vote on the April 28 ballot. Council Member Tom Odell voted against putting the issue to the voters.
With only Members Nancy Whitten and Ramiro Valderrama on record in favor of granting the right, other Members informally said at the City’s January retreat they would honor the citizen outcome on the Advisory ballot. But last week, only Whitten and Valderrama responded in the affirmative to an email inquiry I sent to each council member asking whether they will honor an approval vote from citizens. Odell and Don Gerend declined to state their position “for the record” in advance of the vote. Bob Keller said he is reserving his decision until the result. Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay did not respond to the inquiry.
See my post from the January retreat. At this retreat, Council members told me that if voters for Yes for the initiative, the council will adopt the ordinance. If they vote No, they won’t
See a Sammamish Review article on the topic. The paper reported, “While the April vote will be a nonbinding advisory vote and Mayor Tom Vance made no promises, he did say he believes the council will go along with whatever voters decide. He added he just couldn’t see any member of the council going against voter wishes.”
This ambiguity now raises the obvious question of whether a majority of the Council will endorse an affirmative vote of citizens, even if the outcome is a narrow 50% plus one or an overwhelming majority.
Fundamentally, the issue comes down to trust. Opposing Council Members have been clear they don’t trust the initiative process or our citizens to handle this right, which is provided under the 1912 State Constitution.
The Klahanie Potential Annexation Area could lose its right to Initiative and Referendum if it annexes to Sammamish.
As part of unincorporated King County, the 10,000-plus residents in the PAA currently have the right. Sammamish residents do not.
The Klahanie PAA will vote April 28 whether to annex to Sammamish. If approved, the City Council hopes to make the annexation effective in August.
Sammamish residents vote April 28 in an Advisory vote (which means the City Council can affirm or reject the advice) whether the City should adopt the right of Initiative/Referendum. But the vote has no force of law.
So Klahanie PAA residents could very well come into Sammamish without this right.
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.
Nearly a year ago, I raised the alarm about increased spending by the City of Sammamish. At that time, I identified at least $100 million in spending and that the City could be on a path to tax increases.
Here’s what I identified in May 2014:
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.
Residents in the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area will be receiving ballots this week to vote whether to annex to Sammamish. If approved, city officials hope to make the annexation effective in August.
Several Sammamish City Council members actively opposed the Issaquah vote, and Council Member Don Gerend served as a spokesman for Klahanie Choice, the anti-Issaquah group that instead support annexation to Sammamish. Council Member Ramio Valderrama led the Sammamish council in several votes to send messages to Klahanie residents that Sammamish welcomed the PAA with open arms.
Sammamish has wanted to annex the Klahanie area since incorporation and in 2002 entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Issaquah mayor to transfer the PAA from Issaquah to Sammamish after an annexation vote failed. The Issaquah City Council refused to approve the transfer.
Annexation to Sammamish will add between 10,000-11,000 residents to our city’s population of around 45,000. The area, in aggregate, will also have one of the largest voting blocs, which could tip future elections.