Forgetting who you’re serving at the Sammamish City Council

All too often, elected officials forget who they were elected to serve. This unfortunately is the case with some on the Sammamish City Council.

Artwork via Google images.

During the course of this year, Sammamish Comment chronicled a number of important issues in which the Council and the City Administration practiced benign neglect. In many cases, individual Council Members have pursued personal agenda, played follow the leader or blamed citizens for being whiners or misunderstanding what they are supposed to understand.

These attitudes are why Washington D.C. and Olympia (WA) are so dysfunctional and failing to serve the peoples’ interest in pursuit of their own. It’s why Sammamish citizens voted to incorporate in 1998: to get out from under an unresponsive King County government that ignored our wishes and needs.

Certainly being our own City proved far more beneficial than being under the King County Council. We have roads and parks we weren’t going to get under the County rule. We have community events, notably our Fourth of July, Sammamish Nights and similar activities we’d never get under King County.

But the City is letting citizens down in a number of areas due to the benign neglect and personal agendas referenced above. For example:

Skipping the Cascadia Rising earthquake drill

There are a lot of things in government that fall within the category of “What were you thinking?”

Skipping the Cascadia Rising earthquake drill tops the list.

The Sammamish Comment revealed October 5 that the City skipped the sign-up deadline last year to participate in a regional Cascadia Rising earthquake preparedness drill that outlines a scenario of a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hitting Sammamish. (The scenario’s epicenter is the Cascadia Subduction Fault off the Washington coastline, with a 9.0 epicenter magnitude.)

Sammamish had no plans to participate. Until after The Comment began making inquiries.

This is a huge public safety issue. This is the worst example of benign neglect yet by our City and City Council. Read the details here.

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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:

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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.

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City may discuss Transportation TIP funding–after the election

The Sammamish City Council may discuss the controversial Six Year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), but not until after the November election, Sammamish Comment has learned.

City Manager Ben Yacizi wrote Council Member Nancy Whitten on Aug. 5 that a budget review meeting in November, which will “authorize the funding of various TIP projects” “might be a good meeting to further discuss this topic.”

Whitten had written Yacizi supporting Council Member Ramiro Valderrama’s concern that the August City Newsletter and its articles about the TIP were political in nature.

Sammamish Comment detailed the politicalization of the Newsletter in an August 12 post. The Newsletter had a front page article defending the funding of the TIP, along with a Mayor’s Message doing the same thing.

“I join in Councilmember Valderrama’s request that we have further council discussion about these road projects…and how we might pay for them and the potential bonding before such an article goes into our newsletter,” Whitten wrote, noting that “inconsistency with prior statements made about bonding are very convenient timewise during an election year.”

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Vance, Huckabay criticized over Comp Plan maneuvers

The leadership of the Sammamish City Council was criticized by one of its own July 21 over their refusal to delay approval of the Comprehensive Plan when the final, 250-page version was presented by staff the day before adoption was on the agenda.

Nancy Whitten rapped Mayor Tom Vance and Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay for ignoring requests from the other five Council Members to delay a vote until the large document, which is a complete rewrite of the original Comp Plan, could be reviewed.

State law requires a major updating of the Comp Plan every 10 years.

Vance, Huckabay and City Manager Ben Yacizi make of the leadership team that sets the agenda. They pushed the City Council to approve the Comp Plan before the August recess. Huckabay made the motion to approve the Comp Plan, but the motion died for lack of a second. The Mayor typically does not move or second motions.

During Council reports at the end of the July 21 meeting, Whitten made these remarks rapping the leadership. Her remarks begin at 2:06:18 into the meeting.

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City blocks environmental report in land use appeal

  • Appellants planned to use report in Conner-Jarvis case.
  • Conflict of interest with City contract cited.
  • Same environmental consultant allowed for applicant in Chestnut Estates West case.
  • Conner-Jarvis appellant charged City would withdraw traffic mitigation plans if project appealed.
  • Similar neighborhood traffic concerns to Chestnut appeal, which the City lost.
  • Links to download documents are toward the bottom of this post.

The Sammamish City Manager blocked an environmental consulting company from being a witness at a land use appeal of the Conner-Jarvis development, and with it, the report the company prepared, charges Mike Grady of the appellant, the Kempton Downs Community Organization.

Grady charged that City Manager Ben Yacizi invoked a clause in the consultant’s City contract for services unrelated to the appeal that says the firm, The Watershed Company, can’t undertake work that in conflict with the City.

Watershed was allowed to be a consultant and expert witness on behalf of the William Buchan Co. in the Chestnut Estates West application, says Grady. The City’s Hearing Examiner threw out the application, handing a victory to the appellants. Buchan told the Sammamish Reporter it plans to appeal the decision this month.

Wetlands weren’t properly assessed, Watershed says

Conner Jarvis Layout 072015

The layout of the proposed Conner-Jarvis development of 115 single family homes on 40+ acres. Click on image to enlarge. The handwritten notes are from the person who supplied this rendering to Sammamish Comment.

Sammamish Comment obtained a copy of the Watershed report in the Conner-Jarvis case. The report concluded:

  • that the wetland boundaries were misidentified by Conner’s consultant;
  • the potential effects of the “water flow processes” that sustain Laughing Jabos Creek and the wetland ecosystem were not adequately characterized; and
  • the wetland complex should be rated as a single unit rather than separate wetlands.

Some of the issues between Chestnut and Conner are similar: the threat to kokanee salmon from upstream runoff. Kokanee are native to Lake Sammamish and to three creeks: Ebright Creek, which was the relevant creek in the Chestnut case and about half way up the lake; Lewis Creek at the far south end of the lake; and Laughing Jacobs Creek, which is relevant in the Conner case, which is in between Lewis and Ebright.

Hearing Examiner John Galt held a session Monday morning whether to admit the report despite the City’s exclusion. Galt denied a request to enter the report into the record, but gave the appellant until Oct. 28 to come up with a new report.

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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.

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