Sammamish City Council member Ramiro Valderrama displayed hypocrisy last Tuesday in his aggressive attempt to force fellow member Tom Hornish to remain on committees following acceptance of a new job in the private sector.
Two years ago, Valderrama sought a new job in the public sector that would have had direct conflict of interest with his city council position. It would have meant choosing between his new job and the council when it came to attending meetings and committee meetings. It likely meant Valderrama would have missed the council’s annual retreat at which goals and committee assignments are made for the coming year.
Yet Valderrama vowed to retain his council position if he got the new job and brushed aside all objections from his constituents.
When Hornish stepped up and recognized time constraints were coming, resigned his position as deputy mayor and stepped off all but one committee, Valderrama—oblivious o his own actions two years earlier—objected and engaged in a transparent attempt to set Hornish up to fail and ultimately force him off the council.
After starting 2016 with a new era of transparency and access, the Sammamish City Council may revert to holding its annual January retreat at the Suncadia Resort in Roslyn, east of the Cascade Mountains.
The timing–January 19-22–puts at risk driving over Snoqualmie Pass in a winter storm. The location makes it difficult and unlikely all but the most diehard members of the community will attend the meetings. It’s also costly: being more than an hour away, over the pass and through the woods means anyone going has to rent a hotel room for the three-day retreat.
Even the Sammamish Review and Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter historically don’t show up to report on the meetings and hold the City Council accountable to the public.
Only Sammamish Comment made the trek in January 2015, the first time it had done so.
Captive audience and no audience
Council members chose the location in the past to make it difficult for their own members, and staff, to leave the retreat meetings. But it also meant that despite the days being open meetings, the practical effect was they that were closed. No public participation occurred.
During 2015, The Comment made an issue of this. Toby Nixon, then-president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, criticized the Sammamish City Council for the location, lack of transparency and lack of access for citizens. Nixon, then as now a member of the Kirkland City Council, said Kirkland in 2015 chose the Beaver Lake Lodge for its retreat, right here in Sammamish.
The public pressure caused the 2015 Council to delay site selection. The November 2015 Council election saw the defeat of Mayor Tom Vance and his allies, Mark Cross and Hank Klein. Council member Ramiro Valderrama was reelected, along with newcomers Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish. The latter three made it known to then-City Manager Ben Yazici, who was retiring in February 2016, and his successor, Deputy City Manager Lyman Howard, that they wanted the retreat at a more local site.
June 5, 2016: Development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail has been an overhang of Sammamish politics for 20 years.
It was a dominate factor in the first City Council race 1999 and surfaced again in 2001. It became a key issue in the 2003 election, with a flood of “outside” money flowing to candidates favoring the Trail.
The issue surfaced periodically in subsequent elections. It wasn’t until 2015 that once more it became a key election issue, as Trail residents rallied behind three candidates to win bitterly contested races. For the first time, they helped elect a resident who lives along the Trail.
And the issue hasn’t subsided, either.
In April, three Council Members voted to undercut the City’s own Hearing Examiner and side with King County, developer of the Trail, on a jurisdictional issue in an appeal before the State Shoreline Hearings Board.
This is the story behind the 20-year battle of the ELST.
A precinct-by-precinct analysis of the Nov. 3 Sammamish City Council election demonstrates that development concerns and a muffed plan for the Sahalee Way road projects helped lead the way to victory for Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish over Mark Cross and Tom Vance.
Ramiro Valderrama faced only token opposition, and therefore Sammamish Comment hasn’t spent a lot of time analyzing his race against Hank Klein. Klein dropped out of the race too late to take his name off the ballot. He didn’t campaign or raise money.
The final results of the Nov. 3 Sammamish City Council election confirm Christie Malchow, Ramiro Valderrama and Tom Hornish the winners over Mark Cross, Hank Klein and Tom Vance.
King County Elections posted the results shortly after 4pm today.
As Sammamish Comment reported on Election Night in calling the winners as noted above, the final results didn’t vary more than 1%-2% from Election Night. The three winners increased their vote tally margin daily until returned ballots trickled out.
Sixty-five percent of the votes cast in the Sammamish City Council races were cast for Christie Malchow, Ramiro Valderrama and Tom Hornish, a clear message to remaining Council Members and the City Administration that a change is desired from current and past practices and policies.
Although Valderrama is an incumbent, he was isolated by the ruling majority of the Council and members worked hard to find a challenger to defeat his bid for reelection. His reelection is a blow to the ruling majority’s ambitions to maintain control and eliminate a challenger to the status quo.
The election of Malchow and Hornish, allies of Valderrama, cement voters’ message of change.