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.