Senior staff exodus at Sammamish

City_of_SammamishAnother long-time staff member has resigned from the City of Sammamish.

Evan Maxim, a senior planner, quit to go to work for the City of Mercer Island. He follows recent resignations of Mona Davis and Laura Philpot in the last year, all senior staffers in planning or public works. Davis went to work for Renton. Philpot now works at Maple Valley.

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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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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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Misunderstanding the ELST issues

The Sammamish City Council chamber overflowed into the waiting room and it was standing room only as scores of people got up to testify about King County’s development of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

It’s clear from the comments that there is a misunderstanding on the part of some over the underlying issues.

Just as the chamber was packed with property owners and members of the Sammamish Home Owners, the place was clearly packed with bicyclists, including the Cascade Bicycle Club. The property owners are largely concerned with legalities, encroachments and heavy-handed tactics of King County. The bicyclists and some walkers, including former Sammamish City Council member Mark Cross, are concerned with having the 18 ft wide design for safety reasons.

Many took issue with suggestions to narrow the trail in some locations and for various reasons. What comes across clearly, for anyone willing to watch nearly two hours of comments on the City’s webcast of the Council meeting, is that those advocating the 18 ft wide design, don’t understand the unique issues involving ELST.

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ELST testimony to City Council tonight–here are some thoughts

We’re just hours away from the Sammamish City Council update by City Staff and the County staff over the pending development of Section 2A (7-11 area to the Issaquah City Limits) of the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

In my own comments planned for tonight during Public Comment, I will be giving an abbreviated version of what’s below (as much as I can in 3-5 minutes):

Continue reading “ELST testimony to City Council tonight–here are some thoughts”

County, city staff to present to Sammamish City Council on ELST March 3

A top King County Parks official, Kevin Brown, and Laura Philpot, deputy city manager for Sammamish, will present updates to the City Council tomorrow (March 3) on the controversies surrounding the East Lake Sammamish Trail.

Focus will be on Section 2A, that portion from the Issaquah City Limits north to 33rd St. (the 7-11), which is next on the County’s plan to remake the trail to its final design.

Missteps, lack of communication, and a variety of issues on the Northern section (Inglewood Hill Road to the Redmond City Limits) caused an uproar among some property owners, conflicts with the County and a huge embarrassment for the City government.

Following this, the City stepped up to pay close attention to the design for Section 2A, including submitting comments to the County by the Oct. 29 deadline. When the 90% design came out at the end of December, it appeared that neither citizen nor City comments were considered.

The City blew a gasket that its comments were apparently ignored. Philpot told the County that the City wouldn’t accept transfer of the development permit from the County or it may reject it outright. Any appeal by the County would take enough time that its federal funding would be withdrawn.

(The complex Inter Local Agreement between the City and County whereby the County does the permit processing is described in my January 17 post.)

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County cites “breakdown in internal communications” over ELST plan for Section 2A keeping semi-truck wide design

  • From tonight’s City Council meeting:
    • City Staff and County Staff are meeting this week.
    • The City Council wants the County to come to the March 3 council meeting to explain themselves.
    • The City Council is hopping mad at the County. Member Ramiro Valderrama wants a discussion about withdrawing the Trail from the Inter Local Agreement (ILA) with the County, but this effort failed to muster a majority because it’s unknown what unintended consequences could be. This subject could be revisited if the March 3 County Come-to-Jesus meeting is unsatisfactory.
    • Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay wants to give the County the “benefit of the doubt” over the “communications” issue. (!!!)
    • Member Tom Odell, who had met with County officials about the North end troubles and came away cautiously optimistic, has “had it.”
    • When the video tape of the meeting is posted on the City web site in about three or four days, the discussion at the top of the meeting (including a staff report) is worth watching. It takes about an hour. Then skip ahead to public comment for my remarks.

Now for my commentary today.

It’s not often I am gobsmacked by government, but one should never under estimate the incompetence of King County.

The County issued its design plans for that portion of the East Lake Sammamish Trail that runs from 33rd St (the 7-11) to the Issaquah City Limits, and it’s the identical design to the North end that has caused so much controversy.

Please see my post of Sunday, County to City, citizens: Drop Dead, for context.

I emailed the City Feb. 15 about the design. What I got back pretty much summed up the County’s position by this clip from the Paul Newman movie, Cool Hand Luke.

Continue reading “County cites “breakdown in internal communications” over ELST plan for Section 2A keeping semi-truck wide design”