Fiscal irresponsibility at Sammamish City Hall

Commentary

Gerend 2

Mayor Don Gerend

As the Sammamish City Council heads into its retreat tomorrow evening, there is one topic that will get short shrift: the City’s finances.

In Monday’s Sammamish Comment post, I outlined the City’s own 2017-2018 budget that has a 73% decline in its cash balance from the end of 2016 to the end 0f 2018.

The budget has a 30-minute allocation on the retreat agenda. It’s not enough, and the City Council has been ducking the budget ramifications for the last two years.

The City faces being out of cash in 2019 at the current spend rate. (See Operations vs Capital Funds, below.) Action needs to be taken this year. It’s been put off yet again.

There is simply no other way to put it: the City Council and Administration have been irresponsible to not face up to the coming budget realities sooner.

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Council nears decision to send annual January Retreat back to Suncadia, across mountains

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.

maptosuncadia

The long drive over the mountains and through the woods to the Suncadia Resort for the Sammamish annual Council Retreat could be longer and challenging in the January winter storms, but that’s where the City Council is thinking of going in January 2017.

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.

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2003 City Council election flips from 4-3 conservative majority to 6-1 “green” Council

City_of_SammamishThe 2003 Sammamish election presented an opportunity to shift the balance of power from a Republican-conservative leaning City Council to a Democratic-left-of-center membership.

As the election season approached, the Council was generally, though not reliably, split 4-3. Ken Kilroy, Ron Haworth, Troy Romero and Jack Barry were reliably a voting bloc. The minority three were Michele Petitti, Kathy Huckabay and often, but not always, Don Gerend.

Petitti won her seat in 2001. The others were all original council members from 1999.

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Lake Trail overhangs Sammamish politics for 20 years

  • This is about 10 pages when printed.

City_of_SammamishJune 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.

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Hearing Examiner OKs Conner-Jarvis project, says Kempton Downs failed to meet burden

City_of_SammamishJan. 20, 2016: The Sammamish Hearing Examiner Tuesday rejected the appeal by the Kempton Downs Homeowners Assn. of the Conner-Jarvis project. Approval was given with minor modifications to conditions.

The approval, by Examiner John Gault, was a sweeping victory for Conner-Jarvis and the City’s Development and Public Works departments. Gault ruled that Kempton Downs failed in issue after issue to meet the burden required under state law to overturn the professional judgment of the City’s staff.

State law says that deference to the professionals takes preference. This means that in appeals, the burden of proof that the staff erred is on the appellants.

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