Lake Trail overhangs Sammamish politics for 20 years

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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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The Greenies fight back: the 2001 Sammamish City Council election

After being routed in the 1999 City Council elections and licking their wounds for the better part of two years, the environmentalists in Sammamish—the “greenies—“ began a comeback.

All seven Council seats were up for election in 2001. This was because that as a new city, two- and four-year terms had to be established. The largest vote-getters in 2001 would get four year terms. The three lowest vote getters would get two year terms.

As it happened, only three Council members were challenged by people backed by the Greenies, and by SHOUT officials (see the post of March 28 to understand who SHOUT was): Ron Haworth, Ken Kilroy and Phil Dyer. Don Gerend, Kathy Huckabay, Jack Barry and Troy Romero were unopposed. By default, they would receive the most votes and four year terms.

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Citizens want the Initiative; Sammamish City Council doesn’t want Town Hall meetings

As November fades to December and the last City Council meetings in Sammamish of the year, Members are going to be considering whether to grant citizens the right to Initiative.

The City Council has to allow this right—it didn’t come as part of incorporation.

The request for the right to Initiative comes from long-simmering frustration with the City and a perception that neither the Council nor the employees listen to Citizens.

As with most things, the reality is more a shade of gray than black and white. But there is certainly enough evidence over the course of the City’s 13 year history to understand the pent-up frustration.

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Whitten to voters: you’re stupid, drop dead

Update, Nov. 5: Council Member Whitten issued this statement to us late today in response to our question to her, “Did you really say this?”

Partly right and partly not.  I said I had strongly supported a vote and that I had always thought I would regard it as binding.  I differentiated between extremely negative campaigning funded largely by someone self-interested in the outcome and something more, potentially constituting incorrect statements of alleged fact.  I also made it clear I was not in any way able to form a personal opinion at this time, and any such determination would need to have a careful review etc.  If an advisory election is won unfairly — not just by extremely negative campaigning, but rather e.g., in circumstances supporting a stronger conclusion of misconduct, I don’t think it should necessarily be binding.  That could mean a lot of things, e.g. a new election would only be one option etc.  I am anticipating the majority of the community wants a community / aquatic center and will vote accordingly, and then the quesion of whether or not the advisory vote should be obviated by misconduct would be moot.

Original Post:

The Sammamish Patch had this story about the Community Center and fears by the City Council that voters are getting misinformation about Proposition 1 and the deal with the YMCA. (Yet another reason putting this to the vote was a dumb idea.)

Council Member Nancy Whitten said, according to the article, this:

And Councilwoman Nancy Whitten said she’s concerned enough about the misinformation that if she feels, after the election, that people were misled enough to result in a negative response, that she would not consider the advisory vote valid.

“It struck me that some of them are clearly incorrect, the total perspective is that they are extremely negative by someone who has a financial interest,” Whitten said, adding that the advisory vote is just that, advisory, and if she believes it’s been unduly influenced by inaccurate information, she won’t feel bound by it.

How in the world will Whitten conclude voters were mislead enough to conclude the advisory vote is invalid?

We agree some of the information put out there is clearly wrong and biased, but unfortunately that’s what political campaigning has become. Having decided they wanted an advisory vote, the City Council has to sleep in the bed it made. This was the risk it took and as my previous post detailing why this was a dumb idea in the first place demonstrated, there could be all kinds of reasons people vote against this Proposition and most of them have nothing to do with “someone who has a financial interest.”

Although this “someone” is not a resident of Sammamish (as one Council Member complained in another newspaper), he is a corporate citizen of Sammamish. As such, is view is as valid to express as much as the next vested interest.

For example, the City has said no new taxes will be “required” in its public statements. But in the legal language of the Proposition, it says no new taxes are “expected.” These have two very different  meanings, and one can easily argue the City is being misleading in its marketing statements vs its legal language.

Note to Whitten: I opposed this because there should have been a Request for Proposals issued. Maybe the Y deal is the best deal, but without an RFP, we’ll never know. I can see past the negative campaigning of “someone with a financial interest.” I don’t buy into the thesis that this is a “gift” to the YMCA. I can see the City owns the building and the Y gets a management contract. I think it highly unlikely any other entity would put up $5m for a building it doesn’t own, add $1m in equipment and personnel and lease seven acres to the City at $1 a year. I get that.

I also get that this Community Center is far more than “just another health club” competing with private interests. See this post.

At the same time, I don’t like members of our City Council blithely dismissing voters as stupid. Michele Petitti did that once and got her head handed to her. Whitten’s statement falls in this same realm.

A hard, but correct decision

City Manager Ben Yacizi made a hard, but correct decision when he halted the City’s recent review of the shoreline ordinary high water mark regulations.

An outgrowth of the flawed Shoreline Master Plan update, this separate city-citizen review came to a halt when it was revealed by a Lake Sammamish homeowner not involved in the process that the lead city employee, Eric La France, was friends with a key official of the City’s outside consultant, and had socialized with him shortly before the contract was award.

The Sammamish Review has this story and the Sammamish Reporter has this one, both detailing that the appearance of fairness demanded that the current effort be ended and restarted.

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Redeveloping Pine Lake Center

As the Sammamish City Council proceeds with its review of the regulatory recommendations from the Planning Commission for the Town Center, the debate at the February 16 Council meeting included discussion about a sub-area plan for the Pine Lake (QFC) Center.

Council Members Mark Cross, John Curley, Tom Odell and Michele Petitti spoke in favor of sub-area planning for Pine Lake as the preferred next-step rather than re-opening the Town Center Plan to accommodate a Docket Request by some landowners of the SE Quadrant to triple the commercial development in their quadrant and increase residential density by a third.

The four council members saw the merits in exploring creation of a transit-oriented development over the park-and-ride (“A” in the photo below the fold) at Pine Lake as well as the prospect for redevelopment.

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No “corruption,” “cronyism” or “favoritism”

On February 16 at the City Council meeting, Town Center resident Michael Rutt spoke. He said he was “angry” and said he was dealing with  “corrupt people” and subject to “favoritism” and “cronyism” with respect to the E zone of the Town Center.

The E zone is a small area in the SE Quadrant involving the Lutheran Church and four residences that were zoned at the current R-1 (one unit per acre). This E zone has come under withering criticism by John Galvin and Rutt over the past two years because a Planning Commissioner, Stan Bump, lives in the E zone. Galvin and Rutt repeated have charged he received special consideration for this zoning. A previous column discusses this.

The charges are without merit. Below is a cryptic analysis of Rutt’s allegations.

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