It was May 2018 when I joinedthe Sammamish Comment as a deputy editor. This came almost a year after I uncovered the City’s wrongdoing on traffic concurrency and independently went public with it. Later that year, in December 2018, I took the reins from Scott Hamilton, who founded The Comment and made it the only media outlet covering city hall and city politics. The Comment informed and it was a watchdog of the city government.
Hamilton is a professional journalist and a phenomenal writer. He also had years of experience in city hall politics as a former member of the Planning Commission, Planning Advisory Board and a highly involved volunteer in our city’s history.
Sammamish yesterday refuted allegations by former city employee Sarah Hawes Kimsey that Sammamish Comment reporting about concurrency traffic modeling was inaccurate.
Jeff Elekes, the public works director, wrote Kimsey asking for a correction to her blog in which she used an email from Transportation Planner Doug McIntyre to assert Sammamish Comment and Miki Mullor lied about how the city’s transportation model had been manipulated up to 2017 and beyond.
“…[Y]ou re-printed an email from a Transportation Planner on my team, Doug McIntyre,” Elekes wrote. “Both Doug and I are were very surprised to learn how his email to you was used and promoted in your blog.”
Elekes said, essentially, that Kimsey mischaracterized the traffic audit as a traffic modeling analysis to conclude there had been no manipulation in the past.
“However, I can confirm that Sammamish’s traffic modeling data under previous administrations has been manipulated in the past in favor of development,” Elekes wrote. “This has all been clearly documented through discovery and analysis. I am writing you now to set the record straight and give you the facts, which I expect you will use to correct your blog post.”
As 2019 prepares to arrive, it’s time for a fresh approach to how this city is governed.
The city council, administration and staff has been consumed by traffic concurrency, the resulting building moratorium and related development regulations all year—really, since October 2017, when the moratorium was adopted to give the government time to sort out the concurrency issues.
These issues consumed the city nearly to the exclusion of all else.
Recent emails discovered on Fehr & Peers servers, obtained through a public records request, reveal separate, secret meetings between Kendra Breiland from Fehr & Peers, former City Manager Lyman Howard and Town Center developer STCA.
“This is confidential correspondence from the City Manager’s office,” wrote former Deputy City Manager Jessi Bon to Breiland in an email dated July 22, 2017. “We would like to meet with you on Thursday at on off-site location. At this time it will just be myself and the City Manager. The other staff are not aware of this meeting, so again, please keep this confidential.”
Meetings between developers and government officials are common. What is uncommon–and suspicious–are meetings that are labeled confidential and specifically excluding staff under a request for confidentiality.
A contractor’s emails are subject to the State Public Records Act under certain circumstances, which applied in this case. The complete email exchange is here.
The Sammamish City Council faces a complex set of issues interconnecting the Town Center and efforts to revise its traffic concurrency policies.
At stake is whether the Town Center proceeds per the 2009 plan adopted by the Planning Commission and City Council or, as some desire, the plan is reopened with the goal of down-sizing it.
Reopening the plan also allows the possibility of some advocating an up—zoning of the TC.
The city is under a building moratorium adopted last October. The council and staff want to lift the moratorium in July, but controversy over how to proceed with revisions for concurrency casts doubt over whether revisions may be ready by then.