Three weeks to city council candidate filing date

It’s three weeks to the first filing date May 12 for the August primary for local elections. So far, there are only two declared candidates for three Sammamish City Council seats up for election this year.

Only one of the three incumbents announced election plans; two others haven’t decided if they will seek reelection.

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Sammamish Council retreat to be held in Sammamish for first time

The annual Sammamish City Council will be held in Sammamish for the first time in the City’s history.

The retreat, which will be Jan. 18-20 at the Plateau Club, is where the City Council and staff set policy for the year and talk about long-term objectives.

The 2017 retreat was webcast for the first time; it’s not been announced if the 2018 retreat will be webcast.

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Moratorium runs into stiff opposition in Sammamish, especially for Town Center

Sammamish Comment LogoA vast majority of resident speaking before the Sammamish City Council Tuesday opposed the possibility of imposition of a building moratorium, particularly for the Town Center.

Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama surprised the Council last week by suggesting a 60-day study period to decide whether a moratorium should be adopted.

Opposition was particularly focused on the prospect of halting development of the Town Center. The plan for the TC evolved over 10 years. Development was then delayed by the Great Recession of 2008 and began only in 2015.

Much of the land is already under development, but there are still large swaths that have yet to reach the permit application stage.

A moratorium would threaten a $4m federal grant to reconstruct SE 4th Street and halt the addition of goods and services.

Ed Zercher, a property owner in the Town Center who was involved as a stakeholder throughout the planning process, argued in favor of continued development.

“I find it rather alarming,” he said of the prospective moratorium. “There was very thoughtful planning of the Town Center. There was a very dedicated planning commission that spent thousands of hours planning. The best way to keep Sammamish a bedroom community is to centralize residential development instead of residential sprawl. The Town Center does this. The Town Center has been more than a decade in the process.

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Initiative/Referendum no sure thing at Sammamish City Council despite 10 pt win at polls

If anyone thought that the Sammamish City Council will honor voter wishes after a 55%-45% victory at the polls in an April advisory vote, it looks like this faith in government may well be premature.

Even though there was a consensus expressed informally at the Council’s January retreat that they would follow the wishes of voters, and despite the assurances of Mayor Tom Vance to local newspapers on several occasions that he couldn’t see the Council going against voter wishes, Vance has since been walking back these assurances and the June 15 study session did nothing to provide assurances.

Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay, a staunch opponent to granting Sammamish citizens the right of initiative and referendum, flatly stated there had been no assurances the Council would follow voter wishes.

She then went on to use an argument often used by opponents to a measure that passes over their objections: voter turnout was low and voters were, essentially, too stupid to understand what they were voting, or not voting, for.

Alarmingly, Council Member Bob Keller, a close ally of Huckabay, Vance and Council Member Tom Odell, each of whom also oppose the initiative, sided with Huckabay on the voting argument.

Twice Keller said during the June 15 Council meeting that the vote was “close,” despite the 10 point margin of victory.

Keller told this column after the results he “planned” to honor the result.

Now it’s not clear what he will do. He is the swing vote, with Council Members Don Gerend, Nancy Whitten and Ramiro Valderrama previously saying they will honor the voter wishes. Keller is a member of what’s become known as the Gang of 4, voting together as a bloc on most issues.

Continue reading “Initiative/Referendum no sure thing at Sammamish City Council despite 10 pt win at polls”

Should Sammamish have the right to Initiative and Referendum?

Ballots are arriving this week with an Advisory Vote asking Sammamish residents whether they want the right of Initiative and Referendum.

See these previous posts for background.

Vote Yes for Initiative/Referendum

Campaign for Initiative/Referendum kicked off

Council sets Advisory Vote for Initiative/Referendum

The Sammamish Review weighed in:

Time has come for Initiative/Referendum

A 5-2 majority of the Sammamish City Council doesn’t want our citizens to have this right. Ramiro Valderrama and Nancy Whitten favor the right of initiative/referendum.

Here’s an unscientific poll: Do you want it or not?

We’ll report the results in the not-too-distant future.

Harry Shedd, chairman of Citizens for Sammamish, is the principal driver behind the Initiative/Referendum.

New water wars burbling in Sammamish

The water wars between the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District and Issaquah were entertaining. Despite the City of Sammamish watching this war, and becoming involved as an interested party, Sammamish city officials couldn’t resist approaching the Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District to invite a “discussion” about assuming the district.

To keep the players straight, here are the references we’ll use going forward:

Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District: “Plateau”.

City of Issaquah: “Issaquah”.

City of Sammamish: “City”.

Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District: “Northeast”.

Citizens for Sammamish: “C4S”.

Northeast went tilt over the City’s overture. Obviously having watched what was going on between Plateau and Issaquah, and the latter’s hostile takeover attempt of part of the Plateau’s assets and district, Northeast was paranoid. Not only did officials reject any call for “friendly” discussions, they fired up their customers, who flooded the City with emails and protests. Furthermore, Northeast budgeted $600,000 to defend the district against any attempt by the City to take over the district.

City officials seemed bewildered by Northeast’s reaction. We aren’t planning any move to assume Northeast, City officials protested. We just wanted to sit down and discuss the possibilities. A couple of City newsletters devoted a great deal of space to injured innocence.

Having watched the Plateau-Issaquah water wars (and participated in some of the negotiations to bring the wars to an end), I find it astounding that the City was so ham-handed in its timing to approach Northeast and even raise the issue when Plateau and Issaquah seemed headed for armageddon. Repeating, having become involved in talks as a neutral participant, so-to-speak, to resolve the dispute between Plateau and Issaquah, how could the City not understand the sensitivities of even raising the topic at that time with Northeast? It’s mind-boggling.

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Assessing the candidates’ forum

Five of the six Sammamish candidates for City Council appeared at forum last week sponsored by the Rotary Club and the Kiwanis Club.

Kathy Richardson, who had planned a trip to Africa before she decided to run for City Council, was absent. She had a video-taped statement and a stand-in give a closing statement.

As far as the performance of the other candidates, there wasn’t really much difference between them on the issues. All believe the current City Council did not consider alternatives for creating a Community Center, the $64 million Taj Mahal that is proposed for the Kellman property in the Sammamish Commons. This 98,000sf proposal is 2 1/2 times the size of City Hall. Each of the candidates believes a public-private partnership should be considered, along with the possibility of a location outside the Town Center.

Some criticized Jesse Bornfreund as detached. Our view was that he was “relaxed.”

None supports a utility tax for general purposes and there was only limited support if for a specific purpose.

Who “won?”

Tom Vance was clearly the most well informed and in command of the details and nuances. We’ve remarked that nobody can out policy-wonk Vance. Nancy Whitten was second-best on wonkiness. Whether you agree with their positions is another matter. From a “performance” standpoint, Vance was the “winner.”

The other candidates had varying levels of knowledge of the issues, relying more on philosophical approaches to governing Sammamish in the next four years.

The Sammamish Review and Sammamish Patch have more detailed stories.