“Greenwashing” in Sammamish: A Special Report

  1. Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on “whitewash”), or “green sheen,” is a form of spin in which green PR or green marketing is deceptively used to promote the perception that an organization’s products, aims or policies are environmentally friendly.–Wikipedia.

Since the 2003 Sammamish City Council election, in which environmental-leaning candidates swept the election, the Council prided itself on pursuing “green” policies and ordinances.

The City Manager was far less gun-ho, often lagging his own staff, especially when it came to a concept called Low Impact Development, or LID (not to be confused with Local Improvement Districts, also LID, a special tax option–so context of “LID” is always important to understand).

The current Council is comprised of what would ordinarily considered to be environmentalists. Of the seven, only Member Don Gerend leans “development” over the environment–or so its appears. Tom Odell and Bob Keller proved to have strong environmental credentials. Ramiro Valderrama evolved into a strong backing of the environment. Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Mayor Tom Vance not only consider themselves environmentalists but have an historical track record supporting this.

Image via Google Images. Click on image to enlarge.

Without question the leading environmentalist on the Council is three-term incumbent Nancy Whitten, who decided to retire at the end of this year. And Whitten has been increasingly critical of the collective Council’s direction on a number of environmental issues over the past four years.

While “greenwashing” isn’t the term that comes to the top of the conversation with Whitten, she didn’t disagree with its use when it comes to how Sammamish approaches the environment now. And she’s especially critical of Vance’s evolution away from his historical green leanings.

Continue reading ““Greenwashing” in Sammamish: A Special Report”

Yacizi resigns, effective in February; legacy positive despite controversies

Ben Yacizi.

Ben Yacizi has resigned as Sammamish City Manager, effective in February.

Yacizi has been City Manager for nearly all of our existence after incorporation in 1999. He became City Manager in January 2001.

Having served on City commissions for 8 1/2 years, I know Ben quite well. We’ve debated issues, we’ve fought over issues, and we’ve collaborated on issues.

A City Manager is the Chief Executive Officer of a city; the City Council is the Board of Directors. A City Manager is responsible for all hiring and firing, operations, the budget and carrying out policy set by the Council. Some cities, with an elected mayor (as opposed to a mayor selected by fellow council members like Sammamish), who serves as the CEO, usually have an Administrator as well.

Ben, as CEO of Sammamish, has come in for his share of criticism from citizens. With additional benefit of an insider’s view, he’s also come in for my criticism on more than one occasion. But I can tell Readers that on balance, I would give him four stars out of five for his oversight of Sammamish. Continue reading “Yacizi resigns, effective in February; legacy positive despite controversies”

Spending on the rise in Sammamish; heads up, taxpayers, Klahanie

Nearly a year ago, I raised the alarm about increased spending by the City of Sammamish. At that time, I identified at least $100 million in spending and that the City could be on a path to tax increases.

Here’s what I identified in May 2014:

  • Community Center: $35 million and probably more.
  • Developing the former YMCA property next to Pine Lake School, at a cost of $15 million proposed in the park plan.
  • Sahalee Road improvements at an unidentified cost, but probably in the low millions at the least.
  • Millions of dollars in the park plan for the Sammamish Landing, the Pigott property and more.
  • Klahanie Annexation: $32 million for road improvements and who knows what else on top of this, almost certainly amounting to tens of millions of dollars more.
  • Widening Issaquah-Pine Lake Road at a cost of $16.5m.
  • Rebuilding “Snake Hill Road” (it’s really 212th Ave. SE, down the windy, snake-like drive to East Lake Sammamish Parkway): Millions of dollars.
  • Desires to take over the Northeast Sammamish and Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer Districts: tens of millions of dollars, at a minimum.
  • Town Center improvements.
  • And this is on top of the normal operations of the city, including millions of dollars for road maintenance, parks, services and overhead.

Let’s update these: Continue reading “Spending on the rise in Sammamish; heads up, taxpayers, Klahanie”

Highest cost estimate on Community Center a big concern

The news that the proposed Sammamish/YMCA community center is already $4m over the price presented to voters is a real concern.

With only 30 percent of the project designed, city officials hope that when 60% is designed, costs will be fined-tuned and closer to the $30m taxpayers were told this project would cost.

I’m not so sanguine.

Buildings and construction projects seem to have a habit of gaining costs. Unknown unknowns can add to the cost. Project delays can increase the cost. Any number of things can do so.

Based on the Sammamish Review article linked above, it sounds like the City Council is pretty much going to bite the bullet and move ahead with a shrug of the shoulders (to mix metaphors).

This project started out as a $64m Taj Mahal. I sure hope it doesn’t have design creep that drives up the cost even more than it is coming out of the box.

Sammamish to approve YMCA deal Feb. 19

The Sammamish City Council is poised to approve the management agreement with the YMCA on Feb. 19.

The lengthy agreement is here: ComCtrOpAgreement21413

In a last-ditch effort to alter the path toward the Community Center size and YMCA element, Arthur Goldman, an opponent, commissioned a public opinion survey that concluded an opposite result to the November advisory vote in which citizens approved the Center and the Y deal. Goldman’s letter to the Council is below the jump.

The Citizens for Sammamish this month held a meeting about the Community Center. I attended, as did Councilmen Don Gerend and Ramiro Valderrama; several employees for Columbia Athletic Center/Pine Lake Club and officials of the YMCA.

Frankly (and I more or less said so) I found the meeting to be perplexing since the die was cast. With the advisory vote a clear winner–by nearly 7 percentage points (Obama won by four and Inslee by three)–the City Council fairly could conclude it had a mandate to proceed with the $30m building, the YMCA management agreement and the $1/yr lease of the Y’s property next to Pine Lake Middle School for eventual development of another recreational facility.

The owner of the Pine Lake Club accused the City of double-dealing and dishonesty. But in the end, nothing was going to change and nothing did.

See below the jump for written exchanges and the public opinion survey.

Continue reading “Sammamish to approve YMCA deal Feb. 19”

Sammamish and “the vision thing”

In 1987, Vice President George H. W. Bush was gearing up to run for president. The Vice President was well known for mangling his syntax (like father, like son, as it turned out) and often had difficulty articulating his thoughts (as we said…).

This inability led to his famous characterization of “the vision thing.”

Sammamish has a Vision Thing problem.

First, it must be acknowledged that governments in general typically lack vision. Out of necessity, days are consumed with simply running things and fixing day-to-day problems. But Sammamish, since its inception, has had trouble with “vision.”

I’ll concede that the City has looked into the future and taken some steps on this or that. But action often becomes years in the making and vision, if it is recognized at all, often becomes inaction.

The greatest example is the Community Center. Consider:

Continue reading “Sammamish and “the vision thing””