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

Klahanie PAA dodges Issaquah bullet; and the gift that keeps on giving

The Klahanie Potential Annexation Area dodged the bullet from Issaquah, it turns out, as the city reveals its budget proposal.

One of the points the city promoted when seeking an affirmative vote from the PAA to annex to Issaquah was lower taxes.

The 2015 budget, just released, proposes raising property taxes 1% and nearly doubling most Business & Occupation taxes immediately and marginally in the following year.

Sammamish, which is now pursuing annexation of the PAA, hasn’t raised property taxes since incorporation in 1999 and it doesn’t have a B&O tax.

Issaquah needs to raise taxes because it’s essentially broke. The new budget projects an $8m surplus, which is really “nothing” for a government and city the size of Issaquah. There are little or no reserves for replacing aging water and sewer infrastructure, for example, or for doing many of the things the Klahanie PAA needs in terms of road improvements, maintenance and park upgrades. Sammamish, on the other hand, has a large cash balance and untapped bonding power of more than $400m, should it choose to use it.

Klahanie PAA voters were wise to reject annexation to Issaquah.

The gift that keeps on giving

Remember the City of Issaquah’s cybersquatting on the website domains of the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District? I wrote several columns about this in September and October last year, beginning with this one. The Issaquah Press and Issaquah Reporter then named this event as the Top Story of 2013 in their January 2014 year-end recaps (just before the Klahanie PAA vote to annex to Issaquah, as it turned out).

On Oct. 6 this year, the Issaquah Press won first place in a national contest judged by the Arizona Newspaper Assn., which reviewed more than 2,300 entries for editorials.

The winner was The Press’ editorial condemning the city for the cybersquatting. Here’s the link to the story. Here’s the link to the editorial, which also ran in the sister paper, The Sammamish Review.

This bonehead move by Issaquah continues to haunt the government. Nobody was held accountable, and no elected official condemned the action until the mayoral campaign was well underway. This speaks volumes.

This is another reason the Klahanie PAA dodged a bullet.


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.

Continue reading

“Against Annexation” lead holding; How Issaquah lost Klahanie

Today is Thursday, Feb. 20. A mere seven more votes were counted in the Klahanie annexation vote: two more “For Annexation” and five more “Against Annexation.” The spread is now 31, up from 28 yesterday.

I can now provide this analysis of How Issaquah lost Klahanie.

It had to come as a shock to Issaquah government officials: residents of the Klahanie Potential Annexation Area sent them packing in February 11’s annexation vote.

It wasn’t just that residents rejected the prospect of assuming a portion of Issaquah’s current debt load—that happened in 2005, despite overwhelmingly approving annexation itself. This time, the election night results presented a shocking six vote margin in favor of annexation. The results from the next day narrowed this to one vote. The next day, the vote counting swung in favor of “Against Annexation” with a 34 vote margin. And it got worse from there.

How did Issaquah lose Klahanie?

Arrogance. A sense of entitlement. A sense of what Klahanie could do for Issaquah, not what Issaquah could offer Klahanie. Past statements making it clear improved roads and parks for the area weren’t in the cards. An aggressive Sammamish offering an alternative. A history that demonstrated Issaquah had trust and integrity issues. A nasty fight with the Sammamish Water and Sewer District that revealed the worst of Issaquah government. And an effective citizens uprising in the form of Klahanie Choice.

Continue reading

Sammamish dispute over fire service may be nearing conclusion

The years-long dispute between Sammamish, the Eastside Fire and Rescue service and its Board of Directors–dominated by Issaquah–may be nearing its conclusion.

Last week Issaquah’s City Council adopted a Resolution virtually identical to EFR partner Fire District 10 saying it will buy Station 83 if Sammamish leaves EFR, as it’s been threatening to do for several years because of a dispute over financial contributions to the District.

Station 83 is the one by Sunny Hills School on Issaquah-Pine Lake Road (at the roundabout). The station was built by the developer of Klahanie and became part of the City of Sammamish when we incorporated in 1999. Most of the fire and EMT calls from this station by far are within Klahanie, Providence Point and adjacent areas within Issaquah; few are within Sammamish, and this has been the rub with the Sammamish City Council, which says our taxpayers have been paying a disproportionate share of financial support to EFR.

But Issaquah’s representatives on the EFR Board, including City Councilman Fred Butler who is the favorite to win the mayoral race, have blocked every effort by Sammamish to adjust the financial formula to one based more closely on call volume than property assessment.

Until now.

The Issaquah City Council, in addition to expressing interest in buying Station 83 has agreed to adjust the formula somewhat, not to the full 50/50 assessment/call-based split Sammamish wanted but to an alternative 75/25 Sammamish suggested. Sammamish threatened to withdraw from EFR and close Station 83 if it did, saying it didn’t make sense for our taxpayers for a fire station making most of its calls outside our city. The prospect of closing the station raised hackles of Issaquah and Fire District 10 because of the downgrading of response time to Klahanie, Providence Point and those other areas of Issaquah served by Station 83.

This movement by Issaquah apparently was behind a decision by Sammamish to delay a recommendation expected from the City Manager to withdraw from EFR.

The whole EFR controversy is the underlying cause of poor relations between the Issaquah and Sammamish City Councils, which has evolved into disputes over the Klahanie annexation and the impact of withdrawing from EFR and closing Station 83; and the dispute between Issaquah and the Sammamish Plateau Water and Sewer District over Issaquah’s plan to inject stormwater near a well fed by an aquifer than serves about 60% of the city of Sammamish.

The Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter has an editorial that pretty well sums up the disputes and impacts.

Having lived here in Sammamish since before it was incorporated, I’ve watched Issaquah pretty well thumb its nose at us the entire time. Issaquah is a “Gimme City,” that has been unwilling to cooperate with other jurisdictions unless they concede everything Issaquah wants for nothing in return. The long-running fight over EFR is the worst example of the Gimme spirit exhibited by Issaquah.

The problem with the Resolutions adopted by the Issaquah City Council last week is that the city has a history of reneging on agreements, as I’ve pointed out. This is one of those Missouri moments: Show Me you’ll live up to what you say you’ll do, Issaquah.


Within minutes of posting the above, I received the following distribution from Harry Shedd, chairman of Citizens for Sammamish, a watchdog group.

From those supporting present system (FYI)…

On Monday evening, the Sammamish City Council discussed the final report that outlined the future of fire service for local residents. The city is leaning towards leaving Eastside Fire and Rescue and starting its own “bare bones” fire department, which will cost taxpayers more and lower the quality of emergency services that Sammamish families and businesses currently receive.
The final report was incomplete and raised more questions than it answered. Community testimony was substantial:

·         The fire chief for Mercer Island (who is also a Sammamish resident) expressed doubt about the cost analysis in the report. He runs a two station fire department for close to what Sammamish claims it will cost for three.

·         A retired fire chief said regional partnerships were more cost-effective and questioned why Sammamish was the only city in the state considering a standalone department.

·         A local elementary school principal asked the council why the study called for a community based fire service when this was something we already have, as evidenced by the safety and fire prevention programs in our public schools.

·         A firefighter pointed out that local residents rate their fire service as one of the top three city services according to the city government’s own survey from 2012. (City council was sixth!)

·         Even the city’s own consultants were quoted several times as saying they could not make a final recommendation on whether the city should start its own fire department.

We had a small victory by pressuring the city council to allow for additional public input on October 29, November 5, and November 12, when the final vote to leave Eastside Fire and Rescue will happen. All meetings begin at 6:30 pm and are held at City Hall at Sammamish Commons, 801 228th Ave SE. Please plan to attend and tell the Sammamish City Council to maintain the quality and cost-effective fire service we receive through Eastside Fire and Rescue