After starting 2016 with a new era of transparency and access, the Sammamish City Council may revert to holding its annual January retreat at the Suncadia Resort in Roslyn, east of the Cascade Mountains.
The timing–January 19-22–puts at risk driving over Snoqualmie Pass in a winter storm. The location makes it difficult and unlikely all but the most diehard members of the community will attend the meetings. It’s also costly: being more than an hour away, over the pass and through the woods means anyone going has to rent a hotel room for the three-day retreat.
Even the Sammamish Review and Issaquah/Sammamish Reporter historically don’t show up to report on the meetings and hold the City Council accountable to the public.
Only Sammamish Comment made the trek in January 2015, the first time it had done so.
Captive audience and no audience
Council members chose the location in the past to make it difficult for their own members, and staff, to leave the retreat meetings. But it also meant that despite the days being open meetings, the practical effect was they that were closed. No public participation occurred.
During 2015, The Comment made an issue of this. Toby Nixon, then-president of the Washington Coalition for Open Government, criticized the Sammamish City Council for the location, lack of transparency and lack of access for citizens. Nixon, then as now a member of the Kirkland City Council, said Kirkland in 2015 chose the Beaver Lake Lodge for its retreat, right here in Sammamish.
The public pressure caused the 2015 Council to delay site selection. The November 2015 Council election saw the defeat of Mayor Tom Vance and his allies, Mark Cross and Hank Klein. Council member Ramiro Valderrama was reelected, along with newcomers Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish. The latter three made it known to then-City Manager Ben Yazici, who was retiring in February 2016, and his successor, Deputy City Manager Lyman Howard, that they wanted the retreat at a more local site.