Almost Final Community Center Vote: Yes, 53%

Through Nov. 14, King County Elections ballot results give the Sammamish Community Center a 53.18% Yes vote to 46.82% No. The margin is 1,402.

Through Nov. 14, 24,504 votes had been cast in all races and 22,030 in the Proposition 1 ballot. Total voter turnout recorded through Nov. 14 was 84.66% of the 28,998 registered voters.

Only 115 ballots from Sammamish were received Nov. 14.

This data is close enough to being finished that I can offer these observations:

  1. My unscientific poll finished pre-election with a 55.73% Yes polling. (Since then, a couple of more people voted No in the poll, but since this is after the election, these votes don’t count.) My polling was 2.55 percentage points at variance with the Nov. 14 results, well within standard margins of error. (Keep this in mind; this will relate to a future post.)
  2. With a margin spread of 6.36 points, the City Council has a comfortable win. It’s not a landslide but neither is it a squeaker. (President Obama and Gov.-elect Jay Inslee would have wished they had a similar margin.) The City Council can fairly and confidently conclude it has a solid basis on which to go forward with the Community Center and with final negotiations for a management contract with the YMCA.
  3. Concerned citizens have no solid basis to try and block moving forward, but they certainly can pressure the Council to negotiate a contract that minimizes risk to the City and, hopefully, shares in the profits. Although the Y is said to want the City to share in the P&L risk if it wants a share of the profits, my view is that the City is absorbing 83% of the construction risk and this is plenty, thank you very much.
  4. The name “City of Sammamish” better be the Big Type on the side of the building. “Managed by YMCA” should be the sub-type.

Final countdown to Election Day; unscientific poll gives Rec Center 56% Yes vote

Update, Nov. 5: The Sammamish Review has an unscientific poll that gives the Community Center a 72% passing vote as of 8am today.

Original Post:

There are just a few days left before the Nov. 6 election and for Sammamish, the big issue is the Community Center.

Here’s how I see it:

Our totally unscientific poll gives Proposition 1 a passing vote with a 55.73% margin. If this reflects the final vote tally, the City will be able to fairly consider this not only an endorsement of the Community Center but also of the plans to partner with the YMCA.

Continue reading

More facts on Community Center–and a recommendation on the vote

As the Nov. 6 election comes closer, the vote on the controversial Community Center must be made.

Here are some additional facts:

  • Sammamish has a dedicated parks and recreation fund in the budget and this money must, by state law, be spent on these uses. This, $14m of the city’s $25m for its share of the Community Center comes from this fund. If the money isn’t spent on the Community Center, it can only be spent on other parks projects, not roads or other capital projects. I asked one city council member what would happen if the Center project doesn’t go forward and the response was that other park projects “would move to the left.”
  • As previously noted, the City will lease land owned by the YMCA that’s next to the Pine Lake Middle School for $1/yr for 50 years if a deal with the Y moves forward for the Community Center. This is contingent upon the City coming up with a master plan within five years for recreational use on the property, which is valued at $1.5m, according to previously published news articles. Council member Nancy Whitten wanted the Y to deed this land over to the City as part of the deal for the Y’s management contract, but this didn’t happen. As another council member put it, for $1 per year for 50 years, what does it matter?
  • The requirement for a plan for the Y property doesn’t mean construction has to begin in five years.

What does all this mean? The City invests $25m into a building it will own (the City retains title–it is not a “gift” to the YMCA). The Y invests $5m into the building, another $1m into equipment, tenant improvements and personnel, and leases property valued at $1.5m to the City for 50 years. The Y would get a 40 year management contract of the Center on terms and conditions that haven’t been negotiated.

While the City says there is only a Memorandum of Understanding with the Y for the building and the Y’s land, there isn’t even an MOU for the management contract. And while the City says there isn’t a done deal with the Y, all the conversation has been as if there is one.

Once again, my take is that since the City is asking for citizens to “advise” on this proposal through Proposition 1, we deserve to know the contract details in advance, along with the risk factors if the Center is a money-losing proposition for the Y severe enough to cause the Y to seek renegotiation or termination of the contract.

In the absence of this information, it’s a huge leap of faith for citizens to give approval for the concept as currently outlined in the hopes that the City will get it right thereafter. Given how badly the City has mucked up sending this to the voters in the first place, this doesn’t give a lot of confidence the Administration and the Council will get it right afterwards. There should have been a formal Request for Proposal process to see if, indeed, the Y’s deal is the best deal that can be achieved. It’s hard to believe that a private enterprise would contribute $5m to the capital costs for a building it won’t own and throw in a $1.5m piece of property as well, but the absence of contract details at this stage for voters is very troubling.

Make no mistake: I think we need a Community Center. We’ve needed one since incorporation in 1999 and City officials have dithered way too long. I don’t have any issues, per se, with a public-private partnership.

Nor is this the “give-away” opponents suggest.

But as a businessman, I don’t like sole-sourcing without price-checking. While the City had some informal discussions with others, no RFPs were issued to see what the best deal might be. The Y could be the best deal. But maybe it’s not. In the absence of competitive bidding, the City doesn’t know–and neither do we taxpayers who are being asked to weigh in on Proposition 1.

It is for this reason, and this reason alone, that I will vote No on Proposition 1. It’s not because I don’t want a Community Center–I do. It’s not because the floor plan of the Community Center is bad–that was the case with the $64m, 90,000 sf Taj Mahal, but wiser heads prevailed on that and downsized the facility and the price tag. It’s not even because the Y is involved. It’s just because, in my view, the City didn’t exercise its full fiduciary duty to issue an RFP.

An RFP would allow the owner of the Pine Lake Club to make a bid. He says he can offer the City something for less cost and which will be better than the currently proposed deal. Let him try. Let others try. Let him decide if he wants to bid only on a management contract, if that’s the RFP’s terms and conditions.

I understand the concerns over the competition between a City-owned athletic facility and private enterprise. But I also look at the other amenities in the proposed Community Center, which are sorely needed.

The City needs to give the owner of Pine Lake Club a chance in a fair and open bidding process to respond to the RFP. The Y can bid and so can others.

That’s the way it should be for $25m taxpayer dollars.

“YSoHigh” weighs in on Community Center

An organization called YSoHigh has weighed in on the proposed public-private partnership between the YMCA and the City of Sammamish.

This website publishes a number of citizens who support this group and it offers an alternative proposal.

This sign is on SE 228th at SE 4th. The website has detailed information.

The Yes for the Community Center website is here.