New Era Begins

A new era begins with the seating of three new members to the City Council.

Tom Odell replaces Jack Barry, a 10-year member of the Council whom Odell defeated decisively in the November election; John James won equally decisively over Erica Tiliacos in his second try, this time for an open Council seat; and ex-TV personality John Curley easily defeated Tom Vance for another open seat.

Incumbents still control the Council, however. Ten-year veteran Don Gerend swamped token opposition to be reelected. Nancy Whitten, Mark Cross and Michele Petitti remain and all are up for election in 2011.

James has very limited exposure to Sammamish workings. Despite a goofy Seattle Times endorsement in which the editorial board claimed James “knows his way around City Hall,” he has been anything but active in city affairs.

He served as co-chair of the Parks Bond Advisory Committee and attended a few City Council and Planning Commission meetings as he was running against Whitten two years ago. Since then, he has not been involved in any city activity and only began attending a few city meetings once he declared plans to run again.  The Municipal League rated James “Adequate” for this run, a reduction from the “Good” rating it gave him two years ago.

James may be uninformed but he is not lazy (which is more than can be said for some Council members in the past). Whether he has the time to truly devote to the City remains to be seen. He travels for business–a lot–and isn’t in town much these days. More concerning is that nearly all of his 2007 and most of his campaign contributions came from developers, real estate interests, a political party and people who do not live in Sammamish. The underlying question is: who will James truly represent, the Citizens of Sammamish or developer and outside interests?

Curley has zero experience in City affairs, barely has attended City Council meetings and no Planning Commission meetings. He’s lived here for four years and was not active in any civic affairs. He is a quick study, however, and was rated “Good” by the Muni League. I spent nearly three hours talking issues with him and he proved to be a quick grasp of critical issues. He is hyper and quick tempered, however, and the bets are already on how long he will be able to sit through marathon Council meetings from 6:30pm to midnight. His quick-learning ability is cause for optimism but his ambitions to be mayor (like James) right now are an over-reach. It’s already said that the City Council is nothing more than setting Curley up to run for the Legislature in two years. Although Curley’s campaign contributions were more widespread than James’ developers and real estate interests–and out of Sammamish people–were heavy contributors to his campaign.

Odell spent more than a year attending City Council and Planning Commission meetings. He learned the issues and while some of his positions are still evolving and of some concern–his narrow view on affordable housing being one of them–among the three newcomers to the Council, Odell is head-and-shoulders above them in knowing the issues. He’s ponderous and dry-as-dust, the kind of analogy where old people get excited watching grass grow, but he is retired and will put in more hours for the City than most Council Members have either the time or inclination to do.

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