3 newbies join Planning Commission

Three new people joined the Sammamish Planning Commission after being appointed Jan. 19 by the City Council. This article in The Sammamish Review provides details.

After the City Council, this is the most important body authorized in state law for cities. All land use policies and proposals must first go through the Planning Commission. Environmental policies start here.

The seven members are all unpaid volunteers who donate and dedicate their time. It is a thankless job–often without thanks from the very City Council that appoints them–and their recommendations frequently become targets from citizens and council members alike.

The new Commission meets for the first time Feb. 4. One of the first tasks facing the Commission will be to choose its leadership for the year. Although this won’t take place on Feb. 4 as new members are seated and require some time to become acquainted, a decision to select a vice chairman (a position currently vacant) and chairman will need to be made soon. The current chairman is a hold-over, pending selection of the new commissioners, after occupying this position in 2009.

A new chairman is desperately needed. The current one proved to be weak and rudderless, whose benign neglect contributed to a wholly dysfunctional commission by the end of the year.

Among other things, the 2009 commission was criticized for failure to reach out to the community adequately. Although this criticism is a bit unfair, as Staff and the Commission as a whole did make efforts, the Commission as a whole was clear it recognized the need to do more. The current chairman in February last year effectively torpedoed one effort do do so, through “town hall” meetings proposed by other commissioners, when the chief staff liaison objected to the idea and the chairman failed to support his own colleagues. Then after the commissioners crafted a series of proposals to send to the City Council, the chairman promptly disowned his own vote in favor of the proposals in a newspaper interview.

By the end of the year, a huge breach between the Commission, the Staff and the Council had developed. One commissioner resigned, one elected not to seek reappointment, a third commissioner was seriously considering resigning and a fourth resigned only to rescind his resignation when talked out of it by the Staff. Throughout it all, the chairman largely stood on the sidelines.

This commissioner is a superb policy wonk and understands the issues with intimate detail. His contributions in this regard are highly valued and clearly contribute to making good policy recommendations.

Nonetheless, it is imperative the new commission select a new chairman for strong and effective leadership.

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