- Sammamish Chamber of Commerce, Rotary cite politics in banning videotaping for later broadcast of candidates forum.
- Sammamish Kiwanis Club beset by political concerns.
- Candidates object to videotaping, says Rotary official.
- Discussions continue, says Chamber, cites Rotary opposition.
- Four of five candidates favor taping and broadcasting.
- Mayor/Candidate Tom Vance silent on the issue.
There will be a Sammamish City Council candidates forum the evening of October 7 at the Boys and Girls Club (Inglewood Hill Road at 228th Ave. NE), but it won’t be videotaped for later broadcast on the City’s government TV (Channel 21, Comcast).
Objections by a “couple” of candidates to videotaping and concerns to do so would politicize the event led the Sammamish Chamber of Commerce and the Sammamish Rotary to ban videotaping, CJ Kahler, treasurer of the Rotary, told Sammamish Comment.
The candidates are:
- Christie Malchow vs Mark Cross of Position 2. Neither is an incumbent. They are running for the seat now held by the retiring Nancy Whitten.
- Ramiro Valderrama vs. Hank Klein, Position 4. Valderrama is running for a second term. Klein filed to oppose him, but dropped out of the race two months later, too late to remove his name from the ballot. Klein reconfirmed to Sammamish Comment Wednesday he is not a candidate, won’t be at the forum and he won’t reenter the race at any time.
- Tom Hornish vs Tom Vance, Position 6. Vance, currently the mayor, is running for a second term.
Kahler said he didn’t talk to the candidates and doesn’t know who objected. Malchow, Valderrama and Hornish say it wasn’t them. Cross reportedly favors taping. Vance’s position in unknown.
“I did not [object]–instead, I encourage it as it is City practice in the past,” Valderrama said.
“Same here—I encouraged it to be taped,” Hornish told Sammamish Comment.
Malchow said she favors taping the forum.
Valderrama said he talked with Cross at Wednesday’s Farmer’s Market and reports Cross favors taping. Cross and Vance did not respond to Sammamish Comment whether they have objections.
Kahler said the Rotary and Chamber also didn’t want to bear the $1,200 expense it would cost to tape the event. But Harry Shedd, chairman of Citizens for Sammamish (CFS) offered to pay for the videotaping. However, neither Shedd nor CFS were to be co-hosts, and he told this to the community groups when he offered to pay for the videotaping. Shedd also initially reserved the B&C Club for the event and reached out to the Chamber, Rotary and Kiwanis Club to be the co-sponsors.
Kahler said the offer to pay for the videotaping was declined by Rotary and Chamber due to political concerns. Whoever pays for the videotaping “controls” the event, he said.
Kahler noted that CFS was co-founded by Valderrama and candidate Malchow created the CFS website. As such, he said the two groups were concerned about the political optics of CFS’s involvement, even if behind the scenes.
“The people who would pay for the video, other than the sponsors, would be viewed as partisan,” Bob Toomey, president of the Chamber, told Sammamish Comment. “They would have control of the video itself,” he said, broadly echoing Kahler’s remarks. But Toomey, who said “I haven’t really been in the loop” on the discussion, added, “I’m not sure what they meant by that.”
Deb Sogge, the Chamber’s executive director, in an interview with Sammamish Comment, said the Rotary was “adamant” against taping and “they don’t want to change.”
“We wanted to keep it simple,” Sogge said. “It started as a cost issue and we didn’t want somebody else paying for it.”
Sogge said the Chamber board opposed taping, but Toomey, the Chamber president, said the decision was made by himself, Chamber executive director Sogge, the Rotary’s Kahler and Bill Shaw, the publisher of Sound Publishing (Sammamish/Issaquah Reporter and other local newspapers). Shaw will be the moderator, Kahler said. Shaw is on vacation and could not be reached by Sammamish Comment.
Sogge said if the event were to be taped, the Chamber would have to be the last to possess the tape and it would have to be an unedited version turned over to the City for broadcast. As for paying for the videographer, she didn’t express an opinion whether a contribution from Shedd to the Chamber to cover the cost, as opposed to Shedd paying the videographer directly, would be acceptable.
Shedd, in response, told Sammamish Comment he has “no problem with who videos” the event. He charged Vance was objecting to the plan, which considering the other four candidates said they favor taping–and Vance hasn’t responded–does seem to point toward Vance.
Although Sogge said Rotary is “adamantly” opposed to taping, and Kahler said much the same thing to Sammamish Comment, Sogge said discussions continue between the two groups.
While Kiwanis declined to join the Rotary and the Chamber in sponsoring the evening October 7 forum, this hasn’t stopped Kiwanis from planning its own candidates’ forum.
Vance, Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay and Council Member Bob Keller are long-time members of Kiwanis; Keller served as president before declaring in 2013 his candidacy for City Council. A perception has evolved in political circles and even within Kiwanis that the non-profit, civic Kiwanis group has become too political with three members on the Council, two of whom are or have been leaders of Kiwanis (Keller and Huckabay) and two of whom make up two thirds of the leadership of the City Council (Vance and Huckabay, with City Manager Ben Yazici being the third). Vance received the endorsement of several Kiwanis members.
According to two leading members of Kiwanis who spoke with Sammamish Comment, Huckabay—a strong Vance supporter and an equally strong opponent of Valderrama, Hornish and Malchow—wanted to organize and run the Kiwanis candidate forum, but others objected to her “politicizing” the effort. The Kiwanis board also rejected joining the Chamber and Rotary because of the growing perception the Sammamish Kiwanis has become “political.”
According to one of these sources, membership for candidate Cross, an ally of Vance, Huckabay and Keller, was put off for now to avoid further appearances of politicizing Kiwanis.
Instead of joining with the Chamber and Rotary, Kiwanis plans its own candidates forum the morning of October 7 at its regular member meeting.
Among the civic activities organized by Kiwanis is the Jumpin’ Jive night at the Boys and Girls Club.
Valderrama is a long-time member of Rotary; Hornish and Malchow are recent members. The latter two joined Rotary rather than Kiwanis because they perceived the Kiwanis club to be the political power base of Vance, Huckabay and Keller.
Keller, a past president of Kiwanis, previously fiercely denied any politics at Kiwanis, but sources within the group confirm the appearance of politicalization of Kiwanis is a concern within the organization.
One long-time Rotary member told Sammamish Comment he doesn’t like seeing the politicians aligning with Kiwanis on the one hand and Rotary on the other. But as yet, Rotary hasn’t been stigmatized as evolving into a political organization.
Rotary is best known as the principal organizer of Nightmare at Beaver Lake, the popular Halloween event that runs two weeks.
“It’s a disappointment”
“It’s a real disappointment to the City and voters” that it won’t be videotaped and broadcast, said Shedd, of CFS. “This is not a ‘social’ event, it is a ‘political’ event. The sponsors that have offered to host this event are service organizations that are supposed to work for the entire citizenry of Sammamish, not just the 100 or so who may show at the Boys and Girls Club to hear the candidates.”
Shedd said the City agreed to broadcast the event on Channel 21.
Finding a solution
Bowing to political concerns reportedly expressed by one candidate, apparently Vance, and a decision by four people, only three of whom represent the Rotary and the Chamber, against videotaping for the greater reach Channel 21 can afford seems ill-advised–and easily resolved.
In fact, the solution is already outlined above:
- Shedd pays the $1,200 to the Chamber required to produce the video.
- A professional videographer is chosen and hired by the Chamber and Rotary.
- The Chamber and Rotary pledge to turn over the unedited tape to the City for broadcast on Channel 21.
That’s it. The appearance of partisanship is removed, because the Chamber and Rotary hire the videographer, control the finished product, turn over an unedited version to the City for broadcast and fund the expenses through a contribution by Shedd to the Chamber, which pays the bill.
What could be simpler?
The Chamber and Rotary, as civic organizations, would fulfill part of their stated missions, to serve the public.