Sammamish gave former City Council Member and former Mayor Mark Cross five days to correct a code violation for two large billboard style campaign signs erected in a public right of way (ROW), but opponent Christie Malchow and Council Member Ramiro Valderrama, running in a different race, were given 48 hours to correct similar violations, Sammamish Comment has learned.
Cross’ signs blocked the line of sight from the cross street looking east on Inglewood Hill Road, requiring the driver to pull well forward of the painted white line aligned with the stop sign in order to see westbound traffic on Inglewood Hill Road.
Signs erected in different locations by Malchow and Valderrama did not have line-of-sight issues. Malchow and Valderrama said they were given 48 hours to remove their large signs in a public ROW.
Chris Hankins, the City’s code enforcement officer who handled the three cases, said that when Cross’ signs came to his attention Monday, Cross was notified that the signs had to be moved “immediately, but no later than Friday,” five days after the violation was recorded. He said “there’s absolutely no preferential treatment” that was afforded Cross despite the disconnect between the deadlines given Malchow and Valderrama of 48 hours to comply with City code.
“I would disagree with that” characterization of a disconnect, he said. He could not explain why Valderrama and Malchow were given a 48 hour deadline. “That’s a good question. It’s decided on a case-by-case basis,” he told Sammamish Comment.
“Just to be clear, there is absolutely no preferential treatment,” he said again.
Cross, a former Council Member and Mayor, is endorsed by the ruling power structure of the Council, Mayor Tom Vance (who is also running for reelection and whom Cross endorsed), Deputy Mayor Kathy Huckabay, and Members Tom Odell and Bob Keller. Cross is also endorsed by Council Member Nancy Whitten, who refused Cross permission to erect a large sign on her property while allowing Valderrama and Vance’s opponent, Tom Hornish, and Valderrama, to do so. Whitten provided Malchow a positive quote for her campaign.
The seventh member of the City Council, Don Gerend, hasn’t endorsed anyone.
Malchow’s sign was on Sahalee Way, erected with permission on property she believed to be private. But she was notified the Sahalee Way right of way extended to the property owner’s fence line and the billboard-style sign had to come down. Under City code, small “yard” signs may be erected in the City ROW, but not large billboard signs. Malchow said she was given 48 hours to remove the sign and did so within eight hours.
Malchow mounted an unexpectedly energetic campaign, taking Cross and the ruling majority by surprise. She raised $12,351 from 58 groups and individuals while Cross raised $5,850 from 23 groups and individuals, according to the latest filings with the state.
Cross was given to the end of business today (Friday, Oct. 16) to remove his sign. Within hours of Sammamish Comment’s inquiries on Thursday, Cross removed them. Hankins said he recontacted Cross on Thursday about doing so.
Valderrama said he was tagged for two of his billboard-style signs. One was erected on a utility fence and the other adjacent a mailbox, both on Inglewood Hill Road. He said he was given 48 hours to remove the signs.
Hankins said Valderrama asked for, and was granted, the weekend to comply. This shows the flexibility the City used to work with candidates, Hankins said. Malchow said she was not given this option.
Valderrama raised $12,763 from 86 groups and supporters. He is nominally opposed by Hank Klein, who dropped out of the race too late to remove his name from the ballot. Valderrama is treated as an outsider by the ruling majority, who recruited Klein to run against him.