Oh woe is us, election season is just beginning again

Sammamish: the year ahead, Part 1

And you thought the election season was over.

This is a new year and a new election season.

Sammamish

Four City Council seats are up for election in November.

City_of_SammamishIt’s widely assumed that at least one and possibly two residents of the greater Klahanie area will file for City Council. One Klahanie resident who’s publicly acknowledged his possible interest in Tom Harman, currently a commissioner for Sammamish Plateau Water.

The area was annexed for services to Sammamish in January 2015 but the political annexation didn’t take place until July, thus rendering some 3,000 voters ineligible to vote in the November 2015 City Council election. Council Member Ramiro Valderrama advocated an earlier political annexation but was out-voted 6-1, including by the four Members up for election this year.

These are:

  • Position 1: Kathy Huckabay. Huckabay, like Gerend, was one of the original Council members. Unlike Gerend, she took a four-two-year break from 2012-2014. She ran in November 2013 to return to the Council, taking office in January 2014.
  • Position 3, Bob Keller. Keller is completing his first term.
  • Position 5, Don Gerend. Gerend is one of the original Council members. He has served continuously since the first Council was elected in 1999. He currently is mayor, a position selected by the Council and not by the public. Sammamish has a “weak” mayor form of government, with the City Manager serving as the Chief Executive Officer and the Council his Board of Directors. The mayor’s position is largely ceremonial.
  • Position 7: Tom Odell. Odell is completing his second term on the Council, having been elected in 2009 and taking his seat in January 2010.

None has said if he or she will seek reelection. Odell, Huckabay and Gerend are in their 70s. Keller is the spring chicken of the four, in his early sixties. Demographics of the city are far younger, and Sammamish has the highest under-18 ratio-to-population of any city in the state.

Background

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Kathy Huckabay

Huckabay is in her 16th year as a Sammamish Council member, with a four-year hiatus. Before Sammamish was incorporated, she served on various commissions for Issaquah.

She considers herself to be an environmentalist. She considers herself to be a slow-growth advocate.

But she tipped off Murray Franklyn, which is perhaps the largest builder in Sammamish, to the prospective building moratorium proposed late last year by Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama, according to an email obtained under a public records request. She met with the representative from Murray Franklyn at least twice, according to emails, and encouraged those opposed to the moratorium to appear before the Council at public comment.

Huckabay was one of two Council Members to support Sound Transit 3 (ST3), the $54bn mass transportation project that has a $27bn tax hike that comes with it. Sammamish gets less bus service but a north-end park and ride under the proposal. Residents voted 51%-49% to reject ST3, which passed on the strength of the Seattle vote.

A CPA, she’s been a long-time representative on the Eastside Fire & Rescue consortium that provides fire and EMT service to Sammamish. She’s been a critic of EF&R’s costs and governance and advocated leaving the organization in favor of creating a city fire department.

In 2015, Huckabay opposed giving the Sammamish citizens the right of Initiative and Referendum and engaged in a campaign, despite professing neutrality, to scuttle the Yes campaign and to ban the proponent advocacy group, Citizens for Sammamish, from using the Boys and Girls Club and the EF&R fire station on north 228th Ave for its meetings.

Huckabay became a divisive figure on the Council during the 2015 City Council races, leading opposition to the reelection of Valderrama and the election of Christie Malchow and Tom Hornish, allies of Valderrama. Deputy Mayor at the time, she was closely aligned with then-Mayor Tom Vance (who lost his reelection bid to Hornish), Member Odell (who was not up for reelection), and Keller (also in mid-term). They were collectively called the Gang of 4, a controversial term that nevertheless characterized their position as the ruling majority on the Council.

Bob Kelleer

Bob Keller

Keller was unopposed in his Council election in 2009, taking his seat in January 2010. He joined Huckabay in supporting ST3, arguing that Sammamish residents will benefit despite reduced services because regional transit elsewhere will reduce congestion on commuter routes used by Sammamish drivers.

Keller probably can be fairly called the Council’s leading environmentalist following the retirement of Member Nancy Whitten at the end of her third term in December 2015. Keller, with Whitten, co-led efforts to rewrite the revised Comprehensive Plan environmental section after the city staff and Planning Commission largely emasculated the policies created and adopted in the original Comp Plan that Keller helped write as a member of the Planning Advisory Board in 2001-2003. Keller led the environmental committee on the PAB that included broad protections for the environment in the original Comp Plan.

A close ally of Huckabay, he typically votes with her on the Council.

He was named Deputy Mayor last week after a flurry of backroom maneuvers that once more illustrated the divided nature of the Council between the so-called H-3 (after Huckabay) and V-3 (after Valderrama) factions on the Council.

Gerend 2

Don Gerend

Gerend is entering his 19th year on the Council. His institutional knowledge, both of the City and relevant issues on a regional and state basis is unsurpassed by any Council member or administration official.

He does his homework, his is long representation of the City on regional committees and he’s been to Olympia many times to represent Sammamish interests before the Legislature.

Gerend has been a developer and of all the people on the Council, he’s cast as one. But this is too simplistic a label. To be sure, Gerend of any Council Member best represents developer interests, both of big business and the small property owner. But he’s concerned about environmental and growth issues, too. Gerend is best described as a centrist.

He’s also just what was needed as mayor following the bitterly divisive 2015 election that pitted the Vance-Huckabay-led faction against Valderrama and by extension the candidacies of Hornish and Malchow. Valderrama earned the privilege of becoming mayor for 2016-18, but Huckabay, Odell and Keller were vehemently opposed. Nor did Huckabay, who was widely assumed to be the next mayor had those she supported won, have support from the Valderrama group. Gerend was the compromise choice.

His easy-going demeanor and openness toward citizens did wonders to reduce the overt tension on the Council.

Gerend is often the swing vote between the V-3 and the H-3 factions on the Council.

Tom Odell

Tom Odell

Odell is completing his second term. He’s one of the Council’s strongest environmentalists. He’s an advocate for saving the Kokanee salmon that are native to Lake Sammamish. He’s been active in seeking solutions with King County for the adjacent, county-owned roadways that affect Sammamish.

Odell is a slow-growther who recognizes that a city’s hands are often tied by state law, a realistic position that doesn’t sit well with those complaining about Sammamish’s current, rapid development. Some go so far as to characterize Odell as anti-environment as a result, an entirely unfair characterization.

He is also realistic about the road infrastructure that has fallen a decade behind growth. Despite public acknowledgement of this, and statements that Sammamish needs to raise taxes or incur debt to pay for road improvements, Odell hasn’t pressed the issue, representing a lack of political courage from his beliefs that otherwise characterizes his tenure on the Council.

Odell’s biggest failing is his persistent resistance to public participation. Odell favored returning the annual January Council retreat to the Suncadia Resort in Roslyn, east of the mountains, making access difficult for residents wishing to attend. He sought to punish a school principal who opposed divorcing the city from EF&R. He proposed removing a planning commissioner who favored the Initiative and Referendum. He favored kicking out Citizens for Sammamish from meeting at the Boys and Girls Club over the same issue. He was the lone No vote, opposing even giving citizens an Advisory Vote on the right of Initiative and Referendum.

Odell was absent when it came to adopting the ordinance for the Initiative and Referendum, leaving it to Huckabay to be the sole vote No vote, but his opposition to the end was clear.

Odell was a reliable member of the Gang of 4 during the 2014-2015 Council term. He’s been less dogmatic during 2016 but still can be counted on to usually vote with Huckabay and Keller.

Other local elections in November

There are three other elections this year with direct impact on Sammamish. Water district elections attract little interest and typically the candidates for reelection are unopposed. Yet there are major issues in both water districts.

Northeast Sammamish Plateau Sewer and Water District

NSPSWD covers the northern and northwestern part of the city. The aging infrastructure faces the eventual need for replacement. This means a need to accrue for the high costs. It’s not clear the commissioners have faced up adequately to this need.

Earthquake preparedness to deal with any damage to the infrastructure is also important, but the district skipped participation in the multi-jurisdictional Cascadia Rising drill last year, an inexplicable omission.

When Sammamish floated the possibility of assuming the NE Water District, commissioners overreacted, marshaling public opinion and budgeting $600,000 for a PR campaign specifically to oppose the idea.

While City officials haven’t a clue what’s really involved in a takeover, and in the end nothing came of the idea (which was exploratory and widely believed to be part of a plan to assume the more lucrative Sammamish Plateau Water district), NE water district officials appeared panicky rather than deliberative.

Only one of the three commissioners is up for election this year.

Paul Robinett. He was unopposed in his previous run for Commissioner, as is often the case for water commissioners across King County. His 2015 election was to fill an unexpired term.

Sammamish Plateau Water

SPW covers 60% of Sammamish, including the entire southern end of the City and parts of the northeast. It, like the NE water district, also includes portions of unincorporated King County.

The district found trace amount of a chemical called PFOS in its wells located adjacent Issaquah. The trace amounts are well below EPA guidelines, in contrast to the amounts found in Issaquah wells, one of which is 31 times the EPA level before treatment.

Even though the amounts in the SPW wells are small, the district is aggressively trying to find the source and wants to work with Issaquah to find the source contaminating that city’s wells. A study by Issaquah concluded that one source of the PFOS comes from the Eastside Fire & Rescue facilities that until around 2000 practiced with firefighting foam that contained the chemical.

This is a continuing issue.

Like the NE district, SPW has an aging infrastructure. Unlike the NE district, SPW is accruing money for repair and replacement. This, along with normal operating costs, leads to rate hikes for water and sewer service that have ranged between 2% and 5%.

Two of the five commissions stand for election this year. Each has served more than 10 years and each is typically unopposed for reelection.

Position 1: Tim Harman. Harman publicly indicated possible interest in running for Sammamish City Council this year. Harman was an activist for the Sammamish area before incorporation in 1999. An environmental advocate for Beaver Lake, where he lived, Harman later moved to Klahanie and was a leading advocate opposing annexation to Issaquah, instead favoring Sammamish.

Harman has been on the Water Commission more than 10 years.

Position 4: Lloyd Warren. Warren was appointed to the Water Commission in March 2002 and has been elected and reelected in every election since.

Special Election: State Senator, 45th Legislative District

State Sen. Andy Hill, a Republican, died just before the November election, early in his second term. Former State Sen. Dino Rossi, also a Republican, was appointed Dec. 5 to fill the vacancy until a special election is held this November.

Rossi said he will not seek the seat.

Whoever wins election next November must stand for election again in November 2018 for the final two years of Hill’s term.

Candidates will file in May for his seat. No name has reliably surfaced yet as likely candidates.

Election Dates:

  • May 1-12, filing dates for the August primary.
  • July 14: Ballots mailed for August primary.
  • August 1: Primary, if three or more candidates have filed for seats.
  • Oct. 20: General election ballots mailed.
  • Nov. 7: General election.
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6 Responses to Oh woe is us, election season is just beginning again

  1. Debbie Treen says:

    Is there a reason you always call the form of government the “weak mayor” form instead of the “city manager” form?

    It sounds kind of degrading to whoever is mayor, and it’s also known as the city manager form.

    • cityhamilton says:

      Hi Debbie, this is how the city is described because that’s what it is under WA law. Even Gerend has described it as such. It’s not degrading, it is what it is. Issaquah and Redmond, which elect their mayors by the people, are called “strong mayor” form of government.

      • Debbie Treen says:

        I beg to differ. Look it up. The official description is “Council-Manager” vs “Mayor-Council”. See RCW 35A.

        I don’t know where the term “weak mayor ” came from, but it certainly didn’t come from Washington law.

      • cityhamilton says:

        Does it really matter? “Strong mayor”-“weak mayor” are terms that were used when I was a single-digit age in Wheaton, IL, which had a city manager form of government then. Sammamish electeds have used the terms from inception of the city.

  2. Ken Gamblin says:

    Thanks for the analysis, Scott. With 4 seats up for grabs, it looks like it’s going to be an interesting election cycle.

  3. Pingback: First candidates emerge for City Council, 45th State Senate seats | Sammamish Comment

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