Name: Mark Baughman
Position: Position 1
Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?
My wife and I have lived on the Sammamish Plateau since 1997 and have seen the inception and development of the City of Sammamish and the simultaneous and continuing development, growth and changes to our community during these 20 years. I experienced the angst with King County that ultimately lead to the founding of our City and the aspiration that local control would provide the opportunity to greatly improve the prioritization of local projects and the level of service from local government. Much of this vision has been accomplished through the dedication of many of our City leaders over the past 18 years. Now that there will be a significant transition in the City Council, I hope to lend my experience from the private sector to help guide the City’s path to continue in a long term, well planned trajectory of financially disciplined progress toward accomplishing those goals that were expressed in the founding of the City of Sammamish.
What do you hope to achieve?
During six years as a member of the Leadership Team at Pine Lake Covenant Church I learned the value of a calm, steady, level-headed approach to sometimes contentious and often emotional issues. Management by a committee or council requires patience, an open mind, and a willingness to find appropriate compromise to best serve those you represent. In my professional and personal life, I strive to be that voice of reason that influences others to resolve issues fairly and rationally. I want to bring this to the campaign process (which can influence the thinking and behavior of both current and future Council members) and, if elected, to the City Council. The success of our City Council depends upon open, honest and vigorous debate of the issues, followed by appropriate compromise in the recognition that it is the obligation of the Council to keep the City moving forward. I believe this is a valuable personal trait that I can contribute to the discussion at all levels.
What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?
Transportation issues, including traffic, public transportation, and connectivity continue to be the most pervasive cause of citizen frustration even after 18 years of work at improving the City’s infrastructure and integration. This issue is and will continue to be the City’s most important focus and is the top priority for me as a candidate.
Many in our community are frustrated with the way that development occurs in Sammamish. There are calls to simply stop all development. The fact remains, however, that property rights are a fundamental principal, and the opportunity for land owners in our City to develop their property is a reality that the City must learn to embrace as an asset to the community that can be coordinated to the benefit of the City. City ordinances must be crafted and enforced in ways that will hold up to legal challenge while also contributing to the overall health of the community. This issue impacts traffic, environmental issues, tree canopy concerns, City services, and most other issues important to the City. Thoughtful, stable and durable City policies will result in better outcomes for everyone involved.
Financial issues have always been and will continue to be challenging for every governmental body no matter at what level. The City of Sammamish has had a strong and mostly financially conservative approach over the history of the City. The City Council will be faced with greater challenges to maintaining the level of infrastructure development and City’s level of service that the citizens demand, while finding creative ways to hold the City’s tax burden at a reasonable level.
What data did you rely on to help you arrive at these priorities?
I’ve lived in the community for 20 years, driven around Sammamish daily, been connected to many of the people who live here, and seen directly what is happening with growth in the City. These are all challenging issues, but are also not hard to discern from first-hand experience living in Sammamish.
How would you solve these issues?
The challenges facing Sammamish on transportation, development, and City finances are interrelated and there are no simple solutions. Our City needs more consistent and reliable long-range planning around these issues so that the City has a thoroughly considered financial plan to support the necessary transportation and infrastructure projects necessary because of the allowable and likely development that is vital to continued growth in our community. Additionally, this careful planning must also consider and address the other impacts to our community because of the changes brought about by residential and commercial development including the effects on our natural environment, the interrelated impacts from various projects on storm water management, and development of parks and areas set aside and protected from development. Only with strong integrated leadership among our City Council and City staff can we support the ongoing evolution of Sammamish while maintaining the fabric and culture of this vibrant community.
Please state your view of the current state of city finances? (IE, are they solid, precarious, neutral.) Please state why you reach your conclusion.
Sammamish was established with a strong and fiscally responsible approach to City government. Over time, however, the ongoing management of the City’s finances has lagged behind the level of development within the community and also lagged behind the backlog of needed infrastructure improvements left in the wake of King County’s disinterest. As the pace of development has begun to accelerate (including the needed Town Center), and when combined with the ongoing process of annexation, the prior financial strategy has begun to break down. The current discussion about the ‘crossover point’ when revenues will no longer support the needs of the community is a symptom of this chronic lack of recognition and willingness to address the necessary capital spending needed to support the growth of Sammamish. Failure to act now to address this looming problem will result in frustration by the community, acrimonious relationships and likely legal action from land owners who want to develop their property, and the risk of Sammamish sliding into a stale bedroom community which was never what the City founders intended.
The City’s current statistics on expenditures per capita compares very favorably with nearby communities. However, this feel-good statistic will not offset the frustration and disappointment if City leadership cannot act thoughtfully to make needed adjustments to maintain a steady and manageable level of development that supports our growing and vibrant City.
Do you feel a tax hike or imposition of a new tax is needed? If not, why not? If yes, why?
I do not believe that the imposition of new taxes is necessary, yet. The City can continue to maintain strong fiscal discipline, proactively collect all appropriate impact fees, and prioritize projects and services as part of a long term financial plan. However, the outlook for the cost and needs for capital improvements, particularly road projects, strongly suggests that there is no level of fiscal restraint or tolerable level of reduced City services that would provide enough financial off-set to fund the longer-term transportation and infrastructure needs in the City.
If a new tax is needed, what tax would you favor?
I do not believe new taxes are needed in the near term (2-3 years). However, in the longer term new tax revenue will likely become unavoidable as the continuing costs of transportation and infrastructure improvements mount. I support a strategy that focuses on fiscal discipline over the near term (2-3 years), then when that strategy is no longer sufficient, the City can and should consider issuing limited bonds to address transportation and infrastructure projects (3-5 year time frame), then after further discussion and after implementing all other reasonable options the City is likely to find it will be necessary to consider utilizing its property tax increase authority and its utility taxing authority to continue to implement necessary transportation and infrastructure capital projects. I support a City Council that works with City Staff to develop a carefully considered and long-term plan that implements other strategies first, then considers increased tax revenue when all other options have been exhausted.
What are some ways our city can increase revenue without raising taxes?
It’s important that the City collect all impact fees owed during this time of rapid development, and it would be appropriate to review and re-verify that the maximum legally enforceable impact fees are in place for all aspects of development within the City.
Planned transportation and infrastructure projects need to be continually reviewed for any possible grant funding from other sources which could increase the funds available to accomplish these projects.
It’s likely that issuance of some bonds could provide additional current funding for transportation and infrastructure projects without the need to raise tax revenue.
An increase in funds available for City budget priorities could also come from restraint in current spending in other areas. These opportunities are limited as a portion of the budget, and it will be difficult for the community to accept the lower levels of service that would result, but spending less, while it won’t increase revenue, could make more revenue available.
Parks and Recreation
Are more parks with ball fields needed? If yes, how would you achieve these?
Sammamish is a community of many young families and our need for more ball fields is evidenced by the frequent difficulty of local kid’s leagues and teams in scheduling practices and games for their sport. While there may be no number of ball fields that would fully satisfy the needs of everyone in the community, more are needed than exist today, and there is some good justification that more of the existing fields should be converted to synthetic turf to make them useable during the rainy fall and spring seasons. As with many needs within the City, this is not something that will be solved quickly, but rather should be part of a longer term incremental plan for capital investment in parks within Sammamish. The YMCA property presents an immediate opportunity for ball fields that would be centrally located and could be combined with other open space park uses (playgrounds, open space) to create another wonderful gathering place for recreation in Sammamish. This location, as with all locations under consideration for ball fields or other park uses, needs to be carefully planned to accommodate parking, traffic issues, bicycle & pedestrian access, lighting and neighborhood character.
East Lake Sammamish Trail: Only the Middle section, Section 2B, from the 7-11 north to Inglewood Hill Road, remains under permitting review and appeals by King County. This is the most difficult section to develop given the tight proximity of homes permitted by the County before Sammamish became a city. Please state the issues as you understand them and what your position is to resolve them.
Many citizens of Sammamish have watched in frustration as the amount of City time and resources devoted to arguing with King County over the East Lake Sammamish Trail mounts. While the issues of dispute are real, the reality is clear that the trail is being built and will be completed. The incessant bickering via the costliest approach (the court system) does little to effectively and cost efficiently represent the best interest of all the citizens of the City of Sammamish. I absolutely support a City government that advocates for and protects its citizens when appropriate, but this acrimonious debate has gone on for too long. It’s time for new people on both sides of the table to try once again to sit down face-to-face and, recognizing the reality that this trail will get built, work thought the real issues around safety, trail access, and impact to neighbors. There are no good solutions that will come through the legal system. It’s not possible for everyone to get exactly what they want, but better outcomes are certain if Sammamish and King County leaders work together to sincerely develop reasonable solutions that consider the interests of everyone involved recognizing the goal of getting this project completed.
Developing the YMCA land adjacent Pine Lake Middle School is a contractual obligation to Sammamish in exchange for the YMCA’s financial contribution, program development and management of the Community Center. The City’s obligation is to develop an active use for the property, which is currently thick woods and encompassing sensitive areas. Some neighbors prefer a passive use, such as trails, to protect wildlife and the wetlands. Please state your understanding of the issues and the outcome you support.
It is understandable that neighbors would prefer to maintain this property in its natural state and thereby create a ‘passive use’ park space. However, the City’s obligation is to create active use park space and as the City continues to grow this type of active use park is urgently needed. The design for the final park at this location should include features that protect sensitive areas where possible, maintain some real portion of the tree canopy, and provide a buffer for neighbors. The design should also coordinate with Pine Lake Middle school like the continuity between East Sammamish Park (Bill Reams) and Margaret Mead Elementary. Many residents have been alarmed and frustrated as new residential development occurs adjacent to their homes with little or no notice and not opportunity for their input. In this instance, the City can develop this property the right way for active use park space and create a valuable park amenity close to the heart of the city.
Roads and Transportation
Council Member Tom Odell has stated Sammamish neglected road improvements for 10 years. The City today is about to receive a draft Transportation Management Plan (on July 11, after this questionnaire is due back to us). This will perhaps make recommendations for priorities in road improvements. Until then, the only “plan” is the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP).
The TIP is available on the City’s website. Please state your opinion of the TIP projects and the cost of the projects listed in the TIP.
The current Transportation Improvement Plan highlights two very significant challenges for the City in maintaining progress toward resolving the traffic issues that are either left over from King County’s inaction, or that have developed as the City has grown. The first is the obvious funding challenges after 2019. The TIP lists numerous needed projects, but the funding identified in 2020 and beyond falls by over 50% and then falls further in the latter part of this 6-year plan. Failure to fund and then deliver Concurrency projects will result in restricted development, lawsuits, and likely poor decisions that become necessary to address the problem. Additionally, failure to fund and build General TIP projects will be a failure of our City to deliver on one of the key reasons that the City was incorporated. The second challenge for the City is the reliability of cost forecasting for these projects. It is always difficult to forecast exact construction costs for any project, but it is not reasonable for projects to grow 40%+. This makes planning impossible for City staff and the City council. Better forecasting and subsequent cost control is a key feature in allowing these TIP projects to be delivered effectively.
Do you believe the City can pay for these projects under its current financial condition? If not, how would you suggest paying for them?
Based on current financial projections, the City cannot fully fund all the listed projects in a time frame that will be satisfactory to address the general expectations of the citizens of Sammamish and maintain progress necessary to support development activity, at a reasonable rate of progress, within the City. As part of this long-term plan, the City needs to considered alternative means of increasing revenue available for these projects with cost control and alternative project delivery methods first, then issuing bond debt second, and tax increases lastly when implementation of other ideas can no longer support the needs of the community.
Issaquah-Fall City Road improvements were promised to the Klahanie area residents if they voted to annex to Sammamish. At the time, in 2014, City officials estimated the cost of this project would be about $23 million. The latest estimate is $32 million and this may rise. Do you support the current proposed design of the project, and how do you believe the City should pay for it?
The City made this commitment as part of the annexation process, but even without this commitment this project is needed in support of the overall transportation infrastructure in and around the City. The complete design is not yet finalized, but I support the badly needed overall project that will improve this important arterial. Along with others, I’ve been frustrated with project cost escalation between the early initial numbers and the revised forecast once the design has progressed or is complete. The City will continue to have significant difficulty managing the budget and the budgeting process until more reliable early cost estimates can be provided for these types of transportation and infrastructure projects. While I would not advocate that these early estimates be artificially inflated, an increase of over 40% (as is likely the case for this project) are just as unacceptable.
This project must continue to proceed, and funding should be part of the overall TIP plan for numerous needed projects that have not been adequately addressed to date. Funding for these capital projects needs to be based on a strategy of cost control, then potentially issuance of bonds, then potentially a thoroughly considered option for select tax increase. Tax increases should always be the last choice on the list, but given the significant backlog of projects needed in the city, it is likely going to become necessary at some point to support steady growth and progress in Sammamish.
Sahalee Way became a highly controversial project, both in design and in cost. Initially it was promised that it would relieve congestion. However, the City’s contract traffic engineer stated it will not because Sahalee Way empties onto SR202. As a result, any improvements will be principally for safety, such as stop lights, turning lanes, bike lanes and a sidewalk on one side of the street. The project is estimated to cost $15 million-$16 million. Do you believe there is sufficient return on investment to support this cost, or do you believe the design should be modified to reduce the cost?
I drive on this road every weekday going to and from work. My first-hand experience is not consistent with the City’s contract traffic engineer. While it is possible that improvements will not relieve ‘peak’ congestion, there are many other opportunities to improve traffic flow on this section of road. The argument that this road can’t be improved because of the restriction at SR202 ignores 50% of the problem, which is the southbound direction into Sammamish. Getting back onto the plateau is often delayed by busses, large tractor-trailers, construction equipment, and left turns. Similar issues occur at various non-peak times of the day in the northbound direction. Add to this the concerning safety issues for bicyclists and others and it becomes difficult to imagine why anyone would argue against the badly needed improvements on this stretch of Sahalee Way. In addition, we can’t disregard the longer-term probability that further improvements will be made to SR202 and then the urgency to improve Sahalee way will only increase. The section of roadway is a key component of the City’s transportation infrastructure and has been ignored for too long.
What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?
The municipal code of Sammamish establishes certain transportation adequacy measures (TAM) as a standard for measuring road capacity and performance to insure the City’s transportation infrastructure maintains adequate levels of service as part of the overall City comprehensive plan. When a new development project is proposed (including redevelopments), the project must receive an approved transportation impact analysis (TIA) from the City as part of the overall permitting and development approval process. This analysis involves a concurrency test wherein the City applies prescribed trips per hour (or similar) data based on the submitted intended use and density of the proposed development. If the additional vehicle trips per time period, when added concurrently to the existing utilization of the transportation facilities, does not exceed the maximum allowed TAM standards, an approved TIA will be issued and the development application & approval process can move forward. If the concurrency calculations result in traffic flows that fail to meet the established TAM standards, the development application process cannot proceed forward, and the applicant has several options as prescribed in the City ordinance.
For a single, isolated project, this process is relatively straightforward. Complication can (and do) arise when multiple projects are planned nearly simultaneously throughout the community with schedules that must be intermeshed with already planned transportation improvement projects that also have varying and sometimes shifting completion schedules. In addition, people often disagree about how various developments will affect the behavior of drivers on the roads and how these affects should either be amplified or minimized in the concurrency test calculations. Further, is it reasonable to deny a development application if the concurrency test only fails the standard for a brief period once each day? Twice? Those opposed to development within Sammamish would hold to the most stringent calculations and the strictest interpretations. Development applicants would advocate for the opposite approach. Finding the right methodologies for this process that protect the citizens of Sammamish while recognizing that development and transportation infrastructure improvements will continue within the City, is one of the more daunting issues for the City staff and City Council.
What data are you using to inform your positions on traffic management?
During my 27 years of managing commercial construction projects, both large and small, I’ve had the opportunity to be either directly or indirectly involved in the process of traffic impact analysis by various cities around Puget Sound and elsewhere. In addition, the traffic management challenges are readily apparent to anyone who drives around Sammamish on a daily basis.
In a community like Sammamish with lots of active development ongoing, these are complex issues that will never result in complete consensus by everyone involved or affected. It is the obligation of the City to fund and implement transportation improvements in a reasonable manner to support growth in the community, and restrict overdevelopment that exceeds the capacity of the City to “keep up”. There have been some within the community that have suggested that the specific details about how the City is applying concurrency testing, combined with the way that funded transportation improvements in the 6-year window are folded into the concurrency testing process (as specified in the Sammamish municipal code) has not adequately protected the citizens of the City from gridlock. We are fortunate to have active citizens who are willing to challenge the City and force a productive conversation about what can and should be the policy of City staff and City Council. As long as the conversation is civil and professional in nature, I believe that some debate in an open forum is a healthy part of the way that democratic governance can be most successful in Sammamish.
Certain members of the current City Council occasionally suggest assuming the two water and sewer districts into the City, so that the City government has control over all operations of the districts; all assets; all revenue (and liabilities); and the ability to set rates.
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District? Please state your reasons for your position.
I oppose the concept of the City assuming control of either Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District or Sammamish Plateau Water district. I live in the unique zone where we are customers of each district. I have not seen any significant justification for City assumption of these utilities. Both appear to be functioning in the best interest of their customers and in a cost-efficient manner. Moving control of these utilities to the City is essentially moving them to a larger governmental entity that is unlikely to be any more cost efficient or responsive to the citizens of Sammamish. I do support maintaining a close working relationship between each water/sewer district and City Council / City staff. Coordination of projects and priorities as well as sharing of issues from Sammamish residents and businesses will lead to the most effective and timely delivery of services to Sammamish.
Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and sewer district? Please state your reasons for your position.
I oppose the concept of the City assuming control of either Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer District or Sammamish Plateau Water district. I live in the unique zone where we are customers of each district. I have not seen any significant justification for City assumption of these utilities. Both appear to be functioning in the best interest of their customers and in a cost efficient manner. Moving control of these utilities to the City is essentially moving them to a larger governmental entity that is unlikely to be any more cost efficient or responsive to the citizens of Sammamish. I do support maintaining a close working relationship between each water/sewer district and City Council / City staff. Coordination of projects and priorities as well as sharing of issues from Sammamish residents and businesses will lead to the most effective delivery of services to Sammamish.
Storm water management is a City function. For the past 12 years, the Tamarack subdivision has had increasing storm water runoff issues from uphill development approved by the City. Residents have persistently appeared before the City Council asking for a City-funded solution. The current Council is split on (1) how to proceed), (2) whether more study is needed and (3) who should pay for resolution of these problems.
Please state your understanding of the Tamarack storm water management issues.
This is a challenging issue because it involves our neighbors and our friends, and there are difficult questions of fairness and responsibility involved. The chronic Tamarack drainage issues highlight what happens when appropriate facilities are not required and enforced in a private development and, very unfortunately, the City is left to solve the problem with public funds in the interest of protecting downstream property and protecting habitat that can be impacted by excessive and turbid runoff.
The City should and must first make any necessary upstream storm water improvements uphill from Tamarack that may be contributing to the issue. This should be the City’s top priority. Secondly, it has been stated that the residents of Tamarack will not vote to form a Local Improvement District (LID) to work on and coordinate with the City both financially and logistically to resolve the issue. It will continue to be difficult for City residents outside of Tamarack to support funding storm water remediation on private property inside of Tamarack if Tamarack residents themselves are unwilling to have some ‘skin in the game’. A reasonable split of the financial obligations needs to be defined.
Please state how you would resolve the issues and who should pay for them.
First, the City needs to complete its study and develop a plan for solutions; all of this was begun more than a year ago. Secondly, the City should proceed with funding and making any necessary improvements uphill from Tamarack in areas of more recent development that might be contributing to the problem. Third, the solutions within Tamarack should be separated into the most basic (possibly least attractive) cost effective version that the City may find it necessary to implement on its own, and other more attractive and likely more costly versions of a solution that can be publicly discussed to consider the cost/benefit of each.
The City has the final obligation to address issues of environmental protection and public safety even on private property. This does not, however, require that the City make necessary improvements above and beyond the most basic and cost-effective solution available. Only with at least some partial contribution of the collective residents of Tamarack would I support the City considering a project solution that includes other amenities or more aesthetically attractive solutions.
What other storm water management/runoff issues are you aware of?
The topography of Sammamish and the ongoing development projects mean that there are numerous storm water management issues that range from large to small, and likely new ones being created all the time as more natural land is converted to homes and commercial buildings with roofs, streets, and parking lots that are all less permeable than the natural land they are replacing. This will be an ongoing challenge for the City, especially with development of the Town Center, to continue to study, identify, and understand storm water management issues both at the location of each development as well as downstream in unrelated areas of the City. Combine this with the need to improve salmon habitat and spawning beds, and the issues around storm water management become complex. I view this as a positive challenge for our community. The rain and the resulting lush environment that make Sammamish such a place of beauty is why I’ve lived here for 20 years. It’s up to us to manage the resulting issues and continue to make our community a great place to live, work and play.
Please state your positions on environmental issues:
- Protecting Lake Sammamish, Laughing Jacobs Lake, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.
Protecting water quality and biodiversity in all lakes in and around Sammamish is a shared responsibility between residents, businesses, developers, and all levels of government including the City of Sammamish. However, it typically becomes the City that is responsible to take the lead in setting priorities, adopting rules & regulations, and enforcing these protective restrictions within the community. The City can and should also be proactive with community education, relaying monitoring and status information either created by the City or collected from other agencies, and coordinating volunteer and other agency efforts to promote and improve protections for these extremely valuable quality of life resources within our community.
- Protecting wetlands and streams.
Streams and wetlands are often harder to identify and understand when compared with other environmental features, and so they often receive less attention, protection and improvement. This is unfortunate given the critical role they play in maintaining biodiversity, controlling flooding and runoff issues, and contributing to the quality of life that residents of Sammamish have become accustomed to. There are individuals and some groups that have great passion for streams, creeks, and wetlands, but the City needs prioritize this area of environmental protection and improvement more that has been traditional during the City’s first 18 years.
- Preserving trees.
Preservation of the urban forest tree canopy continues to be a hot topic in Sammamish; and for good reason. Whether it was the specifics of the ordinance or its implementation and enforcement, the old City requirements did little to prevent the clear cutting of land for recent residential developments in the City. New restrictions have been put in place, but it remains to be seen if these rules have the ‘teeth’ to prevent the devastating outcomes we are currently experiencing. Enforcement of these rules needs to be in both the letter of the ordinance and the spirit of the ordinance. A line of stubby trees along the road with their tops cut off for the power lines above does NOT meet the intent of tree retention. Neither does a small stand of slender, unlikely to survive trees in one corner of a development. Look around almost any neighborhood that was built 30 years ago on the plateau, and you will see numerous large trees that were left as part of the build-out. There is no excuse for the current approach or for us allowing it to continue to happen.
Is the City doing enough, too much or not enough?
The environment is the one area where the City has struggled to find an appropriate balance between property rights, fiscal priorities, and protection of the beauty that makes Sammamish such a special place. To protect the character of our city, our city government must do more to prioritize environmental protection, must work harder to capitalize on the many volunteer groups and other agencies who can passionately support and help in this effort, and must develop better near and long-term planning around these critical quality of life amenities within our City.
Any Other Issues You Wish To Address
Please briefly identify any other issues that you wish to address.
I am growing concerned economic diversity in our community. How we can work to support economic diversity among our residents. Housing costs and demand have created conditions that make it difficult or impossible for teachers, police officers, people that work in local businesses, and others to even have any hope of purchasing a home and living in the community where they work. I doubt that my own kids will ever be able to live in Sammamish, and wonder how any young family could ever hope buy a home here, even, in many cases, with dual income. We need and want people who work in our City to also be able to live here if they choose to. This economic diversity is crucial in contributing to the diversity of thought and opinion that makes any community a vibrant and interesting place to live. If we do not work to constructively change this trend, Sammamish will slowly lose the diverse culture that makes it one of the best places to live.
Sammamish has a robust and professional police force as provided by the King County Sheriff’s Office. We also have an exceptionally low crime rate. These two facts make it difficult to understand why I and many others perceive such a lack of neighborhood traffic enforcement. I believe that the City Council and City staff should work with Chief Bennett to understand the priorities, mix of officers, and policies that may lead to this commonly held perception in the community, and what can be done to change it.