Position 3 Questionnaire: Minal Ghassemieh

Minal Ghassemieh

Questionnaire

Name: Minal Ghassemieh

Position: 3

General

Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?

I am running for Sammamish City Council because I am competent to tackle the issues and compassionate about our growing community.  I am competent because I have great deal of education and experience to offer in leading the residents of Sammamish.  I also offer a strong but compassionate voice being a mom, attorney, and lifelong community organizer.

I was born and raised in Washington State.  I received my Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Washington School of Business and Juris Doctorate from Gonzaga University School of Law.  I have spent the last nine years practicing immigration law, and providing pro bono services to low-income clients.  I am Board Chair of API Chaya, a Seattle-based agency that provides services to survivors of violence. In sum, I am a competent and compassionate individual who will advocate for fair policies that benefit our entire community.

What do you hope to achieve?

My main hope is for our community leaders and residents to engage in collaborative decision-making.  Our leaders are elected to represent their constituents, their concerns and values.  With a city as large as ours and still growing, communicating these concerns and values becomes more challenging.  I have great appreciation for the efforts our city staff has made to facilitate outreach and gather feedback, i.e., online surveys, virtual town halls, popup forums, etc.   I hope to build on that momentum and develop even stronger modes of communication so that high-level decisions reflect what the residents want for our city.

What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?

The top three issues that I see as priorities are public safety, addressing and responding to community concerns about development and traffic, and improving our city’s infrastructure.

What data did you rely on to help you arrive at these priorities?

The data I relied on to identify these priorities are topics that the current council and city staff is addressing at study sessions and meetings; conversations with residents and legislators in the three districts in Sammamish; and my own research and reflective thoughts.

The city makes a great deal of data available at meetings and whatever is not readily available can be requested from staff.  I recently went to a number of meetings on land acquisition and the city director emailed me the presentation slides upon request.  I have also been in touch with the human services task force and was able confirm that substance abuse and domestic violence were indeed issues that residents would like services for.

I have been doing a fair bit of door-belling and generally talking to residents while out and about in the community.  The priorities I’ve identified are certainly topics shared by individuals I have talked to in the city.  I also am fortunate to have the support of the three legislators in my legislative district, Senator Lisa Wellman, and Representatives Tana Senn and Judy Clibborn.  All three leaders are wonderful resources for talking about the issues based on their historical experiences in the district and institutional knowledge of how to address the concerns of their constituents.

How would you solve these issues?

With 62,000 residents and more coming in, public safety will need to be at the forefront because a safe community is a healthy community.  As an affluent community we need to raise awareness on issues like substance abuse and domestic violence.

Rapid development and increased congestion is on everyone’s radar. I do think increased communication and information on how city development is planned would help mitigate bad feelings on our changing community. If more of our residents became aware the guiding principles of the growth management act, they may not see rapid growth within the city as such a threat because protection of the green spaces outside of the boundary are more crucial to the environment.

Improving infrastructure is a natural priority with the growing population.  I hope developer impact fees are effectively mitigating negative effects on the roads, schools and services.

I believe transparency naturally translates to trust.  Also, well-informed residents are less likely to complain about things they don’t understand or have an opportunity to provide concerns and feedback on.

Finances

Please state your view of the current state of city finances? (IE, are they solid, precarious, neutral.) Please state why you reach your conclusion.

I believe our city finances are currently solid but with rapid growth and increased pressure on existing infrastructure we will certainly need to spend to accommodate the growing population of residents.  The community needs more transportation capacity (more road and trails), and more open spaces to replace those that are being developed.  I reached this conclusion by reviewing the city budget, literature, presentations on finances and talking to City Staff, Council and Residents.

Do you feel a tax hike or imposition of a new tax is needed? If not, why not? If yes, why?

I would consider this in the future, but right now with Sammamish being such a desirable place to live, property tax revenues appear sufficient to fund existing plans.

If a new tax is needed, what tax would you favor?

None

What are some ways our city can increase revenue without raising taxes?

Continue making Sammamish a desirable place to live and work, so that property values continue to increase and people buy more locally, resulting in raised revenue.

Parks and Recreation

Are more parks with ball fields needed? If yes, how would you achieve these?

Yes, there are more young people in schools thus more athletes on the field.  I would focus on improving and expanding existing fields and acquiring additional space based on need.

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.

The Eastlake Sammamish trail and its development have had a turbulent history.  The issues are the County processes and procedures as they pertain to development not being well-received by waterfront property owners, they City changing its position in terms of first partnering with the County and later breaking that partnership to mitigate damages felt by property owners and of course property owners losing property they had believed to be theirs.  My position is to develop the trail while mitigating damages felt by all stakeholders.  Miscommunications and lack of clarity has caused many bad feelings so bringing more transparency to the plan to all involved would need to be a priority as development continues.

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.

I would need to better understand the development and environmental issues involved in this matter to provide a position.

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 new TIP appears to prioritize those road improvements that residents want to see improved.  I do hope developers offset the costs.

Do you believe the City can pay for these projects under its current financial condition? If not, how would you suggest paying for them?

I think the City has a good history of being fiscally responsible and have full faith any decisions on spending are both reasonable and necessary.

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?

I would need to review the budget and reasons for the increased estimate prior to stating a position.

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 am not fully apprised of the issues involved in this matter and will provide a position upon researching the matter more carefully.

What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?

I understand that road capacity changes as populations increase.  In other words, there needs to be more road space for more people.

What data are you using to inform your positions on traffic management?

The recent discussions on concurrency and level of service.

Utilities

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.

As our city currently stands, our city has controlled spending by contracting for certain services like Water/Sewer.  I do believe assuming Water/Sewer is a good thing for the City but not just now.

Do you support or oppose assuming control of the Sammamish Plateau Water and sewer district? Please state your reasons for your position.

Same as above.

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.

I understand storm water management is a big issue, especially for those residing in or near Tamarack.

Please state how you would resolve the issues and who should pay for them.

With storm water management, I would defer to professionals who are well versed in how best to manage run-off and the most reasonable and least burdensome model to resolve current and future issues.

What other storm water management/runoff issues are you aware of?

Landslides are more common with excess storm water collecting in areas with deficient drainage.  My own neighbors had a slide on their property.  The city came to their aid in identifying the source of the slide and how to mitigate damage on their property and on the road nearby.

Environment

Please state your positions on environmental issues:

  1. Protecting Lake Sammamish, Laughing Jacobs Lake, Pine Lake and Beaver Lake.

Very important.

  1. Protecting wetlands and streams.

Very important.

  1. Preserving trees.

 

Very important.

 

Is the City doing enough, too much or not enough?

The City Manager and Council are doing a great job with the resources at their disposal.  With 62,000 residents and growing, there are bound to be challenges.  We are lucky to have leaders that listen to the community and make decisions that make our city such a great place to live.

Any Other Issues You Wish To Address

Please briefly identify any other issues that you wish to address.

Like many around our great nation and in our own city of Sammamish, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election made me feel very defeated and in need of recovery.  It was no surprise that there were bad policies coming from the Washington: restrictions against women’s reproductive rights, discriminatory policies against immigrants and refugees, and a general climate fueled by hate rather than the promotion of love and respect.  I began organizing my thoughts and strategies on resisting these policies, and part of my recovery was finding out what my city was doing to make our community feel secure and safe.  I was happy and proud to know Sammamish had issued a proclamation promoting respect for all and resisting discriminatory policies.  I want to continue developing Sammamish in being a model community that builds on respect and inclusiveness rather than divides under the pressure of hate and discrimination.  While city council does not directly deal with issues like racism, sexism and xenophobia, with a community as diverse as ours with 30% of us being people of color, those issues should certainly be a part of the dialogue at city hall.  When elected I hope to build on that dialogue.

 

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