Position 5 Questionnaire: Rituja Indapure

Rituja Indapure

Name: Rituja Indapure Position: 5

General

Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?

Over 15 years ago, my husband and I moved to Sammamish to raise our family. I’m running for City Council to protect what we love about our diverse community- our beautiful and safe neighborhoods, parks and forests, quality schools – all of which make Sammamish special. Sammamish needs someone who is deeply committed to the residents of city, who will listen, and has experience in bringing people together. Now, more than ever, Sammamish needs a council member who will do the right thing for the city.

What do you hope to achieve?

As Sammamish City Council member, I would bring a common sense and data-driven approach to policy that is inclusive and takes the needs of our entire community into account. I will strive to support sensible growth, while balancing the need to protect the environment and character of our community. As a city, we should ensure that we protect our parks and green spaces, and support reliable police, fire and support services for everyone.

What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?

  • Protect and be a good steward of our natural habitats
  • Combat traffic by advocating for alternative transportation options
  • Maintain the character of our community and diverse neighborhoods by supporting sensible growth

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

I have been a resident of Sammamish for the past 15 years, and have been part of the community. In my regular conversations with my neighbors and members of the community, I know that traffic, transportation and trees are of importance to them. I have also studied the results of the survey conducted by the City. After starting to campaign for City Council, I have talked to hundreds of residents, and their concerns are around having more options for transit, ensuring that the infrastructure supports growth and making sure we are good stewards of the land.

How would you solve these issues?

We must ensure that our infrastructure supports growth, that our current development codes are enforced, and that we have framework to ensure that character of our neighborhood is preserved. We need to work with our regional partners to ensure that we have transit options that satisfy the needs of our residents. We must strive to be an environmentally sustainable city. It is important that we involve our residents and ensure that their voices are heard in the decision making process. It is also important for us to work with our neighboring cities and regional partners in finding solutions to issues that affect all of us. Building stronger partnerships will benefit not just our city, but the entire region. I want to ensure that all voices are heard at the city and their input is considered.

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 have had the opportunity to talk about the financial situation of the city with current council members, City officials and members of the community. I have also attended Finance Committee meeting and the roundtable on City Finances organized by the city. Based on these meetings and discussions, I have deduced that the current city council members have ensured that there is transparency in city’s finances and the administration has been prudent in managing its finances.

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

The city council members who are our elected representatives have made prudent financial choices on behalf of our city and this has been demonstrated in the financial statements and the budget of our city. Presently revenues are budgeted to be higher than 2015-2016 and sufficient to support existing development activity. Given this, I do not see the need for residents Sammamish pay more in taxes. It would be important to have ongoing discussions on the health of the city’s finances and to evaluate it periodically. This discussion and evaluation will help decide if an additional revenue stream is needed to support the services of the city.

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

During the Financial Roundtable held by the city, many options for new taxes were discussed in Sammamish. Some of the options that were listed were Property tax, Utility tax, B&O Tax, Charges for services, Licenses and Permits. In general, I am not supportive of these types of regressive taxes. If the city gets to a point where we need to raise taxes to support existing services for our residents, I would need to research on the best option for our city and its residents.

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

Policymakers can increase revenues by expanding the tax base, improving enforcement, identifying and addressing inefficiencies in to the system and by increasing economic activity.   As a person who has been significantly involved in cultural activities in our community, I would look forward to seeking opportunities to raise grants and contributions for community and recreation activities. If needed, I would explore the possibility of trying to raise revenue via grants and contributions for transportation by exploring opportunities for public-private partnerships. The city can also look at issuing bonds which can be used to finance projects. Another potential opportunity would be through updating charges for services for the Surface Water Fund.

Parks and Recreation

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

Sammamish is a community of families. Over 55% of the households in Sammamish have children. Our community bonds over sports- be it baseball, football, lacrosse, ultimate frisbee or cricket. Through surveys conducted by the city, in talking to residents and during discussions at the Parks, Recreation and Open space roundtable, they have expressed interest in having more ball fields available to the community. There is no single solution to addressing this issue. We must partner with local sports organizations, school districts and the Parks department to assess the need for new fields, scheduling, maintenance of the existing fields.

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 roughly 11-mile East Lake Sammamish Trail follows a historic railroad route and goes through the cities of Redmond, Sammamish and Issaquah. The goal of this trail is to connect to the Burke-Gilman trail, the Sammamish River trail, Marymoor Connector Trail and the Issaquah-Preston Trail.  The trail goes along the lake and also lakeside communities, which has posed issues with especially Section 2B of the trail. In addition to the challenges of the residents, there are issues with culverts and stormwater drainage that have been raised. With additional information requested from King County Department of Natural Resources and Parks, upon the staff recommendation, the matter will ultimately rest with the City’s hearing examiner regarding the Shoreline Substantial Development Permit. Residents in Sammamish welcome the trail and see the public benefit to all its residents. There is support from residents who live on the shoreline for the trail as well. However, it is imperative that we mitigate the issues faced by residents regarding property at the same time ensure that public lands are not encroached upon.

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.

The Sammamish Community and Aquatic center was opened to the residents of Sammamish in 2016 and since then has been a hub of activity and community. It provides activities for the young and also for our seniors. Studies conducted on the heavily forested YMCA 7.25 acre property has shown that the parcel of land includes two wetlands, streams that are connected to Laughing Jacobs sub basin. The woods also support local wildlife. Currently vast majority of residents are against clear cutting the trees to build a pavilion or an indoor structure for active use. I would like the city to look at the results from the PRO survey, get input from the residents specific to the area surrounding Pike Lake and overall city survey to prioritize and evaluate how the land can be developed for public good.

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.

All cities are required by state law to have a six year Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) to be updated and adopted annually. It is a planning document and a requirement to be eligible for grant funding and should be consistent with Comprehensive Plan. The projects listed in TIP are based on the need to bring the arterials up to standard or to comply with concurrency. It is essential to gather public input in prioritizing these projects for implementation based on the overall benefit afforded to the community. The costs for the projects listed in the TIP are conceptual project estimates.

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

As per the most current TIP, five concurrency projects and five General transportation projects have been identified along with other improvement projects. Currently there are various funding sources from various sources like Grants, REET, Impact fees, Mitigation Fees and others. As shown in the latest TIP, some projects will be funded by Impact fees whereas other will need to be funded by grants and other sources of revenue. The Council will need to prioritize the projects so as to provide most public benefit. I would recommend that we look into ways of optimizing current expenditures, reducing inefficiencies in the system and pursuing grants in order to finance upcoming projects.

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?

Issaquah-Fall City Road is a vital road that connects the residents of Sammamish. As a resident of Klahanie, who uses Issaquah-Fall City road to go to work, I personally welcome the improvements to Issaquah-Fall City Road. I have talked to many residents who use this road and they welcome the improvement to the sidewalks, bike lanes and protected student crossing. There have been multiple public meetings to discuss this project and design. Environment and environmental considerations are of prime importance to our residents as well and the council has supported the bridge option- which being more expensive than the culvert, protects the local habitat. I support the current proposed design of the project. The total project is currently estimated at $44.8 million.

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?

Sammamish is a residential community, with many of our working residents going outside the city to work. Sahalee Way is an important arterial in Sammamish, which takes us to Redmond/Fall City. The goal of the project was to improve and widen the corridor between NE 25th Way and NE 37th St, to add bike lane, sidewalks and planter strips. However, when people think of Sahalee Way, they think of congestion and their access to SR 202 and Redmond. Ensuring that our local roads are up to standards, public safety are important to our community and I would like to understand the priorities of the public before the Sahalee Way project is underway.

What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?

Concurrency is a policy, regulatory requirement, a land use planning and implementation tool introduced by the Growth Management Act which requires local governments to ensure that adequate public improvements or strategies are available at the time of new development. It also means that these public facilities and services are available to the locally adopted level of service standards. The GMA also requires that financial commitment is in place to complete these improvements or strategies. The Level of Standard (LOS) is an operational analysis rating system commonly used in traffic engineering to measure effectiveness of operating conditions. The City of Sammamish has identified segments and intersections for concurrent monitoring.

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

I have talked with hundreds of Sammamish residents who have told me their experiences of being frustrated with the growing traffic in Sammamish. I have heard from parents worrying if they can make it on time to pick up their child from daycare/aftercare. I have heard from senior citizens who are not confident of driving on our crowded streets. I have heard from kids who cannot walk to a neighborhood school because there is no sidewalk. We need to prioritize road improvements for the safety of our citizens. In addition to hearing real life experiences from residents of Sammamish, I have perused the Transportation section of the Comprehensive Plan, presentations given by citizens, watched recordings of city council meetings held in the past and talked with city officials to understand traffic and transportation issues of Sammamish. I have also studied the data reported by the Sammamish Police department related to traffic enforcement and their work plan in ensuring safety of our citizens.

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.

The Northeast Sammamish Sewer and Water District is a municipal corporation which first constructed sanitary sewer facilities in the Sahalee area in the early 1970s as part of the Sahalee Estates development. The District purchased the Sahalee Water Company, including all wells, water mains, storage tanks and all other items necessary for the successful operation of the water system in 1982. Customers are being well served by Northeast Sammamish Water and Sewer since the 1970’s and I don’t see any reason to change the status quo.

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

Sammamish Plateau Water has been serving the residents of Sammamish for more than 60 years providing clean and reliable drinking water. Since 1970, they have provided sewer services as well. Customers are being well served by Sammamish Plateau Water since before the city was incorporated and I don’t see any reason to change the status quo.

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.

Built around 1989, the Tamarack neighborhood is located on south east section of Sammamish City. It is a diverse community with a scenic and beautiful neighborhood which attracts its residents because of the quiet streets, great schools and amenities.Tamarack has also grown in the past decade with more homes being built. This has also led to residents experiencing stormwater drainage issues.

The issue under discussion is that whether the city should use public funding towards the maintenance of Tamarack’s private roads in addressing the stormwater issues.

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

Tamarack is not the only neighborhood in Sammamish that is being affected by stormwater runoff. Currently around 50 neighborhood locations in Sammamish have been identified with stormwater/drainage issues, which need to be addressed. The City needs to look at these stormwater issues using a comprehensive rather than a piecemeal approach. Results from Basin studies will also impact on the work plan created to address stormwater and runoff issues that residents are facing in Sammamish. Understanding the impact of local water run off and how it affects the larger Sammamish area will help guide the resources for mitigating this issue.

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

Development in Sammamish has occurred at a fast pace that has contributed to changes in hydrologic characteristics that have led to surface and stormwater impacts to our residents. In talking to many residents of Sammamish, I have heard first hand stormwater/runoff issues that they have faced due to new development. Around 50 locations have been identified by the city which will be part of the Neighborhood Drainage study and several Basin Studies are also planned to understand the soil quality , erosion and water quality that affect the health of water bodies in Sammamish. Some of the areas under consideration for the Basin Study are Zackuse basin and Laughing Jacobs Creek.

Environment

Please state your positions on environmental issues:

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

To the west of Sammamish lies one of the region’s largest freshwater lakes- Lake Sammamish. Other lakes in Sammamish include Allen, Beaver, Mystic and Pine Lakes. Our lakes provide with recreational opportunities to local residents and millions of other regional users like fishing, swimming, boating, water skiing, or just enjoying the scenery. However most of the larger lakes are entirely surrounded home. There are challenges to maintaining the lakes for healthy recreational resource and as well as for salmonid habitat. It would be my priority to protect water quality, protect the Lakes from degradation and encourage restoration of damaged environmentally sensitive areas.

  1. Protecting wetlands and

As per the Stormwater CIP, there are over  160 mapped wetlands in Sammamish. Laughing Jacobs Yellow and Mystic Lakes are large wetlands in Sammamish which support a variety of wildlife on the Sammamish plateau. Ebright, Pine Lake, Zackuse, George Davis and Laughing Jacobs creek have historically supported spawning for Lake Washington Kokanee salmon. Ensuring that we have policies in place that protect the existing habitat, remove barriers to fish passage is of importance to the residents of Sammamish and will be a priority for me as well.

  1. Preserving

I am the only candidate running for Position 5 who has been endorsed by Washington Conservation Voters which supports candidates who are environmentally responsible. In talking to hundreds of residents in Sammamish, it is very clear that trees and the environment are of prime importance to them. However many factors go into determining which trees should be preserved. Sustainability of the species, tree health, tolerance to changes in environment , topography, drainage are many variables that affect the health of trees in an area that is being developed.

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

The City is currently working on many plans like the Urban Forest Management, Beaver Lake Preserve, Sammamish Landing, Parks, Recreation and Open Space plan, Storm and Surface Water Comprehensive Plan, Inglewood Hill Drainage, Tamarack Drainage Improvements, Zackuse Creek Fish Passage Culvert and Stream Restoration Project to name a few. The critical part is implementation and funding of all these projects, along with ensuring that we also work with regional partners in addressing issues that cross jurisdictions.

Any Other Issues You Wish To Address

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

While our city is growing, we are also facing some challenges – many of us spend countless hours in traffic, worry about sustainable growth and are concerned about losing our natural habitats. Along with these, I’d like to address some of the following issues:

Majority of Sammamish residents work outside the city, but we have a large number of home businesses along with local non-profits and community organizations in Sammamish. Currently, there is no central place where these entrepreneurs or social changemakers can meet their clients or have meetings. I would support looking into options for creating local but globally connected spaces which can be used by local entrepreneurs, businesses, non-profits or community organizations. Providing this incubator like space will help build powerful ecosystem of resources, inspiration and collaborative opportunities.

Environmental sustainability is important to residents of Sammamish. We should aim to be an environmentally sustainable city, where we offer incentives for residents to reduce their greenhouse emissions. For our seniors and our young citizens, we must make mobility within the city a priority. I would lend my support behind having a loop bus within Sammamish.

Our city is home to many schools, but many teachers cannot afford to live where they work. Affordable housing should be something we aspire for our new residents.

Sammamish is essentially an island with very few exits. We must have a robust emergency plan which must be socialized amongst the residents of Sammamish to make us feel safer.

Considered one of the safest cities in the United States, Sammamish has its share of domestic violence and drugs related reports. We must strive towards building a Health and Human Services Commission that provides support in time of urgent need to our residents.

I believe it’s our responsibility to work together to find solutions to issues that face Sammamish. We need to work locally with our residents and regionally across cities and entities. I have the experience to bring people together and ensure strong community engagement so all voices are heard, find solutions to our toughest problems, and will promote common-sense and reasonable solutions to make Sammamish even stronger. Now more than ever, it is important that we get this right.

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