Position 5 Questionnaire: Ryika Hooshangi

Ryika Hooshangi

Questionnaire

Name: Ryika Hooshangi

Position: City Council, Position 5

General

Why are you running for Sammamish City Council?

I was born and raised on the Eastside. For the past 15 years, I have travelled throughout the country and nearly every corner of the world, but never found a better place than Washington State to raise a family.

I am running for city council to ensure Sammamish continues to be one of the best places in the world to raise a family, even as we confront the challenges and opportunities that flow from our region’s incredible growth. I believe that I can make a positive impact on our community as we look to our future.

What do you hope to achieve?

I hope to bring a new fresh perspective to City Council and want to use my coalition-building experience to solve the challenges Sammamish faces. I also hope to develop a more effective partnership with our regional neighbors including Redmond and Issaquah to develop solutions to the growth and traffic problems that plague our city. We need a realistic long-term plan for our city—and now is the time to tackle these issues.

What are the Top Three issues you see as priorities?

There is no better place in the world to raise a family than Sammamish. The community, the schools, and the natural splendor of our city are unrivaled. The challenge we face is protecting what makes this community so special in the midst of unprecedented growth and development. As an attorney, former diplomat, trained mediator, and mom, I know that I can bring a new perspective to the critical issues we face. The Top Three issues I see as priorities are:

  • Balancing growth with our environment, while expanding infrastructure for the management of our transportation needs
  • Fiscal Responsibility
  • Maintaining the safety of our community

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

I’ve reviewed the city records that are publicly available on the website and other analyses including city council meeting records, the TIP, TMP, the GMA, our municipal code, and attended city council meetings. I have talked with families from around the city about many of these issues.

How would you solve these issues?

Too many politicians today bring hardened ideological positions to every issue, making real problem solving and coalition building nearly impossible. I will bring an open, but critical mind to the table and explore different viewpoints and all potential solutions. I will also focus on working with our regional neighbors to tackle our shared challenges, particularly as they relate to growth, infrastructure, and regional safety. These should not be partisan issues and solutions, but rather what is best for our city and residents.

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.

As a former civil servant, I know the responsibility that comes with representing taxpayers. We have a fiduciary responsibility to be the most efficient and effective with every tax dollar collected. We must treat taxpayer dollars with the same level of diligence and care that you would with your own personal finances. This means constantly evaluating a finite pool of resources to determine the best use of those funds. The citizens of Sammamish deserve a city that has a healthy financial outlook with open and transparent financial policies. We previously maintained a healthy financial outlook, but are now at a crossroads with a gloomy deficit in our future, unless we work hard to prioritize our finances.

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

We need to look at priorities and opportunities to address any budget shortfalls before we look to an imposition of any new taxes or increases in current taxes. It is critical to look at places to be efficient. Sammamish citizens are already being taxed for Sound Transit 3 (ST3) with little or no benefit, and now it looks like we will also have an increase in our property taxes. It’s critical that people can remain in their homes and are not taxed out of our city. A thoughtful discussion on a cost-benefit analysis is the most prudent thing we can do for the citizens of Sammamish.

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

A thoughtful discussion and a cost-benefit analysis of services and current expenditures of the city is the most prudent things we can do for the citizens of Sammamish. I think the last thing citizens of Sammamish want is a new tax.

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

We should look at all potential options for increasing revenue, but we should vet them against the impact on citizens of Sammamish, traffic, and the environment.

Parks and Recreation

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

As new communities are planned, we should work with developers to ensure playgrounds, parks, tennis courts, ball fields are being considered in their plans. Based on the projected density in new developments, we can explore adding recreational requirements as part of the permitting process, instead of all the costs being shouldered by taxpayers. It’s essential to balance the infrastructure that is needed as we build more communities. As these new communities are proposed—we need to look to a whole new host of amenities, not just ballfields.

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.

There are many disputed issues related to the East Lake Sammamish Trail including the width of the trail, stop sign placement, right of way ownership, storm water issues, and tree preservation. The dispute over Section 2B involves changes of the stop sign controls to give trail users the right of way. The county and the city are in dispute over a Right of Way permit, and the approval of the clearing and grading permit. As a trained mediator, I think the City and the County need to come together to resolve this dispute before legal fees become astronomical.

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.

We need to determine what percentage of the property must be “active use” to meet the letter of the law and our contractual obligation. We should maintain the integrity of the area and utilize the property in the best way possible. This will require us to balance the critical areas, streams, and wildlife with any proposed active use. There are many varying opinions on this topic, and we need to be respectful of that and request additional input by our citizens.

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 TIP will fundamentally guide our transportation improvements for the next six years. Transportation improvement projects often require massive investments —and we must prioritize which programs will have actual results improving our transportation in Sammamish. It is critical to assess and determine the impact these projects will have on our current state of traffic versus the cost paid for the project. Simply put, we need to look at the cost-benefit analysis of each one of these listed projects to prioritize the money spent and the anticipated relief provided. We are not playing with monopoly money.

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

We must do everything in our power to ensure a healthy financial outlook for our City. The long-term health of our finances is critical, especially when we face decisions on which transportation projects to spend millions of dollars on. We can pay for these projects—but as discussed previously there are always tradeoffs. Currently, we are looking at a deficit coming to our city in 2020. All of these projects are important to various citizens of our community: whether it be sidewalks for children who want to walk to school, or bikers hoping to commute to work. We need to prioritize the importance of the current projects slated for the next six years in the TIP.

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?

First and foremost, if we are going to be spending millions of taxpayer dollars for road improvement projects, we need people involved that understand contracting law. We need to have stiff escalating penalties for overruns and increasing costs. We need city officials that can provide actual estimates that run true to the cost of a project. With my legal background, I know how to write contracts, read the contracts, and will hold people accountable. There is no reason why our citizens should be responsible for poor planning and astronomical increase in costs for any of our projects.

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?

We need to prioritize our finite amount of financial resources. Improving our traffic congestion and thus quality of life here in Sammamish should be our focus. Let’s prioritize the projects that have been shown to ease our congestion, then turn our focus on other projects that our community desires. Just as when we look to our own household finances to determine what home improvement projects we can and need to pay for, we need to apply the same concept to our city finances. It’s good policy to reassess the project design once we have discovered that our primary goal will no longer be achieved—in this case, relieving traffic congestion.

What is your understanding of Concurrency and Level of Service?

Concurrency and level of service go hand-in-hand. The City has a legal obligation “to adopt and enforce ordinances” banning the approval of development if that development causes our level of service to decline below the standards adopted by the City of Sammamish. The only way around this, is if transportation improvements are in place at the time of development or there is a financial commitment to complete necessary improvements within six years to accommodate the impact—like increasing public transportation. The city may not issue a development permit unless a concurrency test is completed and certificate of concurrency is issued.

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

I’ve extensively looked at the TIP, TMP, the GMA, even Miki Mullor’s analysis, our municipal code, and attended city council meetings on the topic. My personal experiences and those of friends and families at various points of the day—not just rush hour, as well as the experiences of other residents whose daily activities are dictated by traffic, have shaped my opinion on what needs to be done for traffic management in Sammamish. We need to be cautious of relying heavily on statistics that can easily be manipulated to achieve a particular result. We need to focus on the reality of our citizens and how their lives are impacted daily by traffic.

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.

I believe the city needs to undertake a new comprehensive feasibility study on this issue. We still do not have a definitive analysis of the potential impact on water quality and taste or whether it would require Northeast Sammamish Water to begin chlorinating its water.

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

Again, we need an updated, comprehensive feasibility study before making any decisions. We must also reach out for citizen input in this District as the outcome can have significant economic consequences for both the District and the City of Sammamish.

 Please state your understanding of the Tamarack storm water management issues.

The lack of adequate drainage facilities despite new development, the force and volume and even flow of storm water does not allow for the water to penetrate into the ground but rather gets washed over the roads. In turn, since there are no catch basins, the sediment and fine silts are being carried into Lake Sammamish and potentially trapping kokanee fry and salmon eggs. One of the main issues is whether or not public funding should be used toward the maintenance of private roads in Tamarack or installation of storm water facilities.

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

We need to look at the Public/Private Stormwater Management Responsibilities the Council adopted in order to determine the responsibilities of the city and what can be done to fix the problem. There have been several ideas suggested that would be low-cost solutions that could have considerable impact on the storm water problem, including the digging of ditches that can help to alleviate the culverts that are backing up. Both the Surface Water Capital Improvement Program and the Surface Water Management Fund should be looked at for funding purposes.

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

So many of our neighborhoods are effected by storm water management or runoff issues such as the Zackuse Creek subbasin; Inglewood Hill Road, the Kokanee and Ebright Creek. Runoff issues and storm water management affect our critical areas, water quality, shoreline vegetation conservation, shoreline restoration and enhancement, and flood and erosion hazards.

Environment

Please state your positions on environmental issues:

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

So much of the history and future of Sammamish is built around our relationship to these incredible lakes, and we must make preserving them and the habitats they support a priority. We must maintain and protect our natural resources not only for our generation, but for generations to come. There is a great need to limit the pollution in our waterways, including the control of phosphorus inputs.

  1. Protecting wetlands and streams.

Our wetlands and streams are a critical part of the ecosystems that keep our lakes vibrant. We should make sure that our existing policies are effectively protecting the entire ecosystem as we allow for thoughtful growth.

  1. Preserving trees. Our trees and forest are also a defining aspect of our city. As science continues to prove how important access to trees and greenery are to our health and creativity, it reinforces the need to make sure our policies are clear, consistent, and effective at preserving critical forest areas while we prepare for growth. I grew up in this area, and know just how critical it is to preserve our open spaces for future generations. We need to hold ourselves and others accountable when it comes to preserving our trees.

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

We need a comprehensive long-term strategy for protecting what makes Sammamish so special, including our lakes, wetlands and forests. As we look toward future growth and how to manage it, we need a vision for the future of Sammamish and we should audit existing policies on wetlands, lakes, and tree protection to ensure they are clear, consistent, and effective in protecting that vision. We are at an inflection point as the entire Seattle area faces massive growth. This is a regional crisis and we can’t solve all these challenges alone, in particular we need to partner with our neighbors in Redmond and Issaquah to build for the next generation.

 Any Other Issues You Wish To Address

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

We are one of the safest cities in the State, but we need to ensure we remain that way. Between the drugs that are readily available in our schools to the car prowls and mailbox theft, we need to work together to keep our neighborhoods safe. As a mom, this is a priority for me.

We need to be proactive on critical issues that we may face or currently are facing as a city: the housing crisis, opioid drug addictions in our youth, diversity in our community, taking care of our seniors, and homelessness.

 

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