Good candidates, good answers, rookie mistakes

  • Sammamish Comment recommendations for City Council candidates to advance to the November general election begins tomorrow.
  • A full report of the Candidates Forum is in the next post, below.

Commentary

Sammamish residents have an unusually good set of candidates this year from which to choose for the Aug. 1 primary, and from this, the November general election.

This hasn’t always been the case. In some years, some very weak candidates, or some with clear and self-evident personal agendas, ran. In several years, at least some incumbents were unopposed or had token opposition.

There are nine candidates seeking three Council seats, requiring a primary. These are in Positions 3, 5 and 7.

Position 3 candidates are Minal Ghassemieh, Karen Howe and Karen Moran.

Position 5 candidates are Ryika Hooshangi, Rituja Indapure and Chris Ross.

Position 7 candidates are Melanie Curtright, John Robinson and Pamela Stuart.

Position 1 candidates, Mark Baughman and Jason Ritchie, go straight to the November election; they are not on the Aug. 1 primary ballot.

Experience

Only Moran has local government experience. She currently is president of the Sammamish Plateau Water board. She was on the City’s Planning Advisory Board and Planning Commission. She’s been on King County commissions.

Indapure was an alternate to the Arts Commission, but as an alternate wasn’t deeply involved in its activities.

Hooshangi has federal government experience.

Many of the candidates have varying levels of community activity.

Good replies

Given the overall lack of local experience, the candidates at the Forum last night generally game well-thought out answers. While all had time to do their homework for the Sammamish Comment questionnaires that were published last week, last night was a think-on-your feet event; they heard the questions for the first time when they were asked.

Hooshangi stressed her experience at the federal government level to support her thesis that she can negotiate the thickets of diverging interests on the Council itself. Ross focused on his finance background.

Curtright is a single mom with two adopted children, who pointed out she knows what it is like to struggle to make ends meet. Robinson, now retired, said he has the time to devote as much as is needed to the City for which he feels a moral obligation to give back in the form of public service. Stuart impressed with good answers and a quick wit.

Ghassemieh, Indapure and Hooshangi bring obvious diversity to the table. Ross and Curtright do, too. Ross is married to a Chinese national and Curtright’s children are from Cambodia and China. With 30% of Sammamish now people of color, diversity representation is becoming more and more important.

Rookie mistakes

There were some rookie mistakes made at the Forum.

Curtright and Ghassemieh correctly talked about the need to engage Redmond and Issaquah in transportation issues. They also cited Fall City, which in fact is not a city at all but a sub-area of King County 10 miles to the east of Sammamish.

A few of the candidates suggested “educating” developers on the importance of trees and wildlife. This is a naïve approach. To some developers, both are nuisances in the way of profits. Strict ordinances and stern enforcement is needed, not a feel-good sit-down over coffee.

Stuart, in her closing remarks, praised staff and suggested reliance upon them. She’s correct when she says Council members and candidates aren’t experts. But if the 2015 “Variances-R-Us” election and this year’s traffic concurrency kerfuffle don’t demonstrate a skeptical, probing council of staff is needed, nothing will. Stuart’s apparent complacency to staff seemed out of touch. Moran and Ross won’t make that mistake. The others have a learning curve on this issue.

All Position 3 candidates should spend some time developing more thorough positions for tree preservation. Howe and Moran are advocating Sammamish become a “tree city,” a program from the National Arbor Day Foundation, which appears to entail a six-figure investment for a city the size of Sammamish that yields a PR splash with a plaque. Current city ordinances already meet the requirements for Tree City designation; what’s needed is stricter monitoring and enforcement (which Ghassemieh suggested be done by a new task force, not clear if this is citizens, council or city staff) or more comprehensive policies.  Only Moran mentioned the need to consider property owner rights in setting tree preservation policy.

As is often the case during campaign season, candidates are in favor of investing in programs across the board including affordable housing, land acquisition, sport fields, in-city shuttles, road projects, cultural celebrations and composting education.  But there was very little talk about the cost of these programs, how to pay for them, and how to prepare for the looming “cross over point” when expenses will outpace revenue for the first time since the city’s incorporation. The moderators didn’t bring this up and the candidates haven’t yet had to answer the hard questions about funding these programs and the calculable return on investment.

By Scott Hamilton and Jen Baisch.  

 

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5 Responses to Good candidates, good answers, rookie mistakes

  1. Peter Hartmaier says:

    Economies of scale. Why do taxes go up as towns and cities get larger? You would think that things should get more efficient with a larger base. Ask candidates about a metric such as total average tax load per capita and how that can trend down.

    • cityhamilton says:

      Bigger cities, more services, need for more revenue. That’s basically it in a nutshell. Highly simplistic, to be sure.

  2. Pam Stuart says:

    Just to clarify, as I ran out of time in my closing…we need to rely on staff to provide the recommendations for the very complicated issues that face our city and have council who has the technical acumen to review those proposals and make decisions in the best interest of the community. If we don’t have the enough or the right staff, that needs to be corrected. But we should not be looking to a 7 person council to come up with all of the answers. Our traffic issues are not easily solved – the council needs to set the direction that we must solve traffic – get experts to advise, have full time staff engaged and provide recommendations… and then council make the right decisions. The council should not be determining the appropriate Urban Tree Cover for the city – we need experts providing where we should be to achieve certain goals, where we are, and what it would take to get to the various levels – then council to make the decisions and set policy and budget that support a successful project. And so on…At no point was I implying that we should blindly follow staff…but if we cannot rely on our staff, we have other issues that need to be resolved – and we need leaders to do that. An organization is only as good as it’s employees – we need to hire the best, provide them the vision and priorities, provide them what they need to be successful, and then hold them accountable.

  3. Joy rose says:

    They run. They make promises they have no clue the cost or path to execution. We elect them. They get on the govmnt gravy train. They keep riding and nothing gets done or gets better.

    • cityhamilton says:

      @Joy: In fairness, the City Council members get paid something like $850/mo plus some insurance benefits. Hardly a “gravy train.”

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