In the upcoming election, it’s incumbent James Mayhew and former mayor Fuzzy Fletcher vying for Position 4 of the Snoqualmie City Council.
Mayhew has served on the council for the last two years, is a former CFO and former partner of an international accounting firm, according to a candidate provided statement listed on the King County website. He moved to the area with his family in 2009.
Fletcher has served as a councilmember and mayor of Snoqualmie. He’s lived in Snoqualmie for more than 27 years and has experience in working with local, tribal governments and with human services and corporations.
When it comes to growth in the city, what is your approach?
Mayhew: I want to protect our city’s character, quality of life and historic area charm. To ensure future growth is what the residents envision, the community should determine now what would be welcomed and zoned for future development. This means reaching consensus on how much the commercial areas should extend and what types of businesses and housing are desired. As residents age there are currently limited options for downsizing or assisted living. And residents fill only about 200 of the roughly 2,000 jobs located in Snoqualmie, largely because of the high cost of housing. I support guiding developers before they bring proposals, and prioritizing housing options that are affordable to our seniors, teachers, first responders and the rest of our workforce in Snoqualmie.
The Puget Sound region is forecast to grow from 4 million currently to 5.8 million by 2050, with Snoqualmie adding about 5,000. While the state and county have designated much of the Snoqualmie Valley to remain rural, they designated Snoqualmie Hills to the east of the ridge for urban development along with the Mill Site across the river downtown. So although the last 14 Ridge housing sites are now being built, I don’t believe trying to simply stop future growth is realistic.
Fletcher: I am for slow and pre-planned growth. Building to obtain more tax money and promoting the idea of, if you want to build, come to Snoqualmie because we don’t really care what you build as long as we can get our fees and then tax you for the build, is not healthy for Snoqualmie. When it comes to developers, they can come, and if they bring a problem they need to pay for the fix. We need “concurrency rules” to make sure any building that is done also includes infrastructure costs (like roads, sewer and water) and the infrastructure needs to be done prior to completion of the project. There is no need to have a developer come in and build something then leave it to the taxpayers to improve infrastructure. Existing tax dollars should not be used to improve, repair or enlarge infrastructure if there other ways to pay for it.
I also believe that there are spaces in the city that would allow smaller footprint homes, alternate types of housing or accessory dwelling units (ADU), such as a garage ADU or a separate ADU in the yard. There are many possibilities available, but we need to allow these types of ADUs, and we also need to simplify the building permit process to make these possible alternatives feasible. This is one way to allow people to live and work in the same city. I know of one case where two educators working in the city cannot afford a home in the city. When educators are qualified to teach our children and yet cannot afford to live in the same community where they teach, there is a problem. Local businesses are having a hard time retaining or even hiring employees as the pool of workers has to commute many miles to get here to work, if they could afford to live here, it would ease some of the issues. We need more alternatives for seniors, single-parent families and income restricted families to live in our great city.
If elected, how will you ensure transparency in city dealings?
Mayhew: Residents want easy access to concise, understandable information about significant plans and issues in and around the city. We all have high expectations for city staff accomplishing outcomes; finding the time to summarize these complex issues is always a challenge for them. I have pushed for this priority, and during my term the city has expanded the number of web pages describing these significant matters, continues to record videos discussing them, and staff and councilmembers now regularly push this information out over social media in addition to press releases, newsletters and more traditional channels.
Starting in 2018 the council established quarterly town hall meetings to provide information on significant matters and seek resident input and guidance, and in 2019 started monthly informal resident discussion sessions. Over the past year formal resident comment periods at council meetings have been lengthened and committee meetings rearranged to ensure public comment periods when bills are being developed. Different formats have been tried to find what encourages input without creating confusion, and I will continue to support more public outreach and communication so the city is as responsive as we can be to the concerns and desires of our community.
Fletcher: I would start by voting to overturn the recent council decision to stop streaming the three minute citizen comment period at standing city council meetings. I also believe that all city meetings should be streamed live. All city committee meetings should be held in council chambers where the equipment to live stream is available, thus not adding any expense to the proceedings. I would also vote to overturn the recently passed council decision to restructure public records requests. I believe by opening up meetings and by talking to citizens and answering their questions we would have less requests for public documents and more transparency.
What is your mid to long term vision for the city?
Mayhew: Keeping our taxes and rates reasonable and safeguarding a financially sustainable future is fundamental to ensuring our special recipe continues to succeed. We must ensure sustainable budgeting that does not spend one-time revenues for ongoing operations but rather commits them to capital needs. We must dedicate adequate funding for capital programs such as parks and streets renewal and ensure adequate reserves for unforeseen circumstances and future economic downturns.
An expanded community center with a pool has been a dream for the majority of Snoqualmie residents for well over a decade. Residents voted for it in 2006 (52 percent) and again in 2008 (55 percent), and more than 70 percent favor it in 2019 polling. I led efforts to identify funding for this without raising taxes, which is possible because of responsible budgeting over that decade.
In 2017 the city began a six-year plan to finally address the enormous deferred maintenance in the historical section of our city where the water, sewer and stormwater system has been left to decay by previous administrations and where many streets and sidewalks have been neglected for decades. I support the roughly $50-million plan, which is possible because the costs can be spread over the now larger population while still keeping our rates reasonable.
Fletcher: Reconfiguring fees and slowing tax increases to be more equitable to services provided is a part of my long term vision.
Involving our youth by having a council listening forum with the local high school seniors each semester would allow younger residents to express their opinions and share ideas as they are the future of our city.
To expand the city’s involvement with all other governments in our area. We are all responsible for our Snoqualmie Valley and should all work together to obtain this goal. I will also work on a better methodology of incorporating the voices of our citizens. While the city currently offers many ways to communicate city info to the citizens, there seems to be less ways for the citizens to get their voices communicated back to the city. I will continue to support our police and fire departments, as well as all other departments so that these departments can continue to provide the vital services our citizens’ desire and pay for.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you tackle it?
Mayhew: The biggest challenge is getting into and out of Snoqualmie at the Interstate 90/state Route 18 Interchange. I led efforts over the past year — together with Sen. Mark Mullet and Mayor Matt Larson — which convinced the state Department of Transportation to build a dedicated on-ramp from the parkway to westbound I-90 by the end of 2019. WSDOT’s plan was to wait six years until completion of the I-90 Interchange.
But we have more to solve – SR-18 is a safety threat and desperately needs widening to Hobart Road, downtown parking does not handle peak demand periods well, and the Snoqualmie River Bridge will need renewal before too long, to name just a few. And I am concerned about those struggling right here in Snoqualmie, and am proud to have led the effort in 2019 for the largest human services budget increase in the city’s history. I will continue to focus on community needs and aspirations.
Snoqualmie deserves leaders that find solutions to our problems. Many solutions come from working with regional cities facing similar problems and with county and state legislators to find funding to fix these problems. My endorsements show I have the support of regional legislators to accomplish this.
Fletcher: The city refuses to openly acknowledge that increased development is causing traffic congestion. Residents near the new affordable housing are very concerned about traffic now and are extremely upset about the inevitable congestion to come to just get through their own streets before getting to Snoqualmie Pkwy. Now imagine how this situation impacts the ability of emergency vehicles getting through. As I mentioned earlier, I believe concurrency rules would go a long way to easing traffic and soothing some of the growing congestion. Taxes and fees (particularly water and sewer) are part of this issue, as these fees continue to climb with no letting up in the foreseeable future. With some type of concurrency rules, I believe infrastructure should be paid for by builders and developers and lessen the load on existing taxpayers. Thank you for your vote.