Incumbent Katherine Ross and candidate Elaine Armstrong are both hoping to win the city of Snoqualmie City Council Position 2 seat.
Ross has made Snoqualmie her home for the last 15 years. She is a current council member and graduate with degrees from Seattle University and Iowa State University, according to her candidate statement.
Armstrong is a retired biology and special education teacher. She has degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Portland State University.
When it comes to growth in the city, what is your approach?
Ross: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) is forecasting the four-county region, including King County, will grow by a total of 1.8 million people over the next 30 years. This means all areas in the region will continue to grow including Snoqualmie, as required by the Washington State Growth Management Act. As a city, we have the opportunity to determine how we are going to grow in the future and what is needed in Snoqualmie, such as affordable workforce housing, variety of senior living options, additional retail or business development. As a council member, I want to help guide the comprehensive planning for our city, including the Urban Growth Area (UGA), rather than have developers tell us what they think we need. Our Snoqualmie residents will have an opportunity to help define our growth and provide input during the public engagement process, including future town hall meetings.
Armstrong: “Growth pays for growth” is misleading. Sammamish Mayor Christine Malchow shows in her oped appearing in the Sammamish Comment on Aug. 28, 2019, that developers pay a very small percentage of the impact of development. We current residents should not be subsidizing profits for developers. Current citizens should be a priority in every development. Did you know the city administration only studies the impact of traffic on two blocks from each development? Due to careless planning, 191 new, affordable homes off Jacobia will drop hundreds of cars onto tiny Frontier Avenue. These same hundreds of cars must enter and congest Snoqualmie Parkway. This plan is not safe or sane. Let’s assess infrastructure needs honestly and completely to ensure that water, sewer and roads are expanded and that the majority of these expenses are paid by developers. We need to be more thoughtful in growth decisions. We should slow approval of variances for new development until it makes sense for everyone. There should be no rush.
If elected, how will you ensure transparency in city dealings?
Ross: As a city councilmember, I believe public engagement creates opportunities for residents to contribute to decision making for Snoqualmie’s policies and services. The city council created a Public Engagement Committee with the purpose of gathering community perspective to help shape public policy, inform residents and address specific concerns early in the decision-making process. We try to accommodate our residents’ schedules by holding a variety of public engagement events on different days, times and places. We have quarterly townhall meetings covering a variety of important topics, the next one is scheduled in October. I organized a coffee with the council event for residents available in the morning. In addition, we have meet and greets with the council prior to the first council meeting of each month. Our council meetings offer one of the more generous public comment periods as compared to other cities. We offer several public comment opportunities including at the beginning of the meeting for items not on the agenda, then before each ordinance or resolution on the agenda. At a recent council meeting, there were at least five different opportunities for public comment, totaling up to 11 minutes per person. As a councilmember, I believe we are making progress and will continue to work toward improving transparency and public engagement.
Armstrong: The city has a siege mentality toward respectful dialogue. I would create a Citizens Advisory Board. Let’s welcome and celebrate robust and lively discussion with our smart and capable citizens. Did you know council cannot ask audit questions? Is council approving checks without knowing the whole picture? This is a law that needs to change. Did you know people cannot comment on agenda items before council meetings, and these comments are no longer recorded? These limits need to be changed in favor of freer public input. Why did the city create such convoluted restrictions on responding to public records requests? Let’s post more information on the city’s website to reduce public records requests. We should be sure that all records are kept until every rebate check and transaction is finished. It is vital to be clear and honest to everyone about where our burgeoning taxes and fees are going.
What is your mid to long term vision of the city?
Ross: My mission is to preserve, protect and enhance the Snoqualmie way of life for all of our residents by guiding resources, economic development and transportation. My vision for our future includes: Our retail stores and services are thriving and meets the needs of our community; our business community and commercial industry offer employment and is integral to our local economy; traffic congestion has improved due to completion of the interchange project and we have more multi-modal transportation options; our city has generations of families living here, where housing is more affordable and our grown children, along with our seniors, can afford a home here; our community has a local swimming pool where all ages come to swim, including elementary school students learning to swim, high school competitive swim teams and seniors taking water exercise classes; our fantastic community events continue for our residents and provides a sense of community; our residents and visitors enjoy biking or hiking along the Riverwalk Trail; visitors come to play hockey, skate board or visit our magnificent waterfall; tourism dollars help diversify city revenues and become less reliant on our property taxes; most important, Snoqualmie continues to be one of the most livable cities in Washington state. We have ensured the health of our rivers and trees while preserving our heritage, culture and majestic beauty that surrounds us.
Armstrong: Did you know the city is planning to spend as much as $100 million in the next five years? (A $32 million utility bond passed earlier this year, and up to $48 million for the capital improvement plan recently passed by council. Another utility bond for $20 million or more is coming in the near future.) We are a city of only 14,000 residents, so the cost for every adult and child would be over $7,000 per person. We need a clear accounting for where all this money is coming from, not a vague promise that grants and left-over money from utility bills will cover all costs. Did you know our water and sewer rates rose nearly 70 percent over the last seven years? What has the city been doing with these raises? Let’s budget very carefully so our city lives within its means, runs lean and is clearly accountable to return excellent value for our money. My vision for the city is to create clarity on every development and cost, and to be frugal and transparent with the citizens’ money. Let’s institute an accounting system open to public purview; I want to work hand in hand with input from our citizens. We must maintain our rural beauty and hometown atmosphere by thoughtfully responding to demands for growth.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you tackle it?
Ross: Home affordability is a major issue throughout King County. One of our council goals is to preserve and facilitate additional affordable housing for the workforce and seniors. Increasing affordable housing for Snoqualmie’s workforce will benefit the whole community by helping retain a good employee base for our schools, businesses, hospital and our fire and police departments. Snoqualmie also needs a variety of senior living options such as a retirement community, assisted living facility, or skilled nursing care facility. Our city will be devising a plan to look at current inventory, future housing needs, and identify affordable housing partners to help address housing demand. Traffic congestion is also one of our city’s biggest challenges. As chair of the council’s Public Safety Committee, I have been an advocate for the temporary dedicated Interstate 90 on-ramp (due for completion this year), improvements to manage congestion and safety at our exits, completion of the I-90/state Route 18 interchange and full funding for the widening of SR18.
Armstrong: Sloppy planning for growth is rapidly creating traffic as our biggest issue. We need to reinstate express buses to major work centers. Lights on the parkway should be timed to mitigate our traffic. We suffer from insufficient expansion of our infrastructure and waste of taxpayer dollars. Fiscal accountability needs to be clear and rigorous. Let’s change the law prohibiting council from asking audit questions. The council needs free rein to conduct thorough financial investigations to intelligently approve spending requests. We must ensure concurrency (growth of infrastructure to keep up with development), and be sure developers pay the largest share for their opportunity to do business in our lovely city. Our city curtails the rights of the public to know the people’s business and our freedom to speak to council. This must change. Let’s reinstate straight-forward rules for responding to public records requests. Commonly sought records should be freely available on the city’s website. Let’s create and engage in thorough dialogue with a Citizens Advisory Board and encourage and be responsive to powerful citizen engagement. Looking to the future, let’s protect all our green spaces and trails. Let’s protect our children’s future with efficient traffic solutions and LEED certified green building requirements (LEED: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). We presently enjoy a stunningly beautiful city. We must unite to preserve our rural character and enjoyable daily life.