Incumbent Sean Sundwall and candidate William Donaldson will face off for Position 6 of the Snoqualmie City Council.
Sundwall was elected to council in 2017, is a resident of 14 years and father of four, according to his candidate statement. He has a degree in communications from Brigham Young University and is an insurance agent and coaches high school track and cross country.
Donaldson is a media professional, real estate investor and activist. He attended Issaquah High School and studied business and economics at Bellevue College.
When it comes to growth in the city, what is your approach?
Sundwall: Growth is inevitable. How we grow is what we can control. Just two years ago I voted against a major development that would have added between 800-1,200 higher-end homes and a very small amount of commercial space in the area known as Snoqualmie Hills West. I voted against that proposal for three primary reasons: The development did not properly account for the traffic congestion it would create in our city; it made us less economically diverse and risked adding additional property tax burden to our residents; the developers did not understand the values and family identity of our community. We have an opportunity to decide how, what and when the last large land area in our city is developed. The questions any developer will have to answer are: Does the proposal address needs that have not been already met; will the development pay for the impact it causes on our traffic and schools in as much as is legally allowed; will the development create less reliance on property taxes; how will the proposal address affordable, workforce housing?
Donaldson: Protection of our environment is my top concern. People have moved to Snoqualmie from throughout the region, the nation and the world because of its beautiful landscapes, clean air/water, and safe community abundant with parks and world-class schools. There is a delicate balance at play in determining where we go from here. I am opposed to further deforestation and yet, at the same time, I am in pursuit of economic prosperity. I want to see our community commit to reforestation, which means planting two trees for every one we choose to displace. We need our trees now more than any other time in human history. I want to work with the most environmentally-friendly developers available and ensure that new developments are constructed using sustainable materials. We have to recognize the need for housing in the Greater Seattle Area, the Snoqualmie Valley’s availability to meet these demands, and we need to lead Washington and the country with innovation and truly modern solutions. I intend to see that Snoqualmie’s neighboring urban growth areas are treated with the utmost care and planning.
If elected, how will you ensure transparency in city dealings?
Sundwall: Our residents want to have confidence in their city leaders. They want open communications. They want ready access to information about the city. They want their voices heard. Since I have been on city council, I have supported every effort to increase transparency. I led the effort two years ago to put cameras in council chambers and live stream meetings. This has allowed many more residents to be informed about and engaged in the political process without having to come to the meeting. I consider this one of my greatest council achievements. I have also served on the ad hoc committee that has implemented quarterly town hall meetings to discuss important topics the council is considering and offer residents the opportunity to discuss the things important to them. I have supported and attended each of the monthly council “meet and greets” the second Monday of each month. I have voted to fund city website improvements that provide quicker and easier access to public information and will support additional funding to further digitize information and make it more readily available via the city website. I have supported expanding public comment in council meetings to include comments on any topic at the beginning of the meeting and for every individual topic on the agenda throughout the meeting. The opportunity for comment at Snoqualmie City Council meetings far exceed those of most cities.
Donaldson: First, I will undo the recent policies enacted by the current government which have made the acquisition of public records more difficult and expensive, as well as the prohibitions which discourage citizens from making their own copies of public documents. I will undo this government’s decision to censor video broadcasts of public comments during the city’s meetings. I will make records of the city’s dealings as accessible as possible on our government’s website. I will commit to greater civic engagement through town halls and social media. I will pursue, with great vigor, the development of an official city of Snoqualmie app that integrates poll data from the tax-paying shareholders of this city so as to better guide the council’s decisions. If an elected representative is voting against the majority interest, they had better have a very good reason for doing so. We can utilize modern technology to make this information known to the public easily and effectively.
What is your mid to long term vision for the city?
Sundwall: My vision is for Snoqualmie is to be a place where my kids and grandkids can come back to. Not just to visit, but to live. That means we need a community that is focused on providing families a safe, affordable and enjoyable place to live. My wife and I moved to Snoqualmie 14 years ago and have raised our four children here. Over the last eight years, I have coached hundreds of Mount Si High School athletes and organized more than 40 local fun runs supporting families and youth throughout the Valley. I have learned firsthand, as Whitney Houston once sang, that our children are our future. This is why I am so adamant in my support of expanding the community center to include more dry space and an aquatics facility. Our kids need as many productive things to do as possible. And as much as I love kids and families, I want to see more support for the seniors in our city. Too many are moving away. Any future development in our city needs to provide some form of assisted living. Our seniors need this, and we need our seniors.
Donaldson: I would like to see a full rehabilitation of our Historic Snoqualmie. I envision our businesses better capturing the extraordinary tourist traffic that visits Snoqualmie Falls. Our community needs to take a stance against environmental contamination in a more significant way. We live beside a major river system which drains directly into the Puget Sound year round. We should use fewer pesticides and herbicides, pay more attention to automotive fluids in our ecosystem, and reduce our use of oil-based plastics. I want King County to help us build a new transit center located alongside Interstate 90 that we can use as a direct connection to the light rail (which we’re paying for) via buses, for additional parking, and as a means to charge our electric vehicles quickly — and without surcharge. I want our new developments to be truly modern, high quality and constructed using the latest ecologically-friendly materials. We can recycle more effectively and lead the effort in King County to improve our methods. I want us to be a model city for 21st century innovations. There isn’t a community in Washington better suited for this reputation.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing the city and how would you tackle it?
Sundwall: Our greatest challenge is preserving the family-friendly city we have all created. We are still one of the most desirable cities in America to live in. We are the safest city in Washington. Our police and fire professionals are second to none. The way to protect our community values is to continue moving forward, constantly looking to address each need our residents have. Some would suggest we preserve our community by hunkering down and doing nothing more. In sports, we call that approach “playing not to lose.” Most of the time that strategy means losing. I commit to Snoqualmie residents that I will not settle for losing. Instead, I will continue to fight so that your families can enjoy the same quality of life that mine has.
Donaldson: The biggest challenges we face are the living costs currently associated with property ownership and/or rental housing within Snoqualmie. As the owner of some of the lowest cost housing options available in the city, I am uniquely aware of the expenses facing younger and/or lower income families here. Because our city is small and our local businesses are barely established, the city’s budget is unusually dependent upon revenue from property taxes and utility fees. In other words, we’re asking for too much money from our homeowners to fund expansions and maintain existing infrastructure. There are a number of ways to solve this problem; we can reduce government spending, we can do more to bolster our local businesses and we can do more to collaborate with neighboring municipalities, King County and Washington State to secure grants and receive aid on our projects. In my view, higher on the city’s priority list would be more conservative fiscal planning and better assistance/management of our local commercial spaces. We need to be more careful in our selection of developers and commercial tenants so that our business zones are better utilized — no more vacant buildings for months on end. We need to understand how important Historic Snoqualmie is in the effort to engage and retain tourism/visitation. And we need to be excited when working with our neighbors on new infrastructure projects. No more commitment to isolation or regularly exemplifying an unwillingness to cooperate. Adding my voice to your city council means including a generation of Americans that is facing unprecedented living costs nationwide. We have to confront this issue and take real action. Now.