Issaquah, Sammamish councils hold first joint meeting in years
July 22, 2014
By Peter Clark
Issaquah and Sammamish had the meeting equivalent of a group hug July 14.
After a year in which the two cities’ leadership have found themselves on different sides of several issues, both city councils and other city administrative staff met at Issaquah City Hall to discuss points of mutual interest. It was their first joint meeting since 2011.
“We all have one thing in common,” Issaquah Mayor Fred Butler said. “We certainly love our cities and we love representing them. We not only care about our communities, we care about the region as well.”
He wanted to extend that appreciation across the northern border of Issaquah and so went around the room, asking each elected official what they enjoyed about the other city.
The tone of the meeting was a far cry from November, when the Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter’s union offered to pay for a mediator to help the two cities settle their differences.
Attendees kept the meeting positive and gave little mention to topics that had previously seen them on opposing sides, such as the Klahanie-area annexation vote or Sammamish’s investigation into leaving EFR. Instead, discussion surrounded the possibility of jointly lobbying the state Legislature and exploring solutions to the growing transportation problems on Interstate 90.
Butler presented Issaquah’s most recent legislative agenda, which included support for maintaining state revenue sharing and restoration of liquor revenues, but it mostly centered on I-90 improvements. He laid out why most items could benefit both cities, and Sammamish officials agreed.
“I completely agree — strength in numbers,” Sammamish City Councilman Tom Odell said.
He and all other vocal Sammamish leadership said most of Issaquah’s agenda overlapped with that of the plateau.
“We will help any way we can,” longtime Sammamish City Councilman Don Gerend said. “Supporting a statewide comprehensive transportation package is the right thing to do.”
Butler also highlighted Issaquah-specific transportation projects, a Front Street interchange overhaul and a possible 11th/12th Avenue overcrossing, which would require a report costing about $2 million before anyone could move dirt.
“I would say those sound like good projects, from my point of view,” Sammamish Mayor Tom Vance said. “I would throw in the I-90 and 405 interchange. That’s just a real problem for everybody. That’s an expensive fix, too.”
Though attendees gave no specifics, they pledged to attempt a joint effort during next year’s legislative session on items of mutual interest.
Issaquah council members also took the opportunity to reach out and suggest other issues that could concern both cities.
“We see hard drugs, particularly heroin as a real scourge,” Issaquah City Councilman Tola Marts said. “I’m hoping that down the road our two cities could work together, because it’s just the scariest thing that’s come around in quite a while.”
Issaquah City Councilman Joshua Schaer spoke about sustainability stewardship.
“I want to make a pitch about being environment leaders on the Eastside,” he said, mentioning his council’s passing ordinance regarding compostable packaging and banning plastic bags. “We’ve really taken a stance. I would really encourage the city of Sammamish to work with us, and it’s something your city might want to take a look at.”
At the end of the meeting, the only decision made was that leadership for the two cities should meet more often.
“It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten together,” Butler said. “There was a time when we didn’t really think we had much to talk about. I hope this becomes an annual affair whether we have a lot to talk about or not.”