City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 17, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

Fred Butler

In unanimous decisions Jan. 3, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include running semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

Marts joined the council in January 2010 and succeeded longtime Councilman David Kappler. Butler joined the council a dozen years ago.

The shift represents the only change in council leadership since 2009, after former Councilman John Traeger succeeded then-Council President Maureen McCarry in the top spot. (Both officials have since left the council.)

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City Council bids farewell to outgoing member John Traeger

January 17, 2012

In a dignified sendoff Dec. 19, City Council members bid farewell to Council President John Traeger.

John Traeger

Traeger decided in late April to step down after a single term as a councilman after leading the council through a busy period.

Other council members elected the technology consultant and Squak Mountain resident to lead the board for 2010 and again for 2011. Under Traeger, council members preserved the forested Park Pointe site near Issaquah High School, hired City Administrator Bob Harrison and embarked on a landmark reorganization of city government.

In addition, the council president runs semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handles committee assignments and represents the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

“I will miss Councilmember Traeger’s presence on the council and his thorough research and good, solid work as a council member,” Frisinger said at the last council meeting Traeger attended as a member.

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City Council chooses Tola Marts, Fred Butler for leadership posts

January 5, 2012

NEW — 8 a.m. Jan. 5, 2012

City Council members chose Tola Marts to lead the board in the coming year, as the council reorganizes City Hall and delves into a long-term plan to redevelop the business district.

Tola Marts

In unanimous decisions Tuesday, council members elected Marts to the top spot on the board — council president — and longtime member Fred Butler to serve in the No. 2 position.

The council president leads the legislative branch of city government. The responsibilities for the role include leading semimonthly council meetings and monthly Committee-of-the-Whole Council meetings, handling committee assignments and representing the city if Mayor Ava Frisinger is absent.

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Bill for Interstate 90 bridge reaches $6.7 million

November 1, 2011

The bill for the pedestrian and bicyclist connector across Interstate 90 is costing Issaquah $450,000 more than city leaders budgeted for the project.

City Administrator Bob Harrison (right) and Mayor Ava Frisinger lead Issaquah and regional officials across the Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge Oct. 26. By Greg Farrar

The total budget for the project is about $6.7 million, up from the $6.2 million set aside to complete the bridge across the interstate at state Route 900. The budget increase accommodates engineering expenses, construction cost and construction management cost increases, and legal and permitting fees related to the connector.

The change increases the amount of city dollars used in a project approved in part because the federal government and Sound Transit offered to cover substantial costs.

Construction delays and other issues — such as using off-duty police officers for traffic control near the construction site — caused costs to mount. The city set aside about $314,000 as contingency funds for the project, but the overruns caused the project to exhaust the backup dollars.

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Joshua Schaer is not afraid to disagree

October 11, 2011

On a City Council often united in 7-0 decisions, Joshua Schaer is the occasional outlier.

The councilman opposed a hike in cable rates, a redo along Newport Way Northwest and proposed changes to the same street near Issaquah Valley Elementary School. The opposition earned Schaer a grudging respect from council members — and a reputation for outspokenness.

“I’m not trying to be contrarian, and I’m not trying to be difficult, but you can’t have 7-0 votes on every issue,” he said.

Joshua Schaer

Now, as a candidate for a second term on the council, Schaer highlights the no votes just as much as accomplishments.

The councilman, 33, spearheaded a food-packaging ordinance to require restaurateurs and other food sellers to use compostable and recycle takeout containers and utensils.

The legislation is a signature issue as Schaer heads from door to door to greet potential supporters. Newcomer TJ Filley is the other candidate in the race for the Position 4 seat.

“I can’t take credit for the original idea, because it started in a lot of cities. Portland has been doing it for 20 years. Cities in California have been doing it for many years. Seattle was really the model that I looked at,” Schaer said. “If it can work in Seattle with the size of that city, then certainly it can work in Issaquah, where we are leaders in environmental preservation and sustainability. To be the first city on the Eastside to do this, I think, is a tremendous accomplishment.”

The measure caused some heartburn among business leaders, and the rollout continues to face difficulties almost a year after the ordinance took effect. Still, Schaer said the ordinance is a milestone for a city focused on sustainability.

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TJ Filley aims to shift City Council’s priorities

October 11, 2011

The connector across Interstate 90 at state Route 900 — a $6.2 million bridge to carry bicyclists and pedestrians across the highway — looms large on the landscape and in newcomer TJ Filley’s campaign for a City Council seat.

The city relied on federal and Sound Transit dollars, plus about $350,000 in municipal funds, to complete the project. The connector opened to traffic July 1 after construction delays and cost overruns.

TJ Filley

“When I first saw the bicycle and pedestrian overpass over on 90 being built, I originally thought, ‘Gee, they’re going to do something to make it so that traffic isn’t quite so bad around here,’” Filley said. “Then, after a couple months of them working on it, it started to become apparent what it was.”

Intrigued, Filley, 48, started to research the project to determine the reasons behind the City Council decision to start construction.

“I started looking into the project more and more,” he said. “The more I looked into it, the less sense it made to me.”

The project is not so much the problem as the process, Filley said. If elected, he said he intends to change how the council prioritizes transportation projects.

“It’s not that I’m against having bicycle trails or pedestrian overpasses, but it’s more that I didn’t understand how a project like that was given preference over other projects when Issaquah has some notoriously bad traffic problems,” he said.

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Mountains to Sound Greenway comes of age

July 26, 2011

Leaders nurture Interstate 90 greenbelt, acre by acre, year by year

Ken Konigsmark (left), a longtime Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust board member, and founding president Jim Ellis stand near North Bend on Rattlesnake Mountain in 2000 . By Greg Farrar

Like the matter-of-fact name suggests, the Mountains to Sound Greenway starts amid the souvenir shops and seafood restaurants at the Seattle waterfront, unfurls along Interstate 90, encompassing cities and forests, and continues on, across the Cascades.

Issaquah, situated on the route, is not quite at the center, but the city is central in the long effort to create a greenbelt along the major roadway.

The idea for a conservation corridor along the interstate germinated in Issaquah more than 20 years ago. Issaquah Alps Trails Club members spearheaded a 1990 march from Snoqualmie Pass to Puget Sound to attract attention to the proposed greenbelt — a sort of Central Park for Western Washington.

The disparate citizen, conservation, corporate and government interests behind the proposal coalesced to form the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust in 1991. Supporters marched from Ellensburg to Seattle in early July to celebrate the 20-year milestone.

“The original vision was, what can we agree on to preserve what’s important to everyone along this corridor?” retired Issaquah City Administrator Leon Kos said.

The corridor stretches for 100 miles, connects 1.4 million acres — or a landmass about 15 times larger than Seattle — and includes more than 800,000 acres in public ownership.

The conservation is enmeshed in cooperation.

The organization is built to foster dialogue among divergent groups. Seattle civic leader Jim Ellis, founding president of the greenway trust, called on rivals to sit down at the same table to create the conservation corridor. So, representatives on the 58-member board include the Sierra Club and Weyerhaeuser Co.

Kos, a longtime greenway supporter and board member, said the Issaquah Alps Trail Club assumed a fundamental role early on.

“The community group that was really very instrumental was the Issaquah Alps Trails Club,” he said.

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$6.2 million pedestrian bridge opens after delays

July 5, 2011

Protesters carry signs to decry the cost of a pedestrian bridge across Interstate 90 the day the bridge opened, July 1. By Tim Pfarr

The pedestrian bridge at Interstate 90 and state Route 900 opened July 1, months after the expected completed date.

Delays related to the bridge pilings and inclement weather slowed construction on the $6.2 million project.

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Contentious Interstate 90 pedestrian bridge to open Friday

June 30, 2011

NEW — 8 a.m. June 30, 2011

The pedestrian bridge at Interstate 90 and state Route 900 is due to open Friday, months after the expected completed date.

Delays related to the bridge pilings and inclement weather slowed construction on the $6.2 million project. The connector separates bicyclists and pedestrians from the busy roadway. The structure includes a 12-foot-wide pedestrian bridge across the westbound interstate on-ramp and a 10-foot-wide pedestrian crossing on the state Route 900 overpass.

The city contributed $354,000 to the connector. Federal and Sound Transit dollars covered the remainder.

The bridge is due to open by late Friday, after more than a decade of planning and sometimes-contentious discussions among city officials, transit advocates and trails enthusiasts.

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Issaquah funeral home proposal raises traffic congestion concerns

June 21, 2011

Concerns about traffic congestion prompted downtown Issaquah residents and business owners to mobilize last week in a neighborhood effort to thwart a funeral home operator from opening a facility in a church along East Sunset Way.

The municipal Planning Department is considering a proposal from Service Corporation International, a Houston-based funeral products and services provider, to renovate Abide Baptist Church, 425 E. Sunset Way, into a funeral home. (The company also operates Sunset Hills Memorial Park in Bellevue and Greenwood Memorial Park in Renton, plus funeral homes in the same cities.)

The applicant’s parking proposal attracted the most ire from project opponents. Plans call for aisle parking, similar to the lineup near a ferry dock, to accommodate about 20 vehicles for services and visitations at the funeral home. The proposal also calls for using a parking attendant to direct vehicles before and after events.

“I can’t say that that’s going to work,” city Senior Planner Marion O’Brien said. “There are some problems with what they’re showing there as well as with dimensions. We will need to have clarification on some of these proposals. That’s a given.”

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