Sammamish is becoming increasingly welcoming and supportive of new blood. Josh Amato, the youngest candidate running for Sammamish City Council this year, believes he is the one who can bring a fresh perspective to the community.
Amato, 33, has devoted time to community service after he moved to Sammamish in 2018. He currently serves on the board of Paws, volunteers for Sammamish Rotary, and sits on the city’s planning commission.
Through working with people from different professions, Amato said he learned to synthesize various viewpoints to come up with optimal solutions.
“I listen a lot and learn as much as I can before forming an opinion on a topic,” said Amato. “It’s important to be able to absorb what other people think because your job is to represent the interest of the whole community.”
Amato, who once served as a spokesperson for the Washington state Republican Party, considered himself a “Never-Trump” Republican after the 2016 election, according to a blog posted on his website. Although he is now an independent, Amato has stayed true to his conservative roots. He believes local government should have a smaller scope.
“Local government is about providing basic government services, public safety, transportation,” said Amato, who advocates for prioritizing what he considers basic services in the city budget.
On top of his list of priorities is to curb what he considers unsustainable growth and over-development of property in Sammamish. Through his planning commission experience, Amato believes Sammamish has seen a huge amount of growth without properly using the money generated from development to address traffic issues.
Although past councils have been trying to limit the construction of “mega-mansions,” Amato believes more should be done to make Sammamish affordable for empty-nesters and seniors. Instead of massive, multi-level and expensive townhomes, Amato recommends building cottage-style housing, which he believes more closely matches the character of Sammamish.
Amato disagrees with other candidates who propose greater housing density as a solution to the lack of affordable housing. He believes that Sammamish’s infrastructure is inadequate for high-density housing, especially when compared to well-connected communities such as Mercer Island and Issaquah.
“No transit center and no access to freeways severely limits our capacity for high-density dwelling units,” said Amato.
On infrastructure, Amato hopes to finish the Transportation Master Plan after gathering more community input on long-range transportation infrastructure planning. Specifically, Amato wants to improve congested roads that are failing traffic concurrency standards. He also plans to build more sidewalks and bike lanes around parks and schools to ease peak-time congestion.
Public safety is also high on Amato’s list of issues to address. The increase in property crimes and fires have raised alarm bells for him. He calls for the hiring of more police officers to keep up with population growth in Sammamish, and fully rejects his opponent Amy Lam’s stance that a greater police presence changes the character of Sammamish.
“Our police are one of the major reasons we live in such a safe city and how safe we are is a major aspect of our community character,” Amato said.
Amato also wants to promote emergency and fire preparedness. He plans to provide educational opportunities for residents to learn about how to set up defensible spaces around their property in the event of a spreading forest fire.
Finally, Amato highlights youth mental health as a particular issue that he is passionate about. Losing his mother at the age of 6, Amato said he knew what it was like to struggle with mental health as a teenager.
He also recognizes the difficulty for the city to fund more mental health programs without taking away resources from basic services.
Amato proposes building a thrift shop, similar to what Mercer Island has, to raise the needed funds. He envisions a government-run store that hires professionals from the retail industry to sell items donated by local residents while providing volunteer opportunities for teens and seniors. Any profit would go directly into human services.
Amato believes in the need to increase transparency, especially by updating the city’s website and providing easy access to all government documents electronically.
“Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” said Amato. “The public being able to see things going on in City Hall is absolutely critical. It’s a foundational part of our democracy, and I will absolutely be an advocate for open government and proactive disclosure.”
Amato was born in Tacoma and raised in the city of Fife. He interned for Fife City Hall in high school and worked for the local government after graduation. He attended, but later dropped out of DeVry University to work on political campaigns.
In 2011, Amato co-founded Sermo Digital, a digital marketing agency that works with small businesses and nonprofits to help them reach target audiences and facilitate communication between local government and residents. After getting married in 2016, Amato and his wife looked for a house with a big yard for their two dogs and decided to settle in Sammamish in 2018.
“We know everyone on our block. We’ve got a real neighborhood feel,” Amato said.
Josh Amato is running for Sammamish City Council, position 1, against Amy Lam.