On Oct. 16, the Sammamish Independent held a virtual candidate forum with six out of eight city council candidates present. Through the 90-minute event, Roisin O’Farrell, Pamela Randolph, Sid Gupta, Kerry Bosworth, Pam Stuart, and Josh Amato expressed their views on prominent city topics, ranging from concerns with the City’s Climate Action Plan to ideas on the Sammamish Town Center development.
To start the event, the candidates presented their ideas on how to improve Sammamish’s current budget situation.
O’Farrell, Gupta, Bosworth, and Stuart supported creating additional sources of tax revenue. For instance, Bosworth suggested additional revenue could come through the development of the Sammamish Town Center.
“It’s important to diversify our income. The town center can provide opportunity for commercial to do that, and it also can provide amenities that the community has expressed interest in,” Bosworth said.
However, both Randolph and Amato anchored on the importance of prioritizing improvements to the current budget. Randolph believed that the budget could become more efficient through collaboration between different departments, such as over public works.
Amato recommended a comprehensive line-by-line review and prioritization of the current budget. He also accused his opponent, Stuart, for playing a role in creating Sammamish’s budget predicament.
“No matter what my opponent says, she voted for a budget that overspent revenues and put the city on a perilous financial path…That was a mistake. How do we fix it? The council needs to prioritize and set clear goals so that we don’t waste the limited taxpayer money that we have,” Amato said.
In response, Stuart said that, considering the financial situation at the time, the budget she voted for was the most responsible decision she could have made.
“When we passed the budget, we were going into some very big economic headwinds, so…with the amount of money that we had in our general fund, it was a responsible thing to do to not try to raise taxes more when we had money in the bank, and instead see where inflation’s going to land,” Stuart said.
Regarding transportation, all candidates agreed that the city needs to enhance pedestrian safety and mitigate traffic congestion. Stuart particularly emphasized the importance of adopting a Transportation Master Plan.
“When I got on council in 2018, staff was nearly complete with our first ever Transportation Master Plan. But then, the council majority voted to kill it,” Stuart said. “These systems don’t just magically work; we have to make it happen.”
In one of the widest disagreements of the night, the candidates clashed over whether the City should have taken action on climate change by setting targets to reduce carbon emissions and vehicle miles traveled.
Josh Amato said that the suggested targets were overly ambitious given the track record in surrounding regions.
“For the past 20 years, the state has missed every single one of its environmental targets,” Amato said. “I’m not fully trusting that this will be a full, effective use of taxpayer money.”
Randolph cast doubt on whether climate change is even a serious issue and called the City’s current approach “misguided,” because they will lead to increased cost for taxpayers.
“”There are some inconsistencies with the expectations and the impacts of climate change. Just recently. even Bill Gates said, hey, the climate isn’t as bad as we thought it was. The planet’s going to be fine,” Randolph said.
In response, O’Farrell highlighted the potential assistance from federal funding to alleviate a portion of the associated costs.
“I believe that funding is coming from the federal level…for e-pumps, etc. especially for low-income communities and families where switching over to new technologies could be particularly financially burdensome,” O’Farrell said.
Gupta echoed O’Farrell’s desires to work for a greener future. He stated how it was important to strive for these ambitious targets given how serious of an issue climate change is.
“We need to…set aggressive targets, and [even] if we do miss them, I don’t think that’s a reason not to set them,” Gupta said.