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Originally published October 22, 2009 at 4:18 PM | Page modified October 24, 2009 at 4:48 PM

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For Sammamish Council, James, Vance, Gerend and Odell

John James, Tom Vance, Don Gerend and Tom Odell offer the right mix of fresh faces and experienced leadership to guide Sammamish.

SAMMAMISH turned 10 this year, marking the Eastside city's rapid transformation into a vibrant community on the Plateau.

Going forward, the challenge for the Sammamish City Council is to to balance development, one of the city's main sources of revenue, with the need to improve traffic and transit. Large projects such as Sammamish Town Center, a proposed mix of office space, retail and condominiums, will shape the city's future.

Four council seats are up for election — two without an incumbent — and candidates should be assessed for their ability to shape Sammamish into a city able to balance growth and meet a diversity of needs, including teenagers looking for local activities and senior citizens seeking more affordable housing. A third of Sammamish's 35,000 residents are under age 18.

Position 1 is an open seat featuring two knowledgeable and committed candidates. John James is the better choice. James knows his way around City Hall, having served on the Sammamish Park Board Advisory Committee. He offers fiscal pragmatism — for example, calling for trimming the East Lake Sammamish Parkway improvement project to include less beautification and more road space for commuters, coupled with innovative ideas such as sharing multiuse facilities.

James' opponent, Erica Tiliacos, brings impressive civic involvement. Against another candidate, Tiliacos would be a competitive candidate.

Position 3 provides the opportunity for another new face on the council. Tom Vance delivers energy and the knowledge, having lived in Sammamish for 15 years and served in leadership positions on the city's planning commission and parks advisory committee.

Opponent John Curley is encouraged to serve on city boards or committees to learn more about Sammamish.

For Position 5, incumbent Don Gerend provides a blend of experience and proven ability at a critical juncture for the city. We agree with the King County Municipal League, which rated Gerend outstanding.

His opponent, Michael Rutt, offers few specifics or original ideas.

The Position 7 choice is Tom Odell, a former financial controller who promises a microscopic lens on a battered city budget. Odell appropriately takes a view that every budget item should be considered with an eye toward reducing, deferring or eliminating it. Creative solutions such as pooling services with adjoining cities moves Odell's fiscal policies beyond mere budget cutting. Incumbent Jack Barry has not earned an endorsement for another term.

Sammamish has been guided ably in its first decade. The city's shining crown is the Sammamish Commons, 20 acres of open space, play area, picnic facilities, a skate park and trails.

Annexed communities, such as Camden Park and Rosemont at Timberline estates, added needed revenues to Sammamish's coffers without requiring capital improvements that can make annexations too costly for municipalities. A proposed annexation of the Ravenhill neighborhood promises to continue this trend.

The council smartly tapped federal money to help improve traffic flow along East Lake Sammamish Parkway, a heavily used road that leads to Interstate 90 and Highway 520. The need to improve car capacity on this road represents the council's challenge moving forward.

Sammamish is poised to grow, both as a city and as a regional presence. James, Vance, Gerend and Odell offer the best mix.

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