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What the Kenmore City Council Doesn't Want You to Know

There was a forum for candidates running for Kenmore City Council last Wednesday. If you are a Kenmore resident and you didn't hear about it, you're not alone. One of the candidates who's challenging a sitting member of the city council wasn't told about it either. Challenger Bob Black first heard about the forum when his wife saw a small blurb in the Seattle Times' Eastside Digest.

To Kenmore residents, the city council seems secretive about its actions and decisions and it may be for good reason. During the forum, comments were made by challengers and at least one sitting council member about the mismanagment of city funds, closed executive meetings, poor communication with residents, and unethical conduct by one member of the council.

The biggest issue of this election is the plan for the Kenmore Downtown Revitalization Project, which is slated for completion by 2013. City Council member John Hendrickson is an accountant and he was very vocal about expenditures for the project. Take, for example, the plans for a new city hall. The current city hall is only a few years old, but the council has approved a project for a "signature city hall" for Kenmore that will cost $14.5 million. Hendrickson said that he made strong objections to the final plan approved by the council because the city was in the process of selling a building on one side of the street for $25.60/square foot while simultaneously negotiating to buy land on the opposite side of the street for $44.00/square foot for the new city hall. Hendrickson insisted that the council needed to obtain second opinions on the appraisals, but his advice was ignored by the rest of the council.

City Councilman David Baker said that there will be no cost to residents for the new city hall because the city was selling land and using the proceeds for the purchase.

Hendrickson was also concerned that the city budget is being misrepresented to voters. One council member has said that there is a budget surplus of $1.2 million, but Hendrickson stated that the total amount in prior years was well over $3 million but in 2008 is actually closer to $800,000 and dropping every year.

One business owner was very angry about the decision by city manager Steve Anderson to give a project for shoreline development to a contractor without accepting bids from multiple businesses. The business owner was hoping to bid on the project but was told outright that a decision was made without a bidding process. Members of the council stated that the decision was made by the council rather than by Steve Anderson and that they were happy with his performance. John Hendrickson was the only current council member who stated that Anderson was abusing his power and not listening to citizens of the community in other matters where he was making the final decision. Challengers Dennis Hill and Bob Black both stated that multiple bids should be allowed on all projects. Bob also stated that the city manager needs to answer to the community just like a city council member does and he would vote to dismiss the manager if he saw that the city manager was, in fact, abusing his power.

Another audience member asked the candidates if they knew that a developer working on one of the city projects is asking the city council for a tax exemption. He wondered if this meant that the cost of the exemption would be passed along to residents.

I later learned that the tax exemption request occurred after the passage of a new state law that allows cities with 15,000 residents or less to give tax breaks to encourage new development. One of the developers, Urban Partners, requested the tax break several months after being granted a project. Before any decision is made, the city council must enact an ordinance to allow the exemption in Kenmore and the developer would have to apply for the exemption. The decision about whether the tax exemption will be granted will occur next year.

David Baker said that the effect of this tax exemption would be spread across all property owners in King County and would likely only come to a few cents. Dennis Hill disagreed, saying it will probably be closer to $125 per property (although an analysis has not been conducted at this point to determine the exact cost) and it would only affect Kenmore residents. Dennis Hill, who is a member of the City of Kenmore Downtown Task Force, stated that when the developer submitted the bid for the project, he said that Kenmore was a prime place for the new project. But when the developer later asked for a tax exemption, he claimed that Kenmore was a "high-risk" area for development.

The tax exemption for the developers is supported by Mayor Randy Eastwood and Glenn Rogers.

At another point in the discussion, Hendrickson brought up the card room issue. In 2004, 51% of Kenmore residents voted in favor of allowing card rooms in Kenmore. The intention was to allow Kenmore Lanes to continue operating a card room that it had been running for many years, even if it meant allowing other card rooms to open in the city. After residents voted yes, the Kenmore City Council voted to ban card rooms in Kenmore. Hendrickson said he refused to go along with the council during the vote for the ban because he felt that it wasn't his place to make decisions that he knew were against the wishes of Kenmore residents. After this, he said that city council members became adversarial and hostile towards him. They said that he wasn't a team player and at one point, during a closed executive session, another member of the council (not up for reelection yet) threatened to cause him "real bodily harm".

One of the frequent comments made by challenger Bob Black was that city council members do not listen to the residents of Kenmore. Bob Black has been a regular attendee at city council meetings and he stated that council members have the attitude that they know what's best for Kenmore residents and don't need to listen to them. He states that city council members withhold important information from residents because they think that residents are not savvy enough to understand the details. They don't answer e-mails or return calls, especially for complaints. I found out later that this has caused at least one prominent business owner to move her business to Kirkland after trying repeatedly to reach council members to resolve a problem.

Bob Black and Dennis Hill also expressed anger over how small businesses who were in the way of the current redevelopment project were being treated. Black said that he is friends with one business owner who is very angry at the city. The business owner was forced to move out of a downtown location where he operated his business for many years. He wasn't granted money to defray the costs of moving. Black asked "why should future business owners want to come to Kenmore when they see us treating established businesses so poorly?"

On the same topic, Hill said that he had provided information to one of the city planners about a program provided by the University of Washington that would give free classes to small business owners to help them create a plan for the transition. The city already pays $5000 a year for these services, but it is not giving information about this program to the businesses that would benefit from it. He said his suggestion was ignored by the city planner.

Another angry topic for challenger Bob Black was closed executive sessions that are held by the Kenmore City Council. It appears to him that the most important decisions are made during closed sessions, which prevents Kenmore residents from observing or participating in the process, even in matters that affect property taxes. Hendrickson was equally angry and stated that closed sessions violated the Open Public Meeting Act that is part of Washington state law. Hendrickson stated that he repeatedly told other council members that they were discussing issues in closed meetings that should have been open to Kenmore residents.

Here's a quick summary of a few other issues that came up during the forum:

  • People are concerned about the lack of sidewalks, especially on roads leading to Kenmore Jr. High and Inglemoor High School. Surprisingly, it was brought up that sidewalks cost $1.6 million per mile and Kenmore needs 67 miles of sidewalks. The city requires developers to install sidewalks when they put in a new development, but this means that some neighborhoods have intermittent stretches of sidewalk on their roads. Bob Black made the comment that in his neighborhood, he's seen one development where the developer put in sidewalks within the development, but the entrance to the development has a brick wall on each side of the road. Inside the development, the sidewalk leads into, rather than around, the wall.
  • Glenn Rogers and David Baker both supported a pedestrian bridge over SR 522 at 73rd street. Earlier this year, a pedestrian was killed at that corner while waiting to cross the street to go to the Park and Ride. Everyone supported this idea. [CORRECTION: The budget for an overpass does not come from the city budget and the land is owned by Sound Transit, so it is unclear how this idea could be implemented.]

Behind the Curtain

The candidates forum was sponsored by the group Citizens for a Better Kenmore, the group that was the driving force against cardrooms in the 2004 election. I've been told by several people that members of this group are from the Christ Church of Kirkland. Council members Glenn Rogers, Laurie Sperry, and Milton Curtis, as well as Planning Commission member Reverend Dennis Trott are all members of this Kirkland church.

During the prior two elections, City Councilman Glenn Rogers has been given $6500, 70% of which was provided by the Kirkland church members who live outside of Kenmore. In 2005, City Councilwoman Laurie Sperry was given $8000 in campaign contirbutions, 55% of which came from Kirkland church members who live outside of Kenmore.

The Bethany Bible church in Kenmore is also affiliated with this movement. Mayor Randy Eastman and council members Glenn Rogers, Laurie Sperry, Milton Curtis, and Allan Van Ness are all endorsed by Scott Ritter, the minister at Bethany. Members of this church subscribe to a fundamentalist view and it appears that they are actively working to remake Kenmore, regardless of what the majority of Kenmore residents want. The church sponsors the Life Choices Pregnancy Clinic which is located near the Planned Parenthood Clinic in downtown Kenmore.

When appointing the citys new planning commission this year, five out of the seven members of the commission are members of this 60 member group.

I find it disturbing that the city council is so heavily influenced by a single church group in our city.

Stay Informed

You can find out more information about the city council forum in this Wednesday's edition of the Kenmore Reporter.

Dennis Hill told me today that the city council recently approved $50,000 in the 2008 budget for a makeover of the Kenmore City Web site. He has been providing feedback to the city about how to improve the Web site. Hopefully, this will become a source of good information after the makeover.

On November 3rd, there will be a meeting for Kenmore Neighbors for Responsible Growth at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. The purpose of the group is to exchange information about Kenmore politics so that we can monitor and influence the direction of our individual neighborhoods.

< We do not have a need nor mandate to become torturers | "Coming to a Community Near You: Blackwater" >
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Great to see an article like this on Washblog!  Here is some basic information about what seats and who the candidates are for perspective.

City of Kenmore

* - Incumbents

Source: King County Elections

More info (Please help build): Campaigns Wikia

by chadlupkes on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 06:59:35 AM PST

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Thank you for attending and posting. I hope your entry gets linked to by other local political blogs.

We attended a 32 LD Dems endorsement meeting a few months ago. What a great group of people.

I had NO IDEA that Christianists had targeted and taken over local government. Of course, the predictable poor governance is what you get when people who don't believe in government are in charge.

Kudos to everyone who's fighting to reclaim their city, their government, and their society.

Please keep us posted as these races and issues develop. Thank you.

by zappini on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 09:40:51 AM PST

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For another town in which it appears that a religious group appears to be trying to take over a town's leadership -- under the radar of the rest of the community:

Renton Facts.  92% of Cheryl Haskin's fundraising -- nearly as much as the combined fundraising of all other candidates for this city council position -- comes from outside Renton -- and much of this funding that can be traced.. leads to a certain church.

This is happening in Federal Way with the school board, as well.

by noemie maxwell on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 11:36:44 AM PST

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It is information like this that needs to be available to voters trying to make up their minds. The voters guide is not nearly enough.

What is that phrase that Thom Hartmann says - tag you are it? Thank you technogramma for bringing this here.

by Brian on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 05:20:44 PM PST

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...than a kenmore story, and i hope a lot more people pick up on the story.

by fake consultant on Mon Oct 15, 2007 at 10:32:58 PM PST

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I am writing to call attention to a distortion of the facts in this blog.

The headline and opening narrative implies that sponsors of the Kenmore City Council Candidates Forum manipulated the event to favor incumbents, exclude challengers, and somehow perpetuate a veil of secrecy surrounding the Kenmore City Council. The blogger suggests that most Kenmore residents didn't know about the event, noting that "challenger Bob Black first heard about the forum when his wife saw a small blurb in the Seattle Times' Eastside Digest."

The City Council can speak for itself. But, because I organized the forum for Citizens for a Better Kenmore and was offended by this characterization, I want to set the record straight.

All candidates were sent invitations to email addresses that the candidates had submitted to King County with their declarations of candidacy. When several candidates, including Bob Black, failed to RSVP after two emails, I followed up with phone calls. I discovered that some candidates had created campaign email addresses, but were not checking them. In the end, ALL candidates attended, with the exception of one candidate who had withdrawn.

Regarding publicity: A news item about the forum appeared once in the Seattle Times. The event also was publicized in two editions of the Kenmore Reporter. Flyers were circulated, appearing at the library, city hall, the post office, and at Safeway. Invites went out on several email lists. More than 100 people attended the forum.

The Washblog account was riddled with other errors of fact and misinterpretation built upon those errors. I will address the one that I have first-hand knowledge about--the makeup of Citizens for a Better Kenmore. It is true that CBK's was organized to oppose cardroom gambling. And it is true that some of its members look at the gambling issue in a religious framework. However, it is also my observation that CBK members represent a variety of other viewpoints as well. Some are religious, from church denominations both liberal and conservative, and some are not religious at all. The group includes educators, business people, retirees, ex-gamblers, families and friends of gambling addicts, and people from both major political parties. At one organization meeting I attended during the 2005 campaign, a show of hands indicated a majority of the people on hand were registered Democrats.

It is an insult to these people to characterize their honest views, whether having a grounding in their religious beliefs or not, as some kind of right-wing conspiracy to take over Kenmore and force everyone to conform to their beliefs. What a crock! Be suspicious of this kind of charge. It cheapens the political process and hinders an open discussion of public issues. This scare tactic has been heard over and over again in Kenmore, and it is my opinion that this is coming from a few people who have found themselves on the losing end of some local issues that are far more complex than someone's narrow view of morality. I have been following the Kenmore City Council closely. I am a registered Democrat, and I consider myself a progressive.

Do not believe everything you read.

I believe the proliferation of blogging is a healthy trend n our society in that it offers a vehicle for more points of view, seems to attract more young people into the political process, and breaks the exclusive franchise that the mainstream media have had in deciding what the public should know and what the public agenda should be. However, the down side of the new "citizen journalism" is that bloggers, including this one, do not have high standards for accuracy.

by GKS on Wed Oct 17, 2007 at 02:07:37 PM PST

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I found out about the candidates forum through the small blurb in the Seattle Times which was titled "2 cities honored for growth strategies" I go to Safeway nearly every day and there was never a flyer posted there for the candidates forum. In fact, they don't have a public board there were people can post flyers--I asked them why they didn't have a community board there. And nobody would be able to find out if something was in the Kenmore Reporter because they no longer mail that to people's houses and nobody can figure out where to get the paper. Since I posted this blog I've gotten e-mails from four people who asked me to find out where the Kenmore Reporter is put out so they can pick it up. I called a few days to find out wher to find it and how to pay to have the paper delivered to my house and they still haven't called me back. It would have made more sense to put an ad into the Kenmore newsletter which IS delivered to people's houses, but you didn't. I checked the last issue after I saw it in the paper because I wanted more information. It also wasn't posted on the city hall Web site, which I've been checking every few days lately to try to figure out what's going on. The city hall is closed when I leave for work in the morning and when I get home from work in the afternoon. I also didn't mention that the forum was at the Aqua Club which is buried in a neighborhood of dead-end streets and is very difficult to find. If you really wanted people to come to the forum who were outside of the Uplake neighborhood, then you would have posted a banner across a street to advertise it. Most of what I posted were things I heard at the forum and I then called people on the phone to ask more questions. I've been getting corrections from some people and I add them in as I get them (I just got some more). If you are a member of Citizens for a Better Kenmore then please tell me this: what issues are you working on now that the cardroom issue is over? I asked one of the members from Citiznes for a Better Kenmore this very question after the forum and she said wouldn't tell me what they were working on. To most people, that is considered to be "secretive"--unless you can point me to a Web site that explains what other issues you are working on.

Kenmore Neighbors for Responsible Growth

by technogramma on Wed Oct 17, 2007 at 03:06:31 PM PST

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First - it is incumbent upon citizens to do their own homework and READ budgets, laws on bidding and executive sessions. People who gripe about misconduct have usually done something wrong themselves. Newspapers, blogs and word of mouth have never held a shred of truth.

Second - Mr. Hendrickson always puts himself forward as an accountant, however he is not certified in this state, which is extremely easy to look up on the state's website. Makes you wonder if he is a reliable source of information!?

Third - In 2006, The City Council asked the Downtown Task Force to start an economic development plan. Dennis Hill and Dick Ramsey were adamant that the City should stay OUT of this business and decided to start their own business group (I actually LISTENED to the tape of the meeting). The Task Force decided that with such strong opposition from some of the members of the Task Force that they would not pursue the economic development plan. As a small business owner I have never heard or seen anything from this group either around town or in the newspaper. They could have gotten a business list from the state, if they were truly interested in being inclusive of everyone. Seems like Mr. Hill is changing his tune. The University of Washington has a great program for small businesses, and I got that information from (gasp) a planner at City Hall a few years ago. Long before Mr. Hill showed up on the radar.

Finally - I amazes me that people would believe that six council members are liars and only one is telling the truth. Councilmember Hendrickson was censured publicly by the rest of the council (go read the letters and resolution for yourselves) for not representing the citizens of Kenmore. The fact that people would rather believe one man who has never been forthright about what he does for a living and has indicated over and over that he is an accountant just goes to show you he is the secretive dishonest one. People would rather believe that an upstanding orthodontist, real estate agent, manager of a large successful business in Kenmore, and an upstanding businessman are crooked. Shame on those who believe things they read and hear about instead of doing their own homework and coming to their own conclusions!

by whocares on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 08:42:02 AM PST

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It looks like there is discussion underway for having a second candidates forum for the Kenmore City Council at Bastyr (which is easier for most people in Kenmore to find). The organizers are looking for input from people who might be interested in attending this second session. If interested, please send e-mail to dalaine00@yahoo.com and I will pass it along to the organizers. Thanks!

Kenmore Neighbors for Responsible Growth

by technogramma on Thu Oct 18, 2007 at 01:34:46 PM PST

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