Karen Howe (Position 3)


1. Do you support a plastic bag and styrofoam ban in Sammamish?  Why or why not?


Yes, I support a ban or a usage tax. We’re all doing a much better job of remembering our reusable bags so I believe we can change behavior over time. Plastic bags take between 500 and 1000 years to degrade and when they do, they release chemicals into the soil. The Floating Garbage Patch (the size of Texas) is made up of mostly plastic and other debris. Put a picture of that on our temporary bags and maybe we’d start to wake people up a bit.

2. How would you encourage local businesses and Sammamish residents to compost and recycle?  What incentives, education, and/or regulations would you enact to increase participation in these programs throughout the city?


Republic, our new waste management provider, is trying to help residents learn what’s OK in terms of composting and recycling. They and the city have also tried to make it clear that residents can reduce their bill by composting food scraps. I would bet that most people don’t know that 30% of our garbage is wasted food and food-soiled paper.

We need to do a better job of educating residents on their role in reducing the landfill. I love the fact that Republic has information in different languages on their website, but we need to do more. The ReCommunity site has great videos and lessons for kids – but it’s the adults who need the attention. I think Republic should create a competition for the HOA’s to compete for a free dumpster day for the HOA that does the best job of recycling in a given month.

3. What is your priority for land acquisition for open space, parks, and/or trail connections for the city of Sammamish? Why?


In ranked order:

  1. Trail connections: they could disappear soon into development projects and getting them back later would be too difficult and expensive. Trails are highly rated by residents and encourage people to walk instead of drive, helping with overcrowded roads.
  2. Open spaces: potentially less expensive to obtain and may not require immediate improvements in order to provide immediate benefit.
  3. Parks: our parks are such gems and are the soul of Sammamish. We may not have all the park land we want but we have much of the land we need at 600+ acres. I support the current PRO plan that’s currently underway.

4. What is your plan for reducing car traffic in Sammamish?  Would that include increasing public transit and/or removing road barricades to increase connectivity?


Transit is really the only long-term viable solution to our traffic. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some time to get the service we need. In the interim, I’d like to get a shuttle service running that loops residents around sports fields, retail centers, and the library so that residents don’t have to hop in their cars. This would be ideal for kids, seniors and those without other forms of transportation. It’s also possible that by reducing the speed limit, we’d improve safety and congestion (Source: Helsinki Traffic Planning Division).

Additionally I believe we need to add the study of AM traffic (not just PM) into the concurrency mix. Schools add a tremendous amount of traffic in the morning and it needs to get documented. We could should also push to get parents to stop driving their kids to school and partner with the schools to get the Walking School Bus project adopted. It takes a long time to change behavior but it can be done.

5. How would you increase trail connectivity in and around Sammamish to increase walkability within the city and to and from the Emerald Necklace? 


I would make trail connectivity a priority for funding and execution. As stated before, residents have highly rated trail usage as an activity they enjoy and want to see expanded. Creating a 28-mile loop around the plateau would be an enduring gift to the community. Grants and partnerships will be necessary to complete the trail but ongoing funding from the city will be necessary to maintain it.

6. Would you support Sammamish using the STAR Community Rating  system (starcommunities.org) as a sustainability framework and certification program? Nearby, Seattle is a 5-STAR Certified Community (the second city in the country to do so!), Tacoma is a 4-STAR Certified Community, and King County is a 4-STAR Certified Community.  



7. Do you support completing the East Lake Sammamish Trail to King County regional trail standards?  As currently designed by King County Parks, the trail meets King County and AASHTO national standards for a trail of its type and expected volume of use, including design as a 12-foot-wide trail.


I support finishing the trail. I would also like to ensure that affected residents are treated fairly. King County asserts the right-of-way for the railroad was sold to the Cascade Land Conservancy and then to King County. Residents assert they own the land bisecting their properties and the county owns an easement – not the land itself.

In 1988, Congress passed a “railbanking” statute that allows the government to convert railroad easements into public recreational trails without compensation to the landowner. The US Supreme Court overturned this. There is case law to support both points of view.

Trail residents are asking for fair treatment. They understand this land will be used by the public as a trail. I would broker a reasonable solution that allows the trail to proceed and provides mitigation for affected residents.

8. Would you support the city transforming our unattractive stormwater ponds to promote a natural aesthetic? How would you propose that the city ensure they are properly maintained in form and function?


We could do a much better job of landscaping around our stormwater ponds. It wouldn’t be expensive to create a naturally landscaped buffer and we could test if neighborhoods would be willing to step up and adopt a pond.

9. Do you support the creation of aesthetic design standards for new developments in Sammamish?  Why or why not?


This would be very difficult to mandate as aesthetic design is subjective.

10. The agreement between the city and the Y includes transferring the Y property next to Pine Lake Middle School to the city at no cost if it is used for active recreation.  Some would like to see it developed for more passive use to maintain tree canopy and wildlife habitat.  This passive use of the property may require the city to purchase it outright.  How would you handle this issue?


Given the findings from the most recent Parks and Rec survey, I support passive use of the land. Residents have no appetite for clear-cutting the 7+ acres to construct a building as currently implied by YMCA lease documents. We can maintain the spirit of the lease by using the land for passive recreational purposes such as trails, perhaps a ‘fitness’ course as well. The land should be viewed through the park land acquisition lens and scored appropriately.

11. What 3 actions should the city take to increase its tree canopy cover?


  1. We need to know what our tree canopy status is today and then establish the goal of what we want for the future. Seattle’s canopy is about 27%. I believe Sammamish residents would like to see a higher percentage.
  2. Enforce existing tree preservation ordinances which includes replanting conifers.
  3. Fund natural space acquisition and fund best-practice tree maintenance by arborists.

12. What is your goal for Sammamish’s Urban Forest?  Additionally, would you support the following proposals? Why or why not?


My goal is to create sound policy around canopy retention and the Urban Forest. Good policy balances individual preservation with overall expansion of canopy and open space. It uses data, not just site characteristics, when considering preservation.

Trees can decrease the amount of stormwater runoff and pollutants that run into local streams and Lake Sammamish.  They reduce runoff by capturing and storing rainfall in their canopy and releasing water back into the atmosphere. The roots and leaves create soil conditions that promote the infiltration of rainwater into the soil. They can also help slow down and temporarily store runoff and reduce pollutants.

a) Creating an Urban Forest Panel or Board to monitor and enforce the provisions of the Urban Forest Management Plan

A commission might be a good way to start.

13. Would you support having a dedicated Sustainability staff member in Sammamish? (Issaquah currently has 5 staff in its Office of Sustainability.) 


Staff additions would need to be prioritized and residents would need to weigh-in.

14. What other efforts would you actively pursue to further sustainability in Sammamish?


I think Sammamish could combine sustainability efforts with becoming a Smart City as well. Smart Cities utilize IoT (Internet of Things) technology to monitor energy usage for example.

Sustainability goals for Sammamish would ensure that residents have access to:

    • healthy, affordable sustainable food and drinking water
    • parks, trees, stormwater management, and healthy streams and lakes
    • safe, affordable, and low-carbon transportation

Sustainability goals for the city would include strategically sourcing cost effective, reliable, safe, clean energy and conventional energy systems for city government.

Back to the questionnaire page

Position 1 Mark Baughman Jason Ritchie
Position 3 Minal Ghassemieh Karen Howe Karen Moran
Position 5 Ryika Hooshangi Rituja Indapure Chris Ross
Position 7 Melanie Curtright John Robinson Pam Stuart