Karen Howe (Position 7)

1. Why are you running for City Council? What are your top priorities for Sammamish?

Sammamish is an incredible place to live, work, and play. As a 30-year resident and community volunteer, I’m running because it’s time for an infusion of fresh, data driven ideas, best practices, and transparency. 

I will work to ensure Sammamish is a community that is safe, beautiful, socially cohesive and inclusive, and environmentally sustainable; with diverse housing linked by convenient public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure to employment, education, public open space, local shops, health and community services, and leisure and cultural opportunities. A Sammamish where our teachers, first responders, young families, and retirees can live and thrive. 


    • Bring a Participatory Budgeting Process to Sammamish and find ways to shore up declining revenue. I will utilize my deep business experience to ensure prudent and transparent management of funds. Today, we spend more than we make, and residents should be able to decide and prioritize where their tax dollars go. I believe that we should be informing and educating residents on our finances through regular televised meetings of the budget committee.
    • Champion parks and natural habitat by protecting the Parks & Rec budget and not syphoned off to other projects
    • Provide safe roads, sidewalks, and bike lanes and vow to keep working on a connected trail system throughout the Plateau to connect neighborhoods and more unified community
    • Expand public transit options through regional partnerships to better negotiate with METRO and Sound Transit
    • Leverage my contacts with elected officials at the State and County levels to advocate for Sammamish resident’s interests
    • Leverage my experience in youth advocacy to serve our youngest community members and enhance our social services capacity. Our world post-pandemic has changed, and our City’s policies and practices need to be updated to reflect a new normal. 
    • Create a Sammamish Alumni organization to capture the experience and talent of former city officials and commissioners to help us tackle some of our more unrelenting issues. 

2. Please describe your position on the Urban Forest Management Plan. Do you support funding a full-time Urban Forester position? Do you support Sammamish becoming a Green City via Forterra like Redmond, Issaquah and 13 other cities in the metro area?

I support the funding and implementation of the UFMP. Given that there is a 12% gap of where we are today with 48% tree canopy coverage, and where we could grow, to 60% tree canopy coverage, it makes sense to fund and execute now as implementation costs will continue to go up over time. I support the creation of an urban forest tree bank and a sustainable operating budget. As a side note, Seattle has a program to help residents plant trees in urban areas and cherry-picking the best of their program would work well for Sammamish and would be relatively inexpensive — especially with support from a King Conservation District grant and volunteer support.

I support funding an FTE urban forester position who does more than provide domain expertise for city staff, but who could also help residents with education and assessments as time permits. 

Becoming a Green City and a Tree City are both reasonable objectives and consistent with the urban forestry 20-year plan. 

3. What is your position on completing the Emerald Necklace? Would you support the City stepping up to help acquire properties or easements to make the Emerald Necklace a reality?

I support partnering with King County Parks and Rec as well as with WTA, DNR, and other agencies to complete the last few miles of land and easement agreements so that we’re able to start on the next phase of trail formalization. The 28-mile trail system should become a magnet for residents and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The City should take an active role in this final phase to help propel this project to completion as we so close to completion. 

The trail becomes metaphor of unification for the City of Sammamish as the Necklace circumnavigates the Plateau. 

4. What efforts would you pursue to improve sustainability in Sammamish? Examples: how would you promote more sustainable landscaping both on city property and individual homes; would you support incentive programs for green infrastructure?

    • Targets of opportunity include:
      • New public buildings should be LEED-platinum certified
      • Provide incentives for energy, water, and sustainability improvements in existing residential buildings
        • For example: for water efficiency, we could offer a $50 rebate for replacement of older toilets with ultra-low flush models
        • Work with HOAs to relax existing landscaping standards to allow for raised garden beds and non-lawn alternatives. Offer incentives for residents to add more native and drought resistant landscaping. This practice has been very successful in converting Long Beach, CA to a model of water conservation. 
      • Optimize roads for transit
      • Only use hybrid electrical vehicles for city use; adding plug-in stations at parking lots; conduct energy efficiency audits and upgrades of municipal offices and services
      • Conduct a greenhouse gas emissions inventory with a goal to reduce emissions by 25% by 2030.

5. How would you make Sammamish a more livable city – one with gathering places, dining options, a hardware store, more affordable housing, and housing for all ages?

I support bolstering our partnership with ARCH to increase housing options. We could create a land trust for supportive housing reserved for our teachers and first responders. Many of us moved here for the schools. What a loss if talented, young teachers can’t work and live here! National studies are conclusive: teachers and first responders are more effective in their roles if they are members of the community where they both live and work. 

Sammamish is missing a central community hub. As our demographics shift, the City must keep pace with what residents want. And the only way to do that is to do a deep research dive and ask. It would not surprise me to learn that there is a powerful desire to create a stronger sense of community and connectedness – especially in our new post-pandemic reality. Residents of Sammamish, like all people, desire more convenience in our busy lives. Additionally, residents are beginning to wake up to the hidden costs of current suburban development practices. 

Ideally, we could design a compelling central space that residents gravitate to for its placement, design, and surrounding uses. The space can be a street, a boulevard, a square, or a combination of all three with other urban design elements such as mixed use, a senior center, and shared workspaces. 

Effective programs and events can be used to animate the space. Open areas can allow events to be held in them and open to programs that are significant to the community, such as charity events, holiday events, and civic events. It becomes a true public place, taking on a life of its own. As a part of the community that goes beyond simple commerce, it ultimately becomes a place residents identify as theirs. It is inclusive and brings together all different segments of our community, integrated with bookstores, libraries, public buildings, cultural facilities, restaurants, and the hardware store we all miss. 

6. Do you support the Puget Sound Regional Council’s Regional Planning Organization Vision 2050? If so, do you feel that Sammamish should plan for a fair share of the population growth projected within Vision 2050?

I support the goals outlined in Vision 2050. 

7. How would you improve the effectiveness of the Council both among members and with the City’s commissions and staff?

First, I am a uniter and will seek common ground with all Council members and Staff. Second, I am a problem-solver who is interested in outcomes that move the needle. I have extensive experience in bridging ideological divides and building successful coalitions. 

I find it concerning that the City has lost excellent staff over the years. Professionals who work for cities tend to be committed and loyal to the communities they serve. And as anyone in business knows it’s hard to attract new top talent if some of your best and brightest have fled. To help stem the outflow, I support the Staff’s efforts to form a union to give them a more equitable seat at the table. Having a stronger unified voice will help Staff’s concerns be heard and taken seriously. 

I would seek to elevate the role of commissions as they should be ones advising the City Council. Our goal should be to reduce our dependency on 3rd party consultants and increasing our utilization of the expertise of our commissions. They are the subject matter experts who have studied the issues. If they are unable to meet our criteria, then we need to revisit how commissioners are selected and how long they remain in their roles.