As general election ballots arrive throughout King County on Oct. 18, residents of Issaquah can elect or reelect candidates for three city council positions.
Candidates Zach Hall and Landon Halverson are running for position No. 2, Lindsey Walsh and Mike Palm for position No. 4, and Victoria Hunt and Sam Sheehan for position No. 6.
The Issaquah Reporter sent four questions to all candidates running. Each question will follow with each candidate’s answer. Some candidates did not respond to the questions sent and therefore are not represented in this Q&A.
Q: Traffic flow, congestion management and lack of road and trail infrastructure have been the majority of citizen complaints. The city council is presumed to adopt a Transportation Benefit District Sales Tax, which will raise sales tax 0.1%. Do you support this tax, and why?
Zach Hall — Position No. 2:
In short, I do, but I need to go back two years to explain why.
Back in 2021, the mayor convened a community task force to review and make recommendations on infrastructure spending here in Issaquah. Consisting of residents, business leaders, board and commission members, and city council members, including myself, the group considered a number of options, including scaling back, reprioritizing, maintaining the status quo, and ramping up our investments.
After seven months of long meetings, their findings and recommendations were quite clear – In order to better meet the expectations of our residents and businesses, Issaquah needs a renewed commitment to infrastructure spending. The group also concluded new revenue tools were necessary, including a 0.1% increase in sales tax to support transportation projects.
Getting around town quickly, safely, and easily is a huge community priority. And given the many safety improvements, legal requirements, and regular maintenance associated with infrastructure planning, we’re often unable to make the kind of progress our residents and businesses want to see. Moving forward with this new revenue tool would give us the means to do right by them.
We’re currently collecting community feedback on the proposal. You can learn more and share your thoughts at www.issaquahwa.gov/proposedfunding.
Landon Halverson — Position No. 2:
I believe that traffic is one of our biggest issues as a city, and I agree that we need a renewed focus on tangible solutions that gets traffic moving. That being said, I oppose the creation of a new transportation tax because I believe existing city revenue, including the record $27.3 million allocated to transportation projects for 2023-2024, is sufficient to cover the costs associated with traffic light and sidewalk updates. Having a higher sales tax than nearby cities like Sammamish and Snoqualmie puts our businesses and residents alike at a competitive disadvantage and will only encourage people to shop outside of Issaquah.
Lindsey Walsh — Position No. 4:
While I never make a final decision on legislation until receiving the presentation and hearing from my colleagues, I tend to support a small increase to sales tax to support transportation needs in the city of Issaquah. We’ve heard from residents in our latest Community Survey that getting around town is difficult and they want us to prioritize improvements. Doing so in a way that involves all road users, including those who come to shop here from out of town, makes sense. 100+ other cities in WA have established TBDs (MRSC – Transportation Benefit Districts), including many neighboring cities such as Redmond, North Bend, Maple Valley, and Kirkland. Bellevue is currently considering adoption as well.
Victoria Hunt — Position No. 6:
Transportation safety improvements and enhancing ease of travel around town are priorities of both the Issaquah community and the city council. As a city, we leverage funds from many sources to address regional traffic issues, such as working with our state representatives to secure millions of dollars for improvements to State Route 18, which will improve safety and reduce pass-through traffic.
Still, during my two terms on council, I have heard from residents time and again across the city about urgent needs for local improvements including smart traffic signals at intersections, and pedestrian and bike safety improvements so that people and families can get around safely with or without a car.
These highly local, quality-of-life transportation projects are exactly what the proposed Transportation Benefit District seeks to fund, which is estimated to cost Issaquah residents about $36 a year. It would also generate revenue from non-residents who use our transportation network; visitors to Issaquah pay more than half of the sales tax in Issaquah. As a council member, I’ve been supportive of this Transportation Benefit District proposal to-date because I’ve heard from the community that these improvements are critically important for residents and the business community alike. I will continue to listen to the community before this comes before the council (currently planned for December).
Q: Every eight years, the city reviews the Comprehensive Plan for periodic updates. In 2024, the plan will need to be updated and adopted by the city council. The plan covers housing, land use, transportation, parks, economic vitality, human services, cultural, capital facilities and utilities. What do you see as the number one priority in this updated plan, and why?
The Comprehensive Plan is a vision for our future. It’s the blueprint we use to plan for the next twenty years of balanced, sustainable, and affordable growth here in Issaquah. This year, we’ve been working to align the draft with our other strategic planning documents, like those focused on climate action, transportation, stormwater management, and many more. These are the result of significant staff work and community engagement. And ensuring they live in the Comprehensive Plan will help turn our priorities into action.
My priority is to include support for a multimodal transportation network. Our residents should have access to a connected, reliable, and convenient system for pedestrians, bikers, and transit users alike. With this vision included, it’s important we back it up with code changes and infrastructure investments.
It is difficult to choose just one, as each area plays such a uniquely vital role in the success of our city. That being said, the number one thing I believe the city needs to reflect and work on as part of the comprehensive plan is utilities and public services. Ensuring the city has reliable access to electricity, sewer, and clean water needs to be one of the cities highest priorities, and ensuring that the amount of development allowed is reflective of our water, energy, and sewer capacity. I do not believe that current development, as well as impending electrification requirements, can be sustained without significant improvements to our energy grid and its capacity, which are costly and take considerable time to implement.
Housing has risen in importance since the last time the Comprehensive Plan was updated and is the area I most want to see addressed in this update. Cost of living and the need for affordable housing are both highlighted as key areas in our Community Surveys. From serving on the King County Affordable Housing Committee, I know that all cities must address the dire lack of affordable housing so that we can make a difference across the region. Issaquah has been proactive in zoning to meet our housing targets, but we must do more to address affordability in both zoning and housing policies.
The Comprehensive Plan update is an opportunity to check in with the community and to align our city planning documents with the community’s aspirations and priorities. As we grow and change as a city, we must protect our beautiful natural environment, and we need to plan for the infrastructure that will support growth. Action is also needed to provide more housing options that meet the community’s needs. This all comes together under the umbrella of land use. Land use policy has real implications for quality of life, community connectedness, and for supporting our local businesses. I know this firsthand, having volunteered on the Planning Policy Commission of the City before serving on council, and as the current chair of the council’s Planning Development and Environment Committee. We’ve worked hard over the last several years with local businesses, non-profits, environmental groups, and the broader community to update our municipal land use code (Title 18) to protect our environment while planning for growth. I’ve also had thousands of conversations with neighbors at their doors and in our community over the course of my re-election campaign about planning for our city’s future. Reflecting all of this input in our Comprehensive Plan is my number one goal for this 2024 update.
Q: The city is updating the Economic Development Action Plan, with planned implementation in 2024. Though the first draft has yet to be presented to the city council, what goals do you hope to prioritize in the Economic Development Action Plan, and why?
All of us on the city council are very eager to see the first draft of this new plan. And I want to thank our city staff and community volunteers for taking the time to get this right. They’ve spent months engaging with business stakeholders, reviewing trends, and developing a new vision for success here in Issaquah.
When a final draft comes to the city council, I’ll be looking for goals that expand access to economic opportunity and lift our local businesses up. We need quicker and more efficient permitting. Business owners are asking for more technical assistance and connections to resources. We also need to take advantage of our unique setting. Issaquah is home to one of only thirteen Creative Districts in the entire state. And our access to Lake Sammamish and the Issaquah Alps also makes Issaquah a leading destination for outdoor recreation, sport, and tourism. Supporting these sectors will help drive opportunity to businesses all over town.
I am actively working on the Economic Development Action Plan as an Economic Vitality Commissioner with the City of Issaquah, so I am happy to provide more insight to how we are developing this action plan and what sorts of strategies I would like to see the city implement as part of a broader Economic Vitality plan for the city. Increasing economic opportunity is my number one goal for our economic development action plan- I am committed to finding ways to make it easier to do business here in Issaquah, and ensuring folks have access to city services that assist in opening a new business is a critical part of that. The second goal can be summed up as “Recruit, Attract, Retain”- finding and creating high-quality employees for Issaquah employers that are committed to living and working in Issaquah. One specific way I have proposed we do this is by developing an Issaquah job site that connects local businesses with job-seeking residents. This program has seen great success in Snoqualmie as SnoValleyJobs, and I am eager to implement a similar program here in Issaquah. Finally, I want to see the city prioritize local businesses in its economic development action plan, not big box chains, a campaign I am calling “Established in Issaquah”. Working to create and publicize a guide of locally-established shops and restaurants as a part of this plan can be both a great marketing tool for our city as well as a great way for local business owners to connect with each other.
I hope to see outdoor recreation and health care businesses championed to lean into our strengths. Our diverse business community should be celebrated while we recognize some important barriers to business growth, such as rising housing costs and lack of transit.
I will prioritize support for local small businesses. A decade ago, my husband and I made the choice to make Issaquah the place to raise our family, largely because of the historical charm of our downtown area, and the vibrant small businesses throughout the city. As a city councilmember, I’ve heard from our local business owners about concrete ways the city can help, in addition to the mobility and planning solutions mentioned above. One priority that we have heard is providing and helping coordinate event and studio spaces. We also launched the “Issaquah Loyal” program when I was council president, to help get the word out about our special local small businesses and to encourage residents to eat at our amazing local restaurants and patronize our local businesses. On the Council, I will build on this type of support and continue the conversations with our business community about how our city can best support them.
Q: What skills and experience do you have that you believe would be beneficial to you and the community as a council member?
I currently serve as the Deputy Council President here in Issaquah as well as the Vice Chair of the Eastside Fire & Rescue Board of Directors. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in my first term. We’ve focused on balancing growth with community benefit, prioritizing public safety and emergency services, stewarding and celebrating our environment, expanding access to behavioral health and homelessness outreach services, and investing in the essential infrastructure we need to get around town quickly and safely.
I’m running for re-election to build on the progress we’ve made and turn our shared vision of a more balanced, sustainable, and affordable Issaquah into a reality.
I grew up right here in Issaquah. It’s a very special place and it’s been a very special privilege to serve my hometown in this way. I’ve never been more motivated by the work and I’m committed to our success. I’d be honored to earn your vote and confidence once again.
Growing up on the Eastside, I have always been passionate about protecting our quality of life and ensuring every resident, regardless of who they are, has a chance to own a home, raise a family, find gainful employment, and lead a high quality life. As a high school teacher, my number one priority each day is keeping our kids safe and helping to create the best world we can for them, filled with hope and opportunity, and experiences working with young people makes me uniquely qualified to work on these issues. As a member of Issaquah’s Economic Vitality Commission, I have an intimate understanding of city processes, and have already been working to help the city focus on the economic needs of its residents. Our city desperately needs a pragmatic, solutions-oriented leader to help clean up our cities finances and ensure public works and projects and being completed as effectively and efficiently as possible, while also reprioritizing key public safety and mobility measures. Let’s keep Issaquah safe, prosperous, and moving, vote Landon Halverson.
I’m a small business owner and a working mom of two teens in our local schools. This helps me understand business needs, as well as what families value from our city. I started as a volunteer on the Planning Policy Commission, giving me a deep dive into the long-term issues and growth trajectory of the city. I’ve served as a Councilmember since 2019 and as the Council President for the last two years. My approach on Council is to act as a servant leader focused on the full picture of a successful community and not just a single issue.
I am a working mom and have raised my two kids here in Issaquah. They both attend school in the Issaquah School District. Every decision I make on the council is viewed through the lens of working families like mine. It is critically important that Issaquah continues to be a great place for all families.
I believe I bring valuable expertise to the council having served on the council since 2018 following my volunteer work on the Planning Policy Commission. I currently represent the city on regional boards such as the Salmon Recovery Council. My background includes a PhD in ecology. I have previously worked as affiliate faculty in the Urban Design and Planning Department of University of Washington, and on modeling of the US electric grid for Breakthrough Energy. I am currently the Chief Data Officer for Crosswalk Labs, a startup that helps support climate action planning for cities and local governments. I am a team player, and am endorsed by Congresswoman Kim Schrier, Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly, Eastside Firefighters, Washington Conservation Action, Sierra Club and more.
I would be honored to earn your vote to continue my service to the Issaquah community as your councilmember.