Woodinville mayor defends D.C. trip after tight council vote

by Kevin Opsahl | reporter@nwnews.com
Woodinville Mayor Mike Millman and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene participate in salmon restoration on the Sammamish River on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Photo taken from a video by the City of Woodinville. Woodinville Mayor Mike Millman and Congresswoman Suzan DelBene participate in salmon restoration on the Sammamish River on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Photo taken from a video by the City of Woodinville.

A week after a contentious city council meeting in which some officials were impugned over the idea of sending a local delegation to Washington, D.C., Woodinville Mayor Mike Millman told the Weekly he “absolutely” still plans to go and lobby lawmakers.

In an interview Tuesday, Millman argued that if he is successful in asking lawmakers and staffers to fulfill the city’s $7.25 million wishlist, it would save taxpayers money and get projects completed faster.

“That, to me, is a no-brainer, spending a small amount of money going back to D.C. to talk to representatives and their staffers in order to make that happen,” Millman said.

He believes the council agrees with him, since members voted 4-3 during a Jan. 17 meeting to send the mayor as its sole delegate to D.C. Details of the trip, including the cost of airfare and hotel, are still being worked out–and so is the budget appropriation.

“The city manager [Brandon Buchanan] hasn’t determined yet whether there’s money set aside for this trip or whether we’re going to have to make an amendment,” Millman said.

One project the mayor seeks federal funding for has to do with culverts under 134th Avenue NE and NE 195th Street that intersect Little Bear Creek. The city must replace those culverts with ones that do not block salmon, which the state prohibits.

“It’s something that Woodinville is going to have to do. We have no choice,” Millman said. “This is the most-effective, efficient and quickest way to get it done, so we’re going to take advantage of the infrastructure dollars that are available now.”

The other project Millman seeks federal funding for is the Eastrail corridor, described by King County as “an uninterrupted 42-mile trail that will connect the Eastside like never before.” In 2014, Woodinville purchased the corridor, located on the now inactive rail corridor running from 127th Place NE to the northern city border. However, Woodinville has yet to complete its section of the multi-city long ‘Rail to Trail’ project.

“This will be something that regularly tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, will be able to utilize in the future,” Millman said.

Woodinville hopes to secure a Rebuilding America's Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help expedite construction of the Eastrail corridor project.

“The ability to be able to pull up the railroad tracks sooner rather than later will speed everything up,” from 10 years down to five, Millman said.

In addition, the mayor hopes to lobby the Surface Transportation Board to give Woodinville control over the railroad tracks in order to remove them.

But not everyone is so gung-ho about the D.C. trip–including former Woodinville Mayor Gary Harris, who asked during the recent council meeting, “are you absolutely out of your freaking mind?”

“That is … the definition of boondoggle,” he said.

Millman responded to that specific comment in an interview, calling it “uninformed” since it came prior to council’s discussion about the D.C. trip.

But in an interview after the meeting, Harris doubled down.

“There is no legitimate reason for him to go to D.C. when our federal representatives have offices locally,” the former mayor said. “It’s a waste of the citizens’ taxpayer money.”

He believes the mayor could meet with D.C. officials virtually, adding that sometimes they come to Woodinville, as Rep. Suzan DelBene did on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Millman responded that during the holiday, he met with the congresswoman, who told him it would be a “good idea” for the mayor to visit D.C. and speak with her before federal budgets are approved.

“All of the experts and representatives agree it is a more effective meeting in D.C., especially for people who are there at that time and whose staff is D.C.-based,” Millman wrote to the Weekly.