The Bellevue City Council has now elected its mayor and deputy mayor (they choose from council members) – Don Davidson and Conrad Lee, respectively. Both received money from Kemper Freeman Jr. during the election, and both have questionable opinions on transit.
The Seattle Times has an interesting interview up with Mayor Davidson. I call it interesting not because it offers anything new, but because it contains what I consider to be dog whistle phrases as they relate to building light rail through Bellevue. These are the ones I really noticed, from his interview responses:
- “I kind of represent a more conservative element.”
Great news! A conservative won’t want to spend extra money, which means he’s saying “I’ll support a surface alignment through downtown Bellevue that saves hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars, reduces risk, and keeps East Link on schedule.” (If you detect sarcasm here, you’re on the money.)
- “You’re going to find people a little more aware of the taxpayers’ burden.”
This says to me: “I’m not going to ask Bellevue constituents for any tunnel funding.”
- “I’m not after light rail, but I am after how it affects Bellevue.”
Uh-oh. This could be adding up to mean “I don’t want surface – I want a tunnel and I want Sound Transit to pay for it.” What’s more, that would really mean “Because the eastside will be paying for this tunnel anyway, many of the same taxpayers will be footing the bill – but this saves me the political cost of asking for it.”
- “They haven’t figured out how to get across Lake Washington.”
Mayor Davidson is perfectly aware of how East Link will get across Lake Washington. He’s playing to the element who refuses to accept independent engineering study showing light rail over the I-90 bridge is feasible using existing technology. We could be hearing: “I don’t like the R8A project and won’t raise a finger to support it.”
- (last one) “It’s going to be quite a bit of time before we see light rail being laid here.“
If you live or work on the eastside, this is a little concerning. The mayor of Bellevue should be supporting the schedule as it stands, not making remarks disparaging to a project his constituents support.
So, Mayor Davidson: You claim to be conservative. If I’m reading this right, you probably don’t want Bellevue to pay for a tunnel. If that’s the case, the conservative choice is an affordable surface alternative.
Update: As I was writing this, the Times’ Bellevue Blog has more, and it seems to back up this read. He definitely doesn’t want Bellevue to pay for a tunnel, and he points out Beacon Hill being funded by Sound Transit. It’s interesting that he doesn’t make the distinction between Sound Transit and North King, though – Bellevue didn’t pay for any of the Beacon Hill tunnel. Almost all of North King is Seattle – so essentially, Seattle taxpayers paid for Beacon Hill. Keep that in mind as this discussion moves forward.
Update 2: Davidson also claims: “we maybe could get to Redmond if we used a surface system.” As he almost definitely means downtown Redmond, that’s factually incorrect. The money in ST2 only gets us to Overlake.