by JOAN DEVRAUN
I chose to live in Bellevue because of our beautiful park system. One of the city’s greatest park assets is the Mercer Slough Wetlands; when one experiences it, they understand why it was set aside for preservation. A B7 or B7 modified alignment would build light rail through these precious wetlands, which would be risky and could hurt East Link ridership.
Today’s Bellevue residents more closely resemble San Franciscans than those who resided in Bellevue 25 years ago, but modern practices of good local government lag behind the times. Despite owning a home in Bellevue, working here, and being a resident in every way, I realize that neither I nor the public interest are represented by our City Council. That is due to the conspicuous holes in local ethics laws that some self-interested parties have taken advantage of.
Since Kemper Freeman funded anti-rail candidates for the City Council last November, many misguided ideas have surfaced. One, a B7 modified option, was proposed without any consultation of neighbors in the Mercer Slough and Enatai neighborhoods. An on-going insult is the spurious aspersion often repeated by some council members that the residents along 118th Ave SE simply don’t exist. While our voices aren’t being heard, other neighborhoods are getting the attention of councilmembers.
Why is it that some neighborhoods “more equal” than others? It’s time to shine some light on the misguided private interests that have resulted in anti-transit proposals.
Why is it that one council member whose family owns approximately $50 million in real estate along the B3 alignment—the option he voted against—was not recused from that vote? The laws that exist across the lake in Seattle prevent council members with financial conflicts from participating in a vote. It’s also time strengthen our democracy in Bellevue and develop those same rules. Kevin Wallace and his ilk do not represent Bellevue residents, and their actions since being elected are contrary to the notion good government.
The op-ed continues after the jump…
• Light rail needs to serve the neighborhoods of Bellevue, and to do so it should serve downtown. There is no point of building a major transit system if it does not serve the most number of jobs and residents. The B3 alignment south of downtown accomplishes that purpose. Consider Vancouver’s SkyTrain, which has rail lines that go to stations located at “destinations” where there is pedestrian traffic and where people needed to go. The result was that drivers had ample motivation to get out of their cars and take transit. None of these factors apply the B7 or B7 modified alignments, which are the anti-transit options.
• The Mercer Slough Nature Park is beloved by the community as a pristine natural space for families to enjoy and recreate. This 320-acre wetland is Lake Washington’s largest and is home to several dozen mammal species and more than a hundred bird species, including the resident Rufous hummingbirds, a threatened species in North America.
Construction and operation of light rail through this pristine habitat will cause serious harm to these habitats. We should not be locating a major transit line through a nature park, we should be locating it where transit riders will use it. This is not about “protecting single-family neighborhoods” vs. protecting the slough. This is about situating transit where it is needed and making the most of a taxpayer investment. The better option is B3.
• Bellevue City Council picked the best alternative last year: B3. No new ridership or environmental data have emerged since then. Tax dollars have already been spent to study the alternatives and move forward with planning. In this tough economic environment, it’s wasteful for the council to continue spending taxpayer money in spite of a decision already being reached.
Alignment decisions should not be politically motivated, they should be based on sound planning, evaluation criteria, and public benefit. A single neighborhood should not trump the city’s long-term interests. Bellevue’s City Council is turning what should be a sound alignment decision process into a corrupt political circus. The Sound Transit board would be right to not respect the outcome of this cynical scheme.
Joan Devraun is a resident of Bellevue. She works for Microsoft and is involved in the Mercer Slough Neighborhood Association. For more background on the East Link alignment, read our open letter to the Bellevue City Council and the Sound Transit Board.