Former Bellevue mayor Terry Lukens introducing 'Move Bellevue Forward'

One of the sad things about Bellevue’s East Link debate is that from a regional perspective, it has tampered with the city’s can-do reputation.  With Bellevue being perceived as the “party of no” in all of this, a lot of people (especially those left-wing crazies from Seattle) like to think “to hell with Bellevue!” Or “light rail straight to Redmond!”  The truth is a lot of Bellevue residents voted for ST2, are eager to see rail, and are pretty peeved by recent opposition to Sound Transit.

Last night’s Bellevue city council meeting was probably the most spectacular evidence of this as 40 or so members of a new coalition called Move Bellevue Forward (MBF)* filled the council chamber to support Sound Transit’s preferred alignment, B2M.  Though East Link was not on the discussion agenda, it was a light rail kind of night as the new group came out swinging with testimony from Terry Lukens, Connie Marshall, and Mike Creighton, all former Bellevue mayors.

More of last night’s meeting below the jump (video available on Bellevue TV).

Tension immediately started heating up as oral communications lead off with testimony from Dick Chapin who, though not affiliated with Move Bellevue Forward, fiercely criticized the city council for recent policy decisions.  While never specifically mentioning light rail, it was clear that that was what Chapin was referring to, as he dropped discrete terms, like “Surrey Downs” and the “four” [pro-B7 councilmembers].  It turns out Chapin is actually a former State legislator and member of Sound Transit’s Citizen Oversight Panel.

After a few other non-transit-related testimonies, Lutkens, Marshall, and Creighton all introduced the Move Bellevue Forward organization, citing the involvement of six other former Bellevue mayors and seventy or so other community members, business leaders, etc.  Lutkens and Marshall expressed concern for recent direction on the council supporting the B7-Revised alignment and stressed cooperation with Sound Transit.

Pro-B7 Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee, who presided over the session because of an absent and ill Mayor Don Davidson, began to show restlessness as Sue Baugh, MBF president, came up to the podium to close out the group’s testimony.  After irritably checking with the clerk to make sure that no oral communications rules were being broken, Lee rudely interrupted Baugh’s testimony with indiscernible but very audible murmurings, which led many in the audience to shake their heads.

Overall, the night was a score for Sound Transit and light rail supporters.  The group’s formal organization represents the first public concerted effort to combat the anti-transit/NIMBY rhetoric that has been going on in Bellevue.  Whether the four pro-B7 councilmembers will change their minds remains to be seen, but last night was living proof that there are plenty of folks in Bellevue who want light rail, and for more than just hiding away.

*In the interests of full disclosure, I have participated in and worked with this group.

32 Replies to “A new Bellevue group for light rail”

  1. Every time I read a post on STB about East Link, I come away with the idea there is a an anti-light rail group, and a pro-light rail group. But then when I do a little more research on the subject, I realize this characterization is deceptive, and is outright false. Both groups want light rail, but simply disagree over the alignment.

    Also, it’s journalism 101 that the author of a piece declare whether he is, or is not related to a subject he is writing about who shares the same last name.

    1. It’s abundantly clear that the agenda of the “Build a Better Bellevue” coalition has nothing to do with properly siting rail, just making sure it doesn’t go near Surrey Downs if it gets built at all. This is evidenced by their unflagging support of a route that has been shown time and again, even by research commissioned by the City of Bellevue at their behest, to be inferior to Sound Transit’s preferred alignment.

      There are also certainly people participating on BBB’s side of the argument that are actively working against light rail to Bellevue. Kemper Freeman is the canonical example, with his lawsuit against WSDOT and Sound Transit over running East Link on I-90. Whether he’s explicitly affiliated with BBB is still unclear, because unlike Moving Bellevue Forward, the members of Build a Better Bellevue refuse to identify themselves.

    2. One could plausibly argue that many — perhaps a majority — of the people pushing B7 are trying to damage East Link’s prospects by putting in on a suboptimal alignment; certainly many of the prominent B7 backers are known anti-railers or aligned with the same, and many of the arguments against B2M seem driven by ignorance.

      And no, there is no need to qualify that fact that you are not related unless the names are unusual or there is some other reason that readers might be confused. There are plenty of Lees out there and the thought certainly didn’t enter my head.

    3. The characterization of one group as being anti-light rail isn’t necessarily outright false or deceptive. It’s fairly common practice for a political group to attempt to kill a project or piece of legislation by introducing changes which make the final outcome less desirable. It’s common because the politician doesn’t have to say they were “anti” anything, just that they wanted “the project done right” or some other line.

      I will agree with you, however, that we can’t “prove” that the B7 supporters are actually against light-rail, but that’s what ingenious about this particular political move. And some of the pro-B7 supporter probably are genuine supporters (which has to be frustrating, because they get marginalized). However, I think STB has made a pretty strong case that at least some of the B7 supporters are actually against light-rail in general.

    4. Guess this is why Sherwin never writes about the Civil War- nobody can believe he could ever be objective.

      Mark Dublin

    5. What about the group that has a case in front of the State Supreme Court to block light rail on I-90, are they “pro-light rail?”

    6. Sam, thank you for being the voice of reason. This blog is rampant with sweeping generalities that don’t reflect the real thoughts of either side and it is nice to see that acknowledged.

  2. I’m really glad to hear that some people in Bellevue are tired of the ANTI-LIGHT RAIL voices represent all Bellevue citizens and have gotten organized. There is no question BaBB has a lot of anti-light rail energy behind it. Go MBF!

  3. This morning’s Seattle Times says Kemper Freeman’s also had a falling-out with some other people in the Bellevue business community over light rail. Too bad. I’d kind of hoped he’d wind up with a station named after him right under Bellevue Square. Would’ve made a great end to a chapter.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I’m sure KF Sr is looking down on Junior with broad smiles given the front page of this morning’s “news”paper.

    2. Yep, he had to quit the DBA – a group that his father helped form 30 years ago. Apparently the DBA is pro-LR and we all know Kemper is violently anti-LR. This is just another example of how isolated Kemper and the anti-LR are becoming.

      And I find it particularly interesting that BBB won’t say who their members are, although we can certainly all guess.

      Kudos to MBF for coming forward to fight the anti’s, and Kudos to MBF for publishing their membership.

  4. Now will somebody from MBF please step up and run against Jennifer Robertson this fall. Her open seat will control the Bellevue council assuming the three strong pro-rail members get re-elected. This is potentially the most important election this fall locally.

  5. I’ve always thought that the absolute best location for a downtown light rail station would be underground and have exits close to the mall. If it could have been located between 106th and 108th, with exits at each end, it would both serve the primary office areas and the primary shopping areas of the central business district.

    I understand the cost prohibits my routing, but I’ve been amazed at how anti-rail Bellevue has been portrayed from the Kemper Freeman / Wallace side of the equation.

    It’s good to finally see an organized group speaking out for going towards the sound transit preferred option. I just wish it had done so before the city council had decided to spend $750,000 on another study.


    1. It’s ironic that Apple Computer forked over a ton of money to refurbish the North and Clybourn station on the Red Line in Chicago that sits directly under its shiny new store. Unlike Mr. Freeman, they recognize the value of attracting people who choose to arrive on foot.

      1. Apple users are a far cry from the fur-wrapped, diamond-encrusted doyennes that KF wants in Bellevue Square.

      2. Well, I’m not sure that fits the demographic that frequents Bellevue Square and the Eastside’s “only” Apple run store is inside of Bellevue Square.

        In Chicago, we had a rather (sexist) name for the young semi-urban, BMW driving, Starbucks sipping, pony tail through the ball cap wearing female demographic that I see in Bellevue Square and places just like it across the country. Trixies.

        And of course imitation is a form of flattery as the Microsoft store at Bellevue Square is just down the hall from the Apple store complete with it’s imitation beechwood tables but 3 times the size of the Apple store.

        I guess Kemper Freeman is counting on those BMW drivers to fill up their trunks with stuff instead of what you can comfortably carry on a public conveyance.

      3. No, no, no, didn’t you pay attention to the news. The REAL shopping is at the Bravern and it is walking distance to the transit center.

    1. Oooh. Big faux pas, MBF. Unless you envision Google opening a branch office to poach MS brains, it would be strategically superior to use Microsoft technologies on your website.

      1. Well, Google has offices in Kirkland, and one of their largest data centers in the world is located just across the river in The Dalles Oregon. And if MSFT doesn’t get its mojo back, there will be plenty of empty office space and available talent for Google to pick from by the time Eastlink gets to Redmond.

  6. As someone from Vancouver BC, where the rapid transit system essentially connects regional town centres located at existing regional shopping centres, I find it absolutely bizarre that Seattle’s light rail system (1) does not have a stop at Southcenter Mall and (2) will not have a stop at Bellevue Square. At least the extension to the north will have a stop at Northgate Mall.

  7. After observing many of these meetings and special interest groups involved………….I’d have to say no group of 40 or any number of people represent the greater king county area. Everyone is a special interest group! Let’s take it back to the people with current and correct information under current economic standards including light rails current rideship as a guideline. let’s revote!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Russ, don’t go sounding reasonable here, the writers of this article and blog don’t want to be confused by facts or the will of the people.

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