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.