The Current Bellevue Council

Thanks in part to contributions from light rail arch-opponent Kemper Freeman and his allies, in 2009 Bellevue elected a new 4-3 majority on the Bellevue City Council that later expressed its intent to change Sound Transit’s preferred South Bellevue alignment to the “B7” alignment along the BNSF railroad right of way. Although this would cost more to generate the same number of boardings and introduce new technical and schedule risks, it also would reduce impacts to vocal neighborhoods like Surrey Downs.

In 2011, four councilmembers will have their terms expire: B7 advocate Jennifer Robertson, and all three that prefer the Sound Transit preferred alignment: Grant Degginger, Claudia Balducci, and John Chelminiak.

Mr. Degginger has elected not to run again. His seat will be contested by well-funded Aaron Laing, supported by both Mr. Freeman and pro-B7 focal point Kevin Wallace, and John Stokes, who has not yet raised any money, has not expressed an opinion on the alignment, but the Times reports “he thinks enough study has been done for Sound Transit and the city to agree on a route.”

Patti Mann is also part of the Freeman slate, and is running against Ms. Balducci, who also serves on the Sound Transit Board.

Mr. Chelminiak is opposed by Michelle Hilhorst. I have an email in to Ms. Hilhorst asking for her position on the B Segment.

Ms. Robertson is running unopposed, so there is no opportunity to reverse the majority in this cycle.

Seattle City Council races get a lot more attention, but Bellevue is a big and important city that will receive a lot of light rail investment over the next two decades. Although it would be premature to label the Freeman-backed candidates as “anti-rail,” these races are well worth your time and money.

45 Replies to “Pro-B7 Faction Looking to Extend Council Majority”

  1. How does the final route get picked? Who has the final say and final power to get things done? If Sound Transit thinks wants one thing and the Council wants another, who decides?

    1. Sound Transit, although the city could take it to the Growth Board or try to challenge them in court. The city have an uphill battle if it got to that stage.

    2. Ultimately the Sound Transit board decides (and Bellevue couldn’t stop them), although if Bellevue decided they didn’t like the alignment they could delay things for some time via legal action.

      1. thanks for the responses. where does the mayor of bellevue stand on all this? could he/she want to, a la mcginn and seattle, somehow declare a democracy and ask to put the final alignment to a vote and obstruct sound transit that way?

        i work in bellevue and would like the alignment the way ST has it, although i think it would be better to jam it straight up bellevue way to downtown and then tunnel out the other side, but thats me.

        going to the railroad tracks side of the slough is absurd.

      2. The mayor is against ST’s preferred alternative. A vote wouldn’t do anything and it would likely be bad news for the council majority. Most of Bellevue supports ST’s route.

    3. If Balducci loses to a B7 candidate who then gets onto the ST board, then Bellevue’s dysfunction will be brought into ST. Suppose it’s somebody who’s both pro-B7, tunnel-or-nothing, and against converting the I-90 bridge to rail? They’ll just be one vote among however many there are on the ST board, but they could cause some obstruction.

      1. It doesn’t work that way. Dow Constantine appoints board members; he doesn’t even have to pick a Bellevue representative at all.

      2. I’d hate to have someone who is representative of Bellevue on Sound Transit’s board. That would just be…just…unamerican.

        We need to keep it in the party.

        Are there any other metro/KC/sound transit employees or attorneys we can run?

        Or better yet, can Sound Transit make campaign contributions? Or start a PAC? Or perhaps ST can devote their Media advertising time to overthrowing the Bellevue government majority.

      3. “I’d hate to have someone who is representative of Bellevue on Sound Transit’s board.”

        You mean like Claudia Balducci, [ad hom]

      4. I thought certain positions like mayors were automatically on the Sound Transit board, regardless of who was in the office.

      5. The mayor of the largest city in each of the three counties (or their appointee), the county executive of each county, and the head of WSDOT are I believe the only “direct appointments”. Then there are rules about how many council members must come from certain cities but out side of the largest city it’s all up for grabs. And don’t kid yourself about it being non-partisan when there’s billions of dollars in capital expenditure up for grabs.

      6. I think only the county executives and the state DOT secretary are automatically on the board. A quick search of the ST site didn’t get me the actual requirements.

  2. So the Moving Bellevue Forward group couldn’t produce any viable candidates to counter the Freeman brigade?

  3. From Aaron Laing’s website:

    land use should determine transportation choices, not the other way around

    Really, Mr. Laing? Then what is the city doing in Bel-Red? Isn’t that a project you support?

    Land use and transportation should be complementary and concurrent or else policy would dictate that we build roads willy nilly. In other words, this tells me that Aaron Laing is no friend of light rail. Seems like a one-issue candidate to me.

      1. The proper transportation-follows-land-use/roads-before-transit direction would be to build along 520 from the BNSF until Overlake. Cheaper ROW, faster travel times– everything that looks good politically.

  4. This is how the process should work. Cities shouldn’t just lay down and defer to the “experts” at Sound Transit. ST is a new agency that is learning as they go. They have in the past, and will in the future, left to their own devices, make huge mistakes.

    1. Oh yes, ST should defer to this new crop of bought-and-paid-for “experts” in the Bellevue City Council?

    2. Sam, the city of Bellevue has commissioned no less than six “independent” studies double-checking Sound Transit’s work. Wetlands, EIS, cost estimates, traffic modelling, B7, you name it. They haven’t trusted Sound Transit at all. Instead they’ve spent more Bellevue taxpayer money re-looking at the same stuff Sound Transit is charged with doing under state law. And guess what they’ve found? All of them have confirmed the technical conclusions being drawn by Sound Transit. The city is engaged now in nothing more than an extended game of “bring me a rock”.

      1. The “financial conservatives” on the Council are bound and determined to spend whatever it takes to move Sound Transit. Meanwhile have you noticed the City doesn’t mow its street right of ways? That it cut NEP funds? That it pleads poverty on every level OTHER THAN fighting Sound Transit? This is the singleminded focus of the “financial conservatives” – whatever it takes away from other City priorities.

      2. have you noticed the City doesn’t mow its street right of ways?

        Why no, I haven’t. They’re continuing to do a dandy job in front of my house. Where is this neglect you speak of?

      3. To name just a few:
        Highland Drive.
        156th Ave SE near Eastgate.
        Lake Hills Connector near Kelsey Creek Park.
        Funds for this function were cut this year according to a council member, due to lack of funds. The whole City looks shabby.

      4. Bellevue Way and 112th from the Freeway to Main is being maintained, and looks absolutely beautiful this spring. Seriously, I encourage all of you to take a drive and see the Rhodies in bloom on this scenic boulevard. An enjoyable drive, bike or walk. Very arboretum-esque right now.

        And then think about what the $%&&& you want to do to it.

      5. It’s true: the City of Bellevue is pushing off maintenance and new capital projects. We spend less money on mowing lawns and fixing potholes than we did in the last biennium.

        For the amount of money we are spending studying B7, we could have build sidewalks here right next to Enatai Elementary School and along all of 108th Ave SE to I-90.

        We could invest in our city, invest in our infrastructure, and save money to bond for a tunnel in Downtown and for mitigation. Instead? We chose to spend money on stupid studies.

        In fact this council isn’t just cutting services, they’re lowering developer fees and pushing infrastructure projects like NE 4th and Bel-Red entirely to the general public’s tax burden! These aren’t fiscal conservatives, they’re frankly Kemper’s puppets and developer minions.

      6. It’s true that for the cost of this study the City could build about 4000′ (12 blocks) of residential sidewalk. But the studies cost (inflated as they have proven to be) are still only about 1/10th of 1% of the money being spent on the B segment alone. When trying to make decisions on a project of that magnitude it’s foolish to move forward without examining your alternatives. ST’s preferred alternative was advanced based on 5% engineering. The overriding factor was cost and secondarily ridership. Impacts on Bellevue and system reliability were not much more than an afterthought. The Arup report suggests that both cost and ridership for the B segment can be similar for B7R and B2M. When looking at property ROW acquisition and assuming zero residual value the additional scope change that looked at the realignment of the C segment up to NE 6th is not cost effective. But, it highlights construction costs are significantly reduced suggesting further study of the land value post construction are worth looking at.

        To me the take home message should be, if you have to provide free structured parking to meet ridership goals then you need to rethink the project. You either add stations somewhere else, use the savings to lengthen the line, or defer until such time that development warrants the high cost of building and operating light rail.

    3. The City of Bellevue is not an expert organization on building regional transit systems. There is absolutely no reason for Sound Transit to defer ultimate authority to them. Bellevue only looks out for Bellevue’s interests; entrusting a regional system to their myopia would be a much bigger mistake than any Sound Transit has made.

      1. That’s not a given. But I’d say that we could agree that Sound Transit should not replace the City of Bellevue’s local government functions. Building regional transit and serving the citizens and businesses of the City of Bellevue is ST’s mandate, and I do not believe you have any standing by which to argue that the City knows better than Sound Transit how to do that job.

      2. I think we can all agree that the new members of the Bellevue City Council will represent 51 percent of registered Bellevue voters who bother to vote.

        I think we can all agree that the Kempster wants light rail to get the falk off his lawn.

        I think we can all agree that when the Kempster tells ’em to jump, his toadies will ask “How high, Mr. Freeman?”

        I think we can all agree that that most statements that start with “I think we can all agree” are 100 percent TRVTH.

      3. “I think we can all agree that the City of Bellevue knows what’s best for the City of Bellevue.”

        Hogwash, Sam. The majority council members know what’s best for a *tiny* and very vocal minority. Scratch that, they *think* they know what’s best for this tiny and vocal minority because they are fearful of criminals that can already take the bus to Bellevue and of noise impacts that are on par with the buses that already ply 112th. With Metro’s Rapid Ride service changes, which route more buses on 112th, they will already have more noise impacts than the train.

      4. @TLjr, it’s only 51% of Bellevue’s registered voters who vote for contested races. When you don’t have a choice against Robertson, she’s bound to stay on the council.

      5. It’s obvious that though the residents of Bellevue did vote for ST2, they’ve changed their minds now. They’ve elected an ever-increasingly hostile city government twice now. Just give them express buses that terminate at Union Station and be done with it. Maybe they’ll all figure out how to work right there in downtown Bellevue and won’t even NEED buses. MegaHard is doing a very good job of getting their people to work already.

        More jobs in downtown Seattle for Seattle residents who like riding the bus and train.

        The people are sovereign in a democracy, even when they’re idiots.

    4. Bellevue has made plenty of mistakes over the years – Just look at the sad state of their bicycle planning. One could also argue that zoning the area next to the BNSF tracks for condos was a mistake. If nobody lived over there, the choice of B7 might be a bit more clear-cut as you wouldn’t have a larger number of impacts from the B7 route. Then there is the whole 520/NE 12th/NE 8th/I405 interchange of the decade fiasco. I swear they’ve been rebuilding that interchange for as long as I can remember. Yes, some of that blame lies with WSDOT for not foreseeing the congestion in that area, but I’m sure Bellevue could have figured that out and stomped their feet accordingly.

      Shall I continue on Bellevue’s mistakes? The list is long.

  5. Hopefully they would move the decision to a referendum so the voters of Bellevue had a say in this. B7 goes away from downtown, where development should be. East Link is an essential part of a light-rail network for the area and should be routed into downtown. Park & Rides along a freeway are nothing more than encouraging suburban growth and low ridership like with BART.

      1. Fair point, but it took decades to get BART like that — BART was very cost-ineffective for most of its early life.

  6. “I think we can all agree that the City of Bellevue knows what’s best for the City of Bellevue”

    The majority on the city council thinks they know what’s best for a *tiny* minority of the city of Bellevue. Out of over 120,000 residents, the city’s direction on light rail is being steered by the rantings of less than 300 people (probably more like 50). The sad truth is that they are shooting themselves in the foot and they don’t even know it.

  7. Is there a PAC or something concerned Bellevueites for transit sanity can contribute to to try to counteract Freeman’s influence?

  8. I like the tone this discussion is taking. After all, China seems very successful at building rail. What do you think, comrades?

  9. A write-in to oppose Robertson is a great idea, and would certainly make a statement, but it would need to be for someone with an immediately-recognizable name, someone who would set the stage for wiping Davidson, Lee, and Wallace off the map in 2013.

Comments are closed.