Earlier this week, Bellevue City Councilmember Kevin Wallace presented a motion to appoint Aaron Laing to the city’s Planning Commission. This is a typical Wallace move, trying to advance an agenda against East Link without proper debate.
Laing was a Kemper/Wallace-backed city council candidate who lost to pro-East Link councilmember John Stokes. While the appointment was delayed a week, the B7 supporters on the council still have a majority and can stack the Planning Commission with members who aren’t friendly to transit-oriented development. The Seattle Times reports:
The dispute ended with the council deciding to wait a week before voting on Councilmember Kevin Wallace’s motion to appoint Aaron Laing, who lost to Stokes by 51 votes in a hand recount.
No one challenged the qualifications of Laing, a land-use attorney, who received campaign contributions from Wallace, his father, Bob Wallace, and Bellevue Square developer Kemper Freeman.
But Councilmember Claudia Balducci, who asked for the delay, said it appeared Wallace had circumvented standard appointment procedures in order to install a “hand-picked” candidate.
The city’s seven planning commissioners advise the City Council on land-use and development policy.
Council liaisons’ recommendations for appointments to boards and commissions are typically noncontroversial actions and accepted by the full council without debate. (The mayor, by law, makes the appointments, but by tradition the council is first asked to concur.)
On Tuesday, Balducci said Wallace departed from the usual procedure by closing the door to new applications before the announced Jan. 6 deadline, interviewing candidates in one-on-one phone conversations instead of inviting other evaluators to face-to-face interviews, and not providing the council with all candidates’ applications.
Balducci said Laing was “an excellent candidate.” But, she said, “It starts to look like maybe we waited for our preferred applicant to apply and then shut off the process, made a few phone calls and decided whom to appoint. That’s the appearance and that’s my concern.”
Stokes said he, too, was concerned about how planning commissioners are appointed. “They’re either to be appointed by the liaison with just a rubber stamp or we should have a process,” he said.
Wallace said Thursday he shortened and streamlined the evaluation process because city staff “were urging me to get it done. … As far as I knew, everything was according to Hoyle.”
Concerns expressed by council members Balducci, Stokes and John Chelminiak represented “circus-act ambush attacks,” Wallace said. Balducci’s motion to delay the appointment for a week passed 5-2, with Wallace and Jennifer Robertson voting no.