Bellevue City Council took messy route changing preference for light rail | Polical Analysis
By JOSHUA ADAM HICKS
Bellevue Reporter Former Staff Writer
March 13, 2010 · Updated 11:17 PM
Bellevue Mayor Don Davidson has tried to play peacemaker with a city council divided over light rail issues, but the group turned inside out last week when he tried to form consensus around a letter to Sound Transit.
Four council members – Davidson, Deputy Mayor Conrad Lee, Jennifer Robertson and Kevin Wallace – favor the B7 line for South Bellevue, which would run west of I-405 along the abandoned BNSF rail corridor.
A minority group consisting of Grant Degginger, John Chelminiak and Sound Transit board member Claudia Balducci likes the B3 route along Bellevue Way SE.
The three B3 supporters, along with Davidson, agreed Monday to sign off on an official letter to Sound Transit that switches the council's preferred route for South Bellevue, stating the majority's preference for B7 rather than a previous B3 leaning.
Meanwhile, three members of the B7 majority actually voted against the statement – hashed out during a previous public meeting – because they wanted it to contain stronger language.
That's because member Kevin Wallace created an alternative letter detailing all the benefits of B7 as perceived by the majority. A draft ended up in front of the council Monday night following alterations by the council majority and city staff.
Members of the minority took exception to the letter because it evolved without their input. This led to accusations about Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) violations at the Monday meeting.
Balducci said the city needs to be as transparent as possible about the way it conducts business.
"We need to be bending over backwards to prove to people that they're seeing our homework and seeing how we're coming to our decisions," she told The Reporter.
Wallace said the OPMA allegations are an attempt to "duck discussions of the real issue, which is protecting neighborhoods."
Wallace also said he is content with the letter city council approved, even though he didn't vote for it.
"It was a good day for the constituents of Bellevue because of the switch from B3 to B7," he said.
But Wallace and his cohorts on Monday didn't do themselves any favors by opposing the final letter.
First, it makes them appear overzealous – like Tea Partiers coming out against an anti-tax measure because it doesn't speak harshly enough about government spending.
Second, it sends a message to the Sound Transit board that Bellevue's city council can't agree on anything. Who's going to take a group like that seriously?
The mayor told me last week he was intent on reaching consensus over the letter, or at least a 6-1 vote – with Degginger looking like the most obstinate opponent.
What he ended up with was a council majority that turned on him while he tried to negotiate a compromise.
Balducci said the council accomplished what it needed to get done, which was move forward with a simple statement about the preferred route for South Bellevue.
"It was sort of a win for (the majority), but it didn't come out feeling that way," she said. "We're making this far more complicated than it needs to be. We need to get to the bigger questions, which deal with downtown."