Keeping eye on the future, despite a difficult present | Nat Levy | Reporter's Notebook


City budget discussions are never fun, especially in this economic period. They often lead to harsh realities, and bad news for many organizations that  program funds will have to be cut or reduced.

However, in Bellevue, things are starting to stabilize, and, more importantly, city officials are focused on the future.

As difficult as last year's East Link light-rail debates were to watch at times, with council members and residents lobbing conflict of interest grenades across the table, long-term budget discussions are starting to show a different side of council members. At a workshop Monday, the council discussed not only the next two-year budget along with the capital plan for 2013-19, but also continued the talk of financing the big projects for the decades to come.

A good percentage of the Bellevue portion for the East Link downtown tunnel won't be paid for until well over a decade from now, when most of the city council members probably will have moved on. Nonetheless, they are having the tough discussions now to make sure future representatives aren't hosed the day they set foot in office.

This is something I've always enjoyed about Bellevue. Whether it's government, the private sector or just people you meet day to day, the future is always coming right up.

I've lived and worked in plenty of places where the prevailing attitude is "let future government deal with it." In one instance, a city had mismanaged its finances so badly that council members couldn't do anything but look six months ahead. Even then, they were forced to hamstring their future to feed the appetites of bad decisions in the past.

Other places have become eyesores due to unchecked growth. Cities push themselves outward in all directions, taking up land, while downtown becomes an empty wasteland. Long-departed anchor stores leave nothing but streets full of trash and old beer bottles.

Bellevue doesn't have that problem. It's surrounded on all sides by water, or neighboring municipalities, so growth is contained. Sure, the city has its share of strip malls and the budget process isn't perfect. For example, council member Claudia Balducci mentioned that the city hasn't undertaken an extensive public outreach program to figure out how to prioritize programs and projects.

The city is in another crucial time. Extensive developments are coming to the Bel-Red Corridor, Wilburton, and a new train will run through the heart of all of it. These times will be tough, and take strong leadership to make sure products get done, and done right. The hope is the council will continue to work with an to eye to the future, without losing track of the needs of the present.

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