With Primary Election ballots arriving this week, the Bellevue Reporter reached out to candidates in several races to share who they are and what they value. For Bellevue’s City Council position 3, the candidates are incumbent John Stokes, Holly Zhang, and Martin Acevedo. Acevedo did not respond to our request for comment.
Q: Tell us about who you are:
Holly Zhang: In many ways, I am a typical Bellevue woman: A multi-tasking mother to a 2-year-old and a wife to a techie. I am also an entrepreneur, a fundraiser for multiple charities, a mentor to women in business, and a very grateful American citizen going on 13 years.
Growing up in a poor Chinese village, I was sometimes hungry. I was a homeless teen who surfed couches for a year. Now I have a jewelry business in an upscale mall — an American Dream come true.
As candidate for Bellevue City Council, I don’t believe in spending taxpayer dollars. I believe in investing them. I started my own jewelry business with just $4,000 I saved up. I will treat taxpayer dollars the same way if elected to city council.
John Stokes: John Stokes remains as committed to balanced, bipartisan leadership as he did when first elected to the city council. Since his election he has helped guide Bellevue through new plans and projects with focus and stability. John led the passage of the Downtown Livability Initiative, better preparing Bellevue to respond to growth and build density without sacrificing the character of its neighborhoods. He has also been a leading voice for affordability, pushing Bellevue to offer additional services to support those experiencing homelessness and housing instability. As the council’s liaison to the City Planning Commission, John supported taking proactive measures to address growth. John is also a key advocate for multi-modal transportation, aiming to build a Bellevue connected by transit options, including development of Bellevue’s Grand Connection and the Eastside Rail Corridor. He has helped move light rail forward on time and within budget while incorporating sound mitigation for neighborhoods and businesses.
John has been a strong leader in areas that affect and add value to Bellevue’s progress and level of service, including its neighborhood connectivity initiative, and serves on numerous local and regional boards providing leadership for Bellevue in regional decision-making organizations for our benefit.
Q: What do you feel is the most important issue for Bellevue? How would you address this as a councilmember?
Zhang: Homelessness. I understand it and I have lived it. The solution I advocate is researched, piloted and successful: Put housing first.
Too often, temporary shelters become another part of the homeless person’s helpless and self-destructive cycle. This time, the “couch” being surfed is in the taxpayers’ house.
As a housing advocate, I see that when homeless people get a studio with a locked door, they immediately shed many of their homeless “problems.” They feel safe and sleep better. Then they become healthier. Then they can plan their week, because are not just looking for the next place to stay dry at night. Then they regain the stability that is necessary to be job-ready and treatment-ready.
The “housing first” model has success rates in the 90th percentile (See Seattle Times, June 18, 2019: “Save lives and money — invest in supportive housing for the chronically homeless”). I confidently advocate the housing first strategy as the only candidate in Bellevue who has personally confronted this growing issue and overcome it.
Stokes: The most important issue for Bellevue is continuing to maintain and improve its excellent level of services and successfully manage the tremendous growth now occurring. Our council vision is a road map to making sure these challenges are actually opportunities for our city and our citizens to live in an increasingly vibrant, relevant and livable city and region. By providing strong and thoughtful leadership, working with all councilmembers and the communities in Bellevue, I will continue to assure that Bellevue is the city where you want to be, and that we live our charge that “Bellevue Welcomes the World, Our Diversity is Our Strength.”