Last night, the Bellevue City Council had an opportunity to take a position against Tim Eyman’s I-1125, which places important transportation projects that would improve mobility in and out of Bellevue at risk. The city council scheduled a hearing, as required by Washington State law, providing proponents and opponents with an equal amount of time to speak to the initiative.
Arguing in favor of I-1125 was, to nobody’s surprise, Tim Eyman, who used up practically all of his allotted time. State Representative Ross Hunter and the Bellevue Downtown Association’s Patrick Bannon then spoke on behalf of Keep Washington Rolling, the broad coalition opposing I-1125, which includes NPI.
Following the specchifying, councilmembers had a few questions for Eyman and Hunter. Councilmember Grant Degginger, who is retiring, wanted to know why Eyman had included a provision in I-1125 (Section 3) that takes aim at Sound Transit’s East Link without specifically saying anything about light rail. (The provision vaguely says that no part of gas tax or toll-funded projects can be transferred for “non-highway purposes”).
Eyman did not provide much in the way of an answer. Degginger concluded, correctly, that Eyman’s intention with Section 3 of I-1125 is to stop East Link without actually saying so, which he later called “sneaky” and “un-American”.
The council then began debating whether it should take a position on I-1125.
Councilmembers Don Davidson and Conrad Lee, who currently serve as mayor and deputy mayor, respectively, made it clear pretty quickly that they didn’t want to take a position on I-1125, arguing it was not the city council’s place to tell voters how they should vote. Councilmember Claudia Balducci sharply disagreed, pointing out the council takes positions all the time on state and federal legislation. She noted that opposition to I-1125 is widespread and growing, and observed that Bellevue businesses and workers want the city council to oppose I-1125.
How can we be leaders, Balducci asked, if we punt on issues like this?
Councilmembers John Chelminak and Grant Degginger weighed in next, each agreeing with Balducci. Degginger had strong words for I-1125. He justifiably called it a “job-killing initiative”, and, as I previously mentioned, excoriated the provision of I-1125 that seeks to underhandedly block East Link.
Last to speak was Councilmember Kevin Wallace, who not only agreed with Lee and Davidson, but implied that he was going to vote in favor of I-1125.
Because Councilmember Jennifer Robertson was absent, that left the council deadlocked – unable to agree on any motion concerning I-1125. During the debate, Lee and Davidson had moved and seconded a nonsensical motion to take no position on I-1125 (nonsensical because, as it stands, the council already has no position); this motion ended up being left on the floor.
The council meeting ended very abruptly at 11 PM when, to Davidson’s surprise, a motion to extend the meeting for another few minutes failed. (The meeting had previously been extended from 10 PM to 10:30, and then from 10:30 PM to 10:45, and then from 10:45 to 11 PM). The meeting broke up immediately after 11, leaving the question of what to do about I-1125 unresolved.
Readers not familiar with Bellevue politics may be wondering why Lee, Davidson, and Wallace would be so uncomfortable with putting Bellevue on record against 1125. After all, several other Eastside cities (Redmond, Kirkland, Renton) and the Port of Seattle have already done just that.
The reason is that each of them answers to Kemper Freeman, Jr., who bankrolled Tim Eyman’s I-1125.
In 2009, the last time Davidson, Lee, and Wallace were on the ballot, they all got money from Kemper. Conrad Lee received $1,000 from Kemper on July 8th, 2009. Davidson received two checks, for $800 and $200, respectively (totaling $1,000) from Kemper Holdings on July 16th, 2009.
And Kevin Wallace? He received a $500 check from Kemper Holdings on April 30th, 2009.
As for Jennifer Robertson, who was missing from the dais last night and is unopposed for reelection this year, she also appears to be in the Kemper club. Big time. Take a look at this contribution history:
- $1,600 from Betty Freeman (Kemper’s spouse) on April 29th, 2011 (two checks for $800 each)
- $1,600 from Kemper Freeman himself on April 29th, 2011 (two checks for $800 each)
- $800 from Kemper Holdings on November 19th, 2010
I’d be very surprised if she votes to take a position opposing I-1125.
Because Kemper has four out of seven councilmembers in his corner, he basically controls the Bellevue City Council. That’s pretty sad. Bellevue’s legislators should be accountable to all of their constituents, not just one of them.
Both the Bellevue Downtown Association and the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce have taken positions against I-1125. Both have urged the council to follow suit.
Strangely enough, Kemper doesn’t control those organizations (in fact, he quit the BDA earlier this year) but he apparently controls enough votes on the Bellevue City Council to prevent adoption of a resolution opposing I-1125.
Bellevue businesses, workers, and residents who want to see their city council take a position on I-1125 should start lobbying Jennifer Robertson, who was missing from last night’s meeting. She’s in the Kemper Club, but maybe she can be convinced that opposing I-1125 is the smart and sensible thing to do.
If you’d like to reach out to her and urge her to vote to oppose I-1125 at the next council meeting, here is her official contact information:
Councilmember Jennifer Robertson
450 110th Ave. NE
P.O. Box 90012
Bellevue, WA 98009