NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Friday, October 21st, 2011

A conversation with John Stokes, Part 1: A progressive vision for Bellevue

Ear­li­er this week, I met up with  Belle­vue City Coun­cil can­di­date John Stokes in a Red­mond cof­fee shop.  John and I are con­nect­ed through our edu­ca­tion advo­ca­cy work and I know him to be a deep thinker and a ded­i­cat­ed advo­cate for chil­dren.  I want­ed to find out more about his deci­sion to run for office and what he hopes to do for Belle­vue.  It turns out that John’s school advo­ca­cy has led to him to greater involve­ment in city activ­i­ties where he’s dis­cov­ered that Bellevue’s lead­ers are defi­cient in pro­gres­sive values.

Here are some high­lights from our conversation:

KATHLEEN: Hi John. So tell me, why are you run­ning for Belle­vue City Council?

JOHN: It was a cul­mi­na­tion of work done in the past with edu­ca­tion and parks—I’m on the parks and com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices board—and I’m very inter­est­ed in see­ing light rail come through Bellevue.

I’ve been in Belle­vue for twen­ty years and real­ly want to see Belle­vue con­tin­ue with smart growth and do things in a more pro­gres­sive way so that we con­tin­ue to have a liv­able city that is also eco­nom­i­cal­ly vital.

We have chang­ing demo­graph­ics.  We have a much more diverse city and I’m con­cerned that a lot of the cur­rent poli­cies are not direct­ed towards the whole city but are more focused on cer­tain parts of downtown.

KATHLEEN: What areas of the city do you feel are being neglected?

JOHN: There’s a down­town-cen­tric view by some devel­op­ers and some peo­ple.  There are oth­er devel­op­ers look­ing at growth areas in the Bel-Red cor­ri­dor and the I‑90/Eastgate cor­ri­dor.  Cross­roads and some neigh­bor­hood cen­ters are in decline.  A lot of lead­ers don’t think about the fact that Belle­vue is a large city and most of it lies east of Inter­state 405, and a lot of things need to be done to that part of the city as well as downtown.

KATHLEEN: What skills or expe­ri­ences will you bring to the city coun­cil that make you bet­ter suit­ed to rep­re­sent Belle­vue cit­i­zens than your oppo­nent Aaron Laing?

JOHN: First, I bring 20 years of direct involve­ment in the com­mu­ni­ty, work­ing in the schools.  I’ve been a leader in every [school] bond and levy cam­paign, active as a PTA leader, and in the Belle­vue Schools Foun­da­tion for nine years, and as head of the Belle­vue Bridg­ing the Achieve­ment Gap com­mit­tee.   I’ve been on the school dis­trict fis­cal advi­so­ry and instruc­tion­al mate­ri­als com­mit­tees and on the Parks and Com­mu­ni­ty Ser­vices Board.  I’ve been involved in the plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion of park lands.

The oth­er dif­fer­ence is I’m not sup­port­ed by Kem­per Free­man and cer­tain nar­row inter­ests down­town.  I have a broad range of sup­port.  And I’m part of and sup­port­ed by Move Belle­vue For­ward, a group that is very inter­est­ed in see­ing light rail come to down­town, through the city and not bypass the city.

KATHLEEN: What val­ues will you use to guide your deci­sion-mak­ing on the council?

JOHN: I think the over­all val­ue is what is best to keep Belle­vue a vibrant, grow­ing city that encom­pass­es all the diver­si­ty in Belle­vue and that works to see that all of our cit­i­zens have oppor­tu­ni­ty and access to ser­vices, and that we pro­mote job growth with­out sac­ri­fic­ing envi­ron­men­tal con­cerns or just build­ing more roads and big piles of concrete.

KATHLEEN: What are the cit­i­zens of Belle­vue con­cerned about?

JOHN: They’re con­cerned about spe­cif­ic things in their neigh­bor­hood and light rail.  But what has been over­ar­ch­ing, has been a desire for sol­id, strong lead­er­ship with a vision for mov­ing for­ward and not want­i­ng to just keep sta­tus quo.  I’ve been pleas­ant­ly sur­prised with that.

KATHLEEN: So, John, because of the reces­sion, the most recent­ly passed city bud­get, for 2011–2012, devi­at­ed from Bellevue’s typ­i­cal long-term plan­ning approach.  Would you have allo­cat­ed funds dif­fer­ent­ly in this budget?

JOHN: I can’t specif­i­cal­ly say that I would have real­lo­cat­ed funds unless I was involved in the process, but I do think that it is a mis­take to not keep plan­ning for the future.  I believe that there is a future and that we are going to get out of the reces­sion and that to me, peo­ple are using the reces­sion as an excuse for a dif­fer­ent agen­da of low­er­ing tax­es and cut­ting back peo­ple’s expec­ta­tions of ser­vices, so that in the end it ben­e­fits peo­ple who don’t want to pay impact fees. We have a real prob­lem of prop­er­ty own­ers and devel­op­ers who don’t want to pay their share of growth that will ulti­mate­ly ben­e­fit them enormously.

It’s a real neg­a­tive that peo­ple are using the cur­rent finan­cial sit­u­a­tion to project out very decreased gov­ern­ment activ­i­ty over a long time.  I think that is wrong.  I think we can be fru­gal.  We have to always try to use our resources the best way pos­si­ble, but if it takes going out to the cit­i­zens and ask­ing for resources then I think that we ought to be able to do that.  We’ve done it with bonds and levies for schools. We did a half a bil­lion bond for school con­struc­tion.  That took vision, and that took guts.  We did a parks levy that peo­ple vot­ed 67% for.

So I believe that if we talked to peo­ple about what’s at stake, and we have a good track record, that peo­ple will do it. I think that it’s part of the com­pact between peo­ple and their gov­ern­ment.  That it’s just a way to make things hap­pen for peo­ple.  It’s not gov­ern­ment grab­bing tax­es, tak­ing from peo­ple, it’s peo­ple con­tribut­ing to their benefit.

Please return next week for part two of my vis­it with John Stokes and find out what John is “absolute­ly, unal­ter­ably, unequiv­o­cal­ly opposed to” as we look at trans­porta­tion and plan­ning for growth in Belle­vue. (Hint: NPI does­n’t like it either.)

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3 Pings

  1. […] to find out more about his deci­sion to run for office and what he hopes to do for Belle­vue.  In part one of our con­ver­sa­tion, post­ed last week, we dis­cussed John’s back­ground and vision.  Part two con­tin­ues the series […]

  2. […] part one of our con­ver­sa­tion, post­ed last week, we dis­cussed John’s civic back­ground and vision. Part […]

  3. […] to lose on Elec­tion Day. The cam­paign mail­er that he sent to Belle­vue vot­ers this week, smear­ing pro­gres­sive city coun­cil can­di­date John Stokes, reeked of des­per­a­tion. Free­man had a dif­fi­cult time find­ing enough filth to throw at Stokes, who […]

    Ping from Slimy Kemper Freeman mailer misleads voters – NPI Advocate :: November 3rd, 2011 at 3:54 PM
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