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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.

Monday, October 24th, 2011

A conversation with John Stokes, Part 2: Let’s bring light rail and smart growth to Bellevue

Last 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.  In part one of our con­ver­sa­tion, post­ed last week, we dis­cussed John’s back­ground and vision.  Part two con­tin­ues the series with a dis­cus­sion of light rail and city growth.

Here are some con­ver­sa­tion highlights:

KATHLEEN: John, what do you think about Tim Eyman’s anti-trans­porta­tion ini­tia­tive, I‑1125?

JOHN: I am absolute­ly, unal­ter­ably, unequiv­o­cal­ly opposed to I‑1125.

I just read the Seat­tle PI arti­cle this morn­ing, and as much as I don’t agree with Slade Gor­ton on a lot of things, I think that he’s absolute­ly right that the pri­or deci­sion to not put light rail in was stu­pid, and this is real­ly not only stu­pid, but it’s a destruc­tive effort to under­mine trans­porta­tion and, I think, pro­gres­sive ideas.

At the worst, it’s going to cost us a lot in legal fees and even if the leg­is­la­ture ignores it in two years, we will have lost two years, and it will have cost us bil­lions of dol­lars that could have been spent actu­al­ly doing some­thing for people.

So, I think the idea that Kem­per Free­man and Tim Eyman have teamed up, I hope that it is so awful, so repul­sive to peo­ple that maybe they will light up and final­ly start see­ing Tim Eyman for what he is.

KATHLEEN: What dis­tin­guish­es your light rail vision from your oppo­nent, Aaron Laing’s?

JOHN: I think it’s real­ly a stark con­trast.  In the first place, Laing lives off of Belle­vue Way and he’s been engaged in this for some time.  He’s made pub­lic com­ments against it com­ing down to his house and he’s threat­ened legal action, and he’s also said that if they want, they can buy him out.  See, he’s been incon­sis­tent in terms of pro­tect­ing the neigh­bor­hood.  He’s basi­cal­ly inter­est­ed in how it affects him.  He’s a land use attor­ney who sues gov­ern­ments, so he’s threat­ened that.

I think they’re try­ing to pile on so many costs and so many prob­lems that they hope that Sound Tran­sit will just go away and I don’t think that’s going to hap­pen.  I think that Sound Tran­sit is going to bring it through on the cur­rent route and the issue is, do we do ratio­nal mit­i­ga­tion?  Do we alle­vi­ate traf­fic con­cerns as much as pos­si­ble, and do we build a tun­nel or not?  And if we want to do it, it’s not as com­pli­cat­ed as peo­ple think it is.

On the tun­nel there are land swaps, there are a num­ber of things that would end up with us only hav­ing to pay a rel­a­tive­ly small amount some years down the line.  So it’s not impos­si­ble at all.

But I think the dif­fer­ence is I have a vision and my whole approach on this is that Belle­vue, for a long time, has had lead­ers with vision.  Regard­less of their par­ty, regard­less of any­thing, when some­thing needs to be done that ben­e­fits the city and helps it grow, we fig­ure out how to do it and we make it hap­pen.  What we have now is a group of peo­ple who, unless it direct­ly ben­e­fits them, they act to pro­tect cer­tain per­son­al inter­ests and they don’t want to make changes, to pay more tax­es, even though we have the low­est prop­er­ty tax­es of any city in the area, includ­ing Seat­tle.  And they seem to have a “some­thing for noth­ing” atti­tude.  Some­how by mag­ic they can deliv­er all these ser­vices that peo­ple want, but not raise taxes.

KATHLEEN: And you’re talk­ing about a group on the council?

JOHN: Yeah.  About the coun­cil major­i­ty and the peo­ple run­ning against Clau­dia [Bal­duc­ci] and John [Chelmini­ak].

KATHLEEN: And your opponent?

JOHN: Yes.  So, it’s clear­ly a divi­sion in that sense.  I mean, John Chelmini­ak, Clau­dia Bal­duc­ci and Grant Deg­gin­ger, who has stepped aside, have been a minor­i­ty try­ing to keep push­ing on what I think are these more pro­gres­sive areas.  The oth­er side real­ly espous­es an anti-tax, low cost, kind of pro­tect­ing inter­ests and they’re very vague in what they are try­ing to do.  They’re focused on build­ing more side­walks, as opposed to actu­al­ly resolv­ing traf­fic problems.

I tru­ly believe that it’s time to step out of the cur­rent Belle­vue mod­el which has all major devel­op­ment focused on down­town.  It was a smart plan at the begin­ning and it kept Belle­vue from just hav­ing big build­ings here and there, but Belleuve down­town has reached its infra­struc­ture capac­i­ty.  It’s grid­locked now, but it still has capac­i­ty to grow.  The fig­ures are some­thing like 50% growth in thir­ty years, but at the same time, we have two cor­ri­dors, the Bel-Red cor­ri­dor and the I‑90 cor­ri­dor, that also have great growth potential.

There are devel­op­ers and peo­ple who want to see con­cen­trat­ed growth, smart growth, in those areas that would bring employ­ment and hous­ing, that would bring ameni­ties, open space and parks to those areas.  And the Kem­per inter­ests sim­ply want to keep that from hap­pen­ing.  Aaron Laing said at the last forum that the 50% capac­i­ty in thir­ty years was as a rea­son to not build any­thing out­side of down­town until that’s fin­ished.  Again, it won’t hap­pen, because there isn’t the trans­porta­tion capac­i­ty and if you kill light rail you could real­ly mess it up.

If we devel­op those oth­er cor­ri­dors that real­ly does more to one, pro­tect sin­gle fam­i­ly neigh­bor­hoods and two, to pro­vide bet­ter ameni­ties for those neigh­bor­hoods, bet­ter shop­ping, bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for employ­ment and liv­ing close to employ­ment, and bet­ter mul­ti-use hous­ing.  Is Belle­vue going to be a pro­gres­sive city in these next thir­ty years or is it going into decline?  Because oth­er areas, like Red­mond, Kirk­land, north and south Ren­ton, and New­cas­tle, are matur­ing and will cap­ture a lot of Bellevue’s growth poten­tial if it doesn’t move forward.

Please return lat­er in the week for the con­clu­sion of my vis­it with John Stokes when we dis­cuss how Belle­vue’s schools have gone from good to great.

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2 Pings

  1. […] A con­ver­sa­tion with John Stokes, Part 2: Let’s bring light rail and smart growth to Bellevue […]

    Ping from Morning Rundown for October 25th, 2011 :: October 25th, 2011 at 9:42 AM
  2. […] one of our con­ver­sa­tion, post­ed last week, we dis­cussed John’s civic back­ground and vision. Part two con­tin­ued the series with a dis­cus­sion of light rail and city growth. Today, we will talk about […]

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