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.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2021

In NPI’s hometown of Redmond, voters will decide three 2021 contests for city council

City coun­cils across our region make a lot of impor­tant deci­sions that affect our lives as res­i­dents of Cas­ca­dia, espe­cial­ly with respect to land use, devel­op­ment, trans­porta­tion, and pub­lic safe­ty. We entrust the essen­tial pub­lic ser­vices we rely on close to home to their stew­ard­ship and man­age­ment, so it’s impor­tant that we pay atten­tion to these crit­i­cal local races and make our voic­es heard.

In 2021’s local elec­tions, vot­ers in NPI’s home­town, Red­mond, will elect three at-large posi­tions on the sev­en-mem­ber city coun­cil: Coun­cil Posi­tions #2, #4, and #6. In August, vot­ers elim­i­nat­ed one can­di­date from the Posi­tion #4 race, the only con­test that had more than two can­di­dates, leav­ing two finalists.

Now that we’re in the gen­er­al elec­tion (which serves as the runoff round), vot­ers will make final selec­tions for all three posi­tions. Let’s take a look at each of this year’s races and meet the can­di­dates who are seek­ing vot­ers’ support.

Position #2: Steve Fields vs. Janet Richards

For Posi­tion #2, incum­bent Steve Fields is fac­ing off against Janet Richards.

Fields, the own­er of Down Pour Cof­fee in Bride Trails, was first elect­ed to the coun­cil in 2017 with 55% of the vote, unseat­ing incum­bent Byron Shutz. He also made unsuc­cess­ful bids for may­or in 2015 and 2019.

After tout­ing bipar­ti­san endorse­ments dur­ing the 2017 pri­ma­ry elec­tion, he has bol­stered his pro­gres­sive cre­den­tials for the 2021 elec­tion cycle.

He has gar­nered the endorse­ment of sev­er­al notable pro­gres­sive fig­ures from across the region, includ­ing Shukri Olow and Joe Nguyen.

Fields’ pri­or­i­ties include respon­si­ble gov­ern­ment, envi­ron­men­tal stew­ard­ship, care­ful growth man­age­ment, and sup­port for local businesses.

Janet Richards is Fields’ oppo­nent, sup­port­ed by May­or Angela Bir­ney, who Fields ran against for the city’s top posi­tion two years ago.

Richards has near­ly three decades of expe­ri­ence work­ing in busi­ness man­age­ment for Microsoft and as a consultant.

She is the only Black can­di­date in this year’s Red­mond elections.

After Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Pad­hye retires, the only remain­ing non-white mem­ber of the coun­cil will be Var­isha Khan unless Richards is elected.

As a vol­un­teer con­sul­tant, she led a task force to improve Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal’s secu­ri­ty poli­cies to be more equi­table. She cur­rent­ly vol­un­teers for the City of Red­mond as Human Resources Com­mis­sion­er, and also has a his­to­ry of work­ing with Red­mond’s police depart­ment on com­mu­ni­ty engagement.

Richards is backed by elect­ed offi­cials like Lake Wash­ing­ton School Board mem­ber Siri Blies­ner and for­mer may­or John Marchione.

Fields has raised $12,842.40 for his reelec­tion campaign.

Richards has raised $22,972.47 for her campaign.

Position #4: Melissa Stuart vs. Dennis Ellis

Cur­rent coun­cil pres­i­dent Tani­ka Pad­hye is leav­ing elect­ed office. Three can­di­dates filed to run for the open seat Pad­hye is vacat­ing: Melis­sa Stu­art, Den­nis Ellis, and Jack­son Fields. Stu­art and Ellis advanced through the Top Two elec­tion to the gen­er­al; Fields was elim­i­nat­ed from fur­ther consideration.

Melis­sa Stu­art char­ac­ter­izes her­self as a “non­prof­it leader with deep expe­ri­ence break­ing down bar­ri­ers for youth and families.”

A for­mer Peace Corps youth devel­op­ment vol­un­teer in Moldo­va, she has worked at a vari­ety of well-estab­lished non­prof­its serv­ing vul­ner­a­ble East­side youth, includ­ing the Boys and Girls Club and Youth East­side Services.

The main theme of her cam­paign is reduc­ing car­bon emis­sions. A res­i­dent of the Over­lake neigh­bor­hood, where Link light rail will serve in just two years, she sees the dense, mixed-use area as a blue­print for neigh­bor­hoods that are more walk­a­ble, less car-depen­dent, and more effi­cient for families

This is a time­ly per­spec­tive for the city, as ongo­ing rede­vel­op­ment in down­town Red­mond adds hotels, mixed-use apart­ment build­ings, and mod­ern offices to a once sleepy and spread-out sub­ur­ban city center.

While coun­cil posi­tions are offi­cial­ly non­par­ti­san, Stu­art has suc­cess­ful­ly court­ed local Demo­c­ra­t­ic and Demo­c­ra­t­ic-aligned organizations.

High­lights from her lengthy endorse­ment list include the 45th and 48th Leg­isla­tive Dis­trict Democ­rats, the Sier­ra Club, and Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Padhye.

Den­nis Ellis is a long­time Red­mond resident.

The Seat­tle native is an Air Force vet­er­an who also spent over twen­ty-five years work­ing in the con­struc­tion indus­try. He now works as an ana­lyst at Boeing.

On the issues, he is more con­ser­v­a­tive but not doc­tri­naire. He had staked out a strong posi­tion against “allow­ing the fail­ure of the jus­tice sys­tem to pros­e­cute crime” or any oth­er form of crim­i­nal jus­tice reform. His web­site does­n’t men­tion the cli­mate cri­sis at all, which is espe­cial­ly dis­ap­point­ing in the wake of the record-shat­ter­ing June heat wave that killed hun­dreds across Cascadia.

Ellis sug­gests he is open to cre­ative solu­tions to major issues. On hous­ing, he is open to des­ig­nat­ing small­er parcels and rezon­ing sin­gle-fam­i­ly neigh­bor­hoods to allow town­homes to cre­ate own­er­ship oppor­tu­ni­ties for young families.

He also argues that his expe­ri­ence as a small busi­ness own­er could be help­ful as busi­ness­es face the twin chal­lenges of the post-pan­dem­ic recov­ery and the influx of large cor­po­rate invest­ment into downtown.

Stu­art has raised $21,399.01 for her campaign.

Ellis has raised $12,011.75 for his.

Position #6: Jeralee Anderson vs. Tara Van Niman

The field is sim­i­lar­ly split for Coun­cil Posi­tion 6. Incum­bent Jeralee Ander­son is being chal­lenged by Tara Van Niman.

Van Niman is a career project man­ag­er at AT&T and first-time who is well-con­nect­ed in the Red­mond polit­i­cal scene.

She is active on com­mit­tees that pro­mote school fund­ing levies and has advo­cat­ed for school fund­ing reform in the wake of McCleary in Olympia.

Van Niman has also worked on local cam­paigns, like Man­ka Dhin­gra’s his­toric 2017 spe­cial elec­tion cam­paign for the Wash­ing­ton State Senate.

She has a long list of endorsers: May­or Bir­ney, Sen­a­tor Dhin­gra, for­mer May­or Mar­chione and many oth­ers are behind her.

Jeralee Ander­son, the cur­rent coun­cil vice pres­i­dent, has a doc­tor­ate from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Wash­ing­ton in con­struc­tion engi­neer­ing and sustainability.

She runs her own non­prof­it, Green­roads Inter­na­tion­al, that col­lab­o­rates to devel­op green trans­porta­tion projects worldwide.

A dec­o­rat­ed pro­fes­sion­al, she has received recog­ni­tion from the Oba­ma Admin­is­tra­tion, the State Depart­ment, and indus­try publications.

Her pri­or­i­ties for a sec­ond term include cli­mate action, eco­nom­ic jus­tice, com­mu­ni­ty health pro­grams, and sus­tain­able infrastructure.

Dur­ing her time on the coun­cil, she has been very involved on var­i­ous region­al plan­ning boards, includ­ing as rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Wash­ing­ton Cities on the State Pub­lic Works Board.

Ander­son has her own long list of endorsers, includ­ing State Sen­a­tor Pat­ty Kud­er­er (the oth­er state sen­a­tor rep­re­sent­ing Red­mond), and three Belle­vue City Coun­cilmem­bers: Jan­ice Zahn, Jere­my Barks­dale, and John Stokes.

“I choose not to pur­sue endorse­ments or con­tri­bu­tions from cur­rent Red­mond elect­ed offi­cials,” Ander­son says in a note on her web­site. “I do not offer my endorse­ment or con­tri­bu­tions in Red­mond elec­tions either. I have enjoyed col­lab­o­rat­ing with all of my Coun­cil col­leagues in this past term. I wel­come the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work with any new­ly elect­ed offi­cials in 2022–2025.”

Ander­son has raised $16,075.86 for her reelec­tion campaign.

Van Niman has raised $23,604.86 for her campaign.

One week left until Election Day

With the excep­tion of large cities like Seat­tle (where orga­ni­za­tions like NPI have been com­mis­sion­ing elec­toral pub­lic opin­ion research!), there isn’t usu­al­ly polling avail­able to sug­gest how can­di­dates are doing in local elec­tions, so it’s hard to know where these six can­di­dates stand. Their fundrais­ing met­rics give us some idea of their cam­paign’s capac­i­ty for reach­ing vot­ers, but do not tell us whether their cam­paigns are res­onat­ing in the com­mu­ni­ty in the not.

Local elec­tion years gen­er­al­ly see less than fifty per­cent turnout, even though the deci­sions that get made this year will influ­ence how our cities are governed.

Watch­ers of Red­mond city pol­i­tics are no stranger to close races.

In 2019, Coun­cilmem­ber Var­isha Khan defeat­ed Hank Myers by a mere six­ty-six votes out of 14,659 cast after a recount. That year, there were also recounts for close city coun­cil elec­tions in Both­ell and Mer­cer Island.

Every vote tru­ly does mat­ter! So give some thought to who you’d like to rep­re­sent you and get your bal­lots in by next Tues­day, Novem­ber 2nd.

Bal­lots can be returned to drop box­es at Red­mond City Hall on NE 83rd or the Red­mond Com­mu­ni­ty Cen­ter next to Mary­moor Park. You can also return a bal­lot through the Red­mond Post Office, but it must car­ry a post­mark of Novem­ber 2nd or ear­li­er. If you’re return­ing to a drop box, be sure you get there by 8 PM.

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