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Dueling Liberals: Bellevue Council Likely To Shift Left

KUOW Photo/Amy Radil, Lynne Robinson's Facebook page.
Bellevue City Council candidates Vandana Slatter and Lynne Robinson.

During the fight over light rail, Bellevue was described as having a conservative majority on the city council. Those members challenged Sound Transit’s light rail route and Bellevue’s share of the cost.

But then long-time incumbent Don Davidson lost in the August primary, leaving two more liberal candidates in the runoff for his seat: Lynne Robinson and Vandana Slatter.

Although city council races are nonpartisan, both candidates sought the endorsement of the King County Democrats.

Vandana Slatter: Supporting Immigrants And Technology

Slatter, a clinical pharmacist at Amgen and former member of the state pharmacy board, had backing from Planned Parenthood and NARAL. The party’s endorsement committee recommended Slatter, but Robinson had more support from Democrats in Bellevue. Ultimately, Slatter didn’t land the endorsement.

What has surprised me most about this race is the extent to which the parties play in a non-partisan election. I guess it makes sense that there would be some involvement from both parties. But I also feel like this should be about Bellevue and about the community that live here.

After that disappointment, Slatter sent a campaign mailer labeling Robinson a “partisan” candidate.

Slatter calls herself a Democrat but says it shouldn’t matter when it comes to local issues. Sitting on a patio at Crossoards Mall, Slatter said the word “crossroads” is a good metaphor for Bellevue’s diverse population. She said she would like to represent the city’s thriving technology sector on the city council, as well as its many immigrants. She moved to the US from Canada, and her parents before her came from India.

I hope that I represent more than just, you know, the Indian population – in many ways I kind of represent their kids who are growing up here because I didn’t grow up in India.

Slatter said that community spaces, such as Crossroads Mall, are welcoming for Bellevue’s many immigrants. There are many new arrivals in Bellevue these days: The population in the last decade grew 12 percent and the minority population grew 62 percent.

Lynne Robinson: Focus On Parks

Robinson, who chairs the Bellevue Parks Board and the city’s Network on Aging, said her favorite spot in Bellevue is the downtown park. There may soon be an observatory nearby with an elevator down to Lake Washington’s shoreline. 

“The goal of the city, long-term goal, has always been to connect the downtown core with the waterfront and that’s how it’s going to happen,” she said.

As chair of the Parks Board, Robinson helped secure city approval for the first phase of the new Meydenbauer Bay Park. It’s been decades in the making. Right now from downtown you reach the water’s edge by walking through a parking lot.

But in the next few years, Robinson said the public will have a new beach and walkway to explore and transient moorage so people can park their boat and come into Old Bellevue, on the edge of downtown. In the last decade it has been the city’s fastest growing neighborhood. Robinson said as more people come to live downtown, those parks provide vital green space for residents.

Through her work with the parks and the Network on Aging, Robinson said she’s familiar with how the city works. She was upset about the light rail controversy in 2011, especially when the council majority proposed putting the light rail line through the wetlands in Mercer Slough Nature Park.

We were told by the mayor, Davidson at that time, that the council didn’t want to hear from any boards or commissions until they had made their decision and then we could comment on what we thought about their decision. I just didn’t think that was good government.

[asset-pullquotes[{"quote": "I'm probably one of the more conservative on the council so I think it's going to move towards the center. But how far I don't know.", "style": "inset"}]]Slatter agreed, saying the council process around light rail created “trust deficits” with the public that she wants to repair if elected. Davidson recently appeared at a candidate forum – after nearly 30 years on the Bellevue council – but this time he was sitting in the audience.

He said he has no doubt that putting Robinson or Slatter in his place would change the dynamic of the seven-member council.

“I’m probably one of the more conservative on the council so I think it’s going to move towards the center,” Davidson said. “But how far I don’t know, or out the other side, who knows?”

Year started with KUOW: 2005