Bellevue City Council Climate Forum (2023-09-19)

Tuesday night I attended the Bellevue City Council Climate Forum at Eastshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Factoria.

The Bellevue City Council candidates appearing at the Climate Forum

The candidates that appeared were, from the left, John Stokes (incumbent), Paul Clark (Stokes’ challenger) , Mo Malakoutian, Janice Zahn (incumbent), Betsi Hummer (Zahn’s challenger), and Dave Hamilton.

Malakoutian’s challenger, Alex Tsimerman, did not appear. ( You can find some information about him here: https://nextdoor.com/p/tZnYQBKk_Bb4?view=detail.) Nor did Hamilton’s challenger, Bill Hirt.

The church sanctuary was packed with people.

people attending

Almost all the candidates spoke well and seemed to support environmental stewardship. It was hard to tell from their answers what their policies would be. The forum was organized by environmental groups, so all the candidates spoke in support of environmental stewardship. But a couple of the candidates, especially Clark and Hummer, expressed some skepticism about whether, for example, it’s worthwhile for the city to declare a public “Climate Crisis” and about what that would entail. Likewise, they said they actions and hiring decisions would depend on metrics, on whether the actions and decisions actually yielded results.

I thought the questions were too general and made it too easy for the candidates to equivocate.

Questions asked

There was a timekeeper and one candidate repeatedly talked longer than their allotted time. The timekeeper should have been more aggressive at stopping them.

Clark repeatedly said that we need metrics to determine which policies actually work . Hummer warned that too-stringent environmental regulations would burden poor people the most. That struck me as way for people who are basically anti-environment to justify their policies by saying “We can’t do it, because it would be unfair to the poor.” But it’s clear that good environmental policies could and should be balanced by aid to the poor and should be designed in such a way that the poorer people get many of the benefits.

On the role of real estate developers, who tend to have too much power, Clark said we need to balance the need to serve the public interest with the need to incentivize developers to develop. If we move the needle too far to the left, no building will get built. If we move the needle too far to the right, it would be a giveaway to the public. Other candidates agreed that the city needs to work with developers, e.g., in the Wilburton area just east of downtown. My fear is that money will buy the election, via campaign spending, and real estate developers will buy candidates who serve them. Affordable housing, public amenities (such as green areas, sidewalks, median strips), and walkability are important goals the city council should pursue.

I submitted a question about loosening zoning regulations in residential neighborhoods to allow stores and home businesses (so people wouldn’t have to drive so much), but they ran out of time.

My summary about is very incomplete, and I hope others will comment and fill in the gaps.

People attending