Light rail and the economy on the mind of new Bellevue mayor
Longtime Bellevue City Councilmember Don Davidson was elected mayor Monday in Bellevue. The city's main issues now are budget and light rail, as Sound Transit makes its final decision on light-rail alignment for the Eastside.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
The last time Don Davidson sat in the mayor's seat during Bellevue City Council meetings, it was the mid-1990s. Back then, the city was coping with nude dance clubs and hiring a city manager.
But in 2010, Davidson will be juggling more debate about Bellevue's light-rail alignment, the redevelopment of the Bel-Red corridor and budget shortfalls for a city budget that relies on sales tax and has been hit hard by the recession. The city, which has a council-manager form of government, is projecting a $17 million shortfall in its general fund for 2011-12, a city spokesman said.
Davidson, 70, who replaces Grant Degginger, was elected to a two-year mayoral term Monday night by fellow council members in a 5-2 vote. Conrad Lee unanimously was elected deputy mayor.
We spoke to Davidson, a dentist, the day after his election.
Q: What is your biggest concern for the city right now?
A: Obviously, the economy. We're going into a whole new budget process. We continue to lose on the operating side. I'm trying to personally not go to the point where we have to lay people off.
Q: What prompted you to run for mayor this time?
A: It became obvious to me after the election that a rather conservative group of folks were elected. [Davidson and Conrad Lee won re-election; Planning Commissioner Jennifer Robertson and businessman Kevin Wallace won seats.] I felt there was kind of a conservative movement to the council. ... I kind of represent a more conservative element. If you're going to be there every Monday night, it's nice to be in the mayor's chair. But it isn't like Seattle. We're just one of seven who helps guide the conversation.
Q: Will the public see changes in the council's direction with this more conservative bent?
A: Our conservative side pretty well wraps around money. You're going to find people a little more aware of the taxpayers' burden. In those areas, Bellevue has always looked to be more conservative than the rest of the world.
Q: Bellevue's final light-rail alignment is still being decided by Sound Transit, which could include a tunnel that needs funding. Would the council possibly alter its light-rail alignment recommendation to Sound Transit?
A: We pretty well all resolved the issue that light rail is coming. We'd certainly like to have a bigger say in how it comes to Bellevue than currently Sound Transit feels. Sometimes we say something and it seems to fall on deaf ears. I'm not after light rail, but I am after how it affects Bellevue. There will be more discussions. I can't predict if there will be more recommendations. We're studying stuff; they're studying stuff. My attitude is we're going to have time. They haven't figured out how to get across Lake Washington. It's going to be quite a bit of time before we see light rail being laid here.
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or email@example.com
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