This is not the way Bellevue wants to compete with Seattle
The ominous and salacious headlines coming out of Bellevue are not good. If I have to worry about landing in the middle of gun crossfire to shop in that city, I’ll stay home and shop online.
Times editorial columnist
Recent headlines allude to the city of Bellevue’s danger of importing problems from the city across the lake — Seattle.
No offense to the Emerald City but it struggles with troubling crime spikes and a police department in the cross hairs of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Bellevue, with 122,000 residents, is one-fifth the size of Seattle and is not close to battling crime rates known to its larger neighbor. Indeed, Bellevue’s 2011 crime rates fell in most categories.
But I’m not writing about stats. The measurements used to guide economic activity, such as where to shop and have dinner or, at the high end, where to purchase a home, are based as much on perception as reality.
In Bellevue’s battle to offer better shopping, dining and housing than Seattle — better schools, parking and other amenities also factor in. News headlines of late hurt rather than help.
Last fall, a group of off-duty Bellevue cops taunted a Seattle police officer outside of CenturyLink Field before a Seahawks game. When Seattle police supervisors arrived, they too were taunted and cursed at. Bellevue suspended one officer for 30 days and demoted another. One Bellevue officer was found to have driven while under the influence of alcohol, but wasn’t punished because the level of intoxication could not be proved.
On Christmas Eve, a shooting at a popular Bellevue Square nightspot left one man dead and another injured. Munchbar’s Munch Sports Grill and its Mirror Ultra Lounge will not reopen. Kemper Freeman Jr., developer of the shopping mall, made the right call.
Wednesday, Bellevue Police Chief Linda Pillo demoted two senior police commanders for carrying on an eighth-month-long affair, the detritus of which spilled over into the small department. The affair was in violation of department policy.
I don’t know Pillo but I do know she’s got to get a grip on her department.
When Bellevue leaders six years ago pointed to a skyline full of construction cranes and bragged about taking on Seattle, I’m pretty sure they meant economically speaking.
Public safety is one of the biggest advantages for cities staking their futures on economic development. No one wants to invest where they don’t feel safe. That’s an adage worth repeating as one of the nation’s top names in commercial real estate, The Rockefeller Group, of Rockefeller Center fame, inks a deal to build a high-rise office complex in downtown Bellevue.
The development deal is more like Bellevue, a city that has benefitted from attracting corporate giants like Microsoft and swanky retail corridors that more than compete with Seattle. Think Neiman Marcus and Jimmy Choo stores.
As a 2009 Newsweek article said about the end of (traditional) suburbs, these communities outside of a major metropolis, “no longer represent a retreat from the tumult of American life, but the locus of it.”
Several years ago, Bellevue did a study that looked 20 years into the city’s future and found compelling arguments for investing in public services such as fire and police. But like many municipalities battered by the recession, Bellevue’s budgetary response has been to reduce public-safety jobs.
Easy to use the lingering cough of the recession to keep making cuts, but Bellevue might want to start talking about investing, rather than cutting, public services.
Few of us may have visited the Munchbar before the shooting took place. But most know the former nightspot’s retail neighbors, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel and other family-friendly places.
Personally, if I have to worry about landing in the middle of gun crossfire while I head to my favorite stores, I’ll stay home and shop online.
The ominous, and most recently salacious, headlines coming out of Bellevue are not good. They are a wake-up call.
Lynne K. Varner's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. Her email address is email@example.com Follow her on Twitter @lkvarner