Friday, October 3, 2014

Hear the Bellevue candidates

     The Pizza and Politics forum featuring candidates for the Bellevue City Council on Wednesday, Oct 8, at 6:30 p.m. at the elementary school cafeteria is where voters may decide if their three incumbent council members are taking the city where they want it to go or if three challengers would do a better job.

     The election is shaping up as a referendum on whether the city will embrace an annexation that would locate a mile-long commercial strip of 90 acres along state Highway 75 between the downtowns of both Bellevue and Hailey.

     It’s also a referendum on who should drive decisions in Bellevue—elected officials or key city employees and private developers.

     These days, Mayor Chris Koch, who is running unopposed for re-election, defers to Planning Director Craig Eckles to set the agenda for consideration of the council. In public, Eckles leaned hard on members of the Planning and Zoning Commission when they rubber-stamped the developers’ zoning requests in a single meeting.

     The latest insult to the public process was the mayor’s suggestion that a citizens’ advisory committee on the Comprehensive Plan meet behind closed doors on sweeping comprehensive plan rewrites that would blow a hole in nearly 40 years of zoning that has kept commercial development largely confined to existing downtowns. He eventually determined that the meetings should be open to the public.

     In Bellevue’s last election, few people paid any attention when now-incumbent Councilors Larry Plott and Barb Patterson said they would welcome big-box store development. Now that the issue is real, voters need to know with certainty where all of the candidates stand.

     Voters should not miss the forum and the opportunity to cast a well-informed vote in November on the leadership and public processes they want in Bellevue.

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