Bellevue Reporter: Council roundup: Stokes, Chelminiak sworn in as new city leaders

by Bellevue Reporter | Jan 07, 2016

In majority votes, council members John Stokes and John Chelminiak were sworn in Monday night as mayor and deputy mayor.

Former deputy mayor Kevin Wallace finished second in the mayoral race behind Stokes' four votes with three of his own. Newly-reelected council member Jennifer Robertson had three votes to Chelminiak's four in the deputy mayoral vote.

Bellevue's council members nominate who they would like to vote for in the position, then a paper ballot is submitted. Previous elections were decided by going around the council and asking each member to nominate a candidate and then having a vote. If that nominee was not elected, it passed to the next councilmember to nominate a member. It could be a lengthy process.

"This was a smooth vote and a good meeting," Stokes said. "I'm still getting used to the title."

Stokes has been on Bellevue's City Council since taking office in 2012 and in that time has advocated strongly for more affordable housing options in Bellevue. He plans to continue that crusade as mayor.

"Council member [Lynne] Robinson and I have worked together on affordable housing strategies," he said. "We've been working on a strong action plan, and hope to have a full plan developed by years end, which is quite soon considering all the details."

Other big projects Stokes is excited to work on include Sound Transit's operations and maintenance satellite facility (OMSF) and the nascent Tateuchi Center as well as downtown livability.

"We now have 12,000 people living downtown," Stokes said. "That's a major growth in five years. And with Kemper Freeman projects like Lincoln Square, there's potential for more. We're starting to work on neighborhoods in the city, and it's a lot to deal with."

For Chelminiak, this tenure as deputy mayor will be his second. He served in the position in 2006 and 2007.

"It's very nice to be a part of city leadership," he said. "And I think we've got a good team."

Chelminiak is anticipating work on zoning for the Sound Transit East Link light rail stops in Bellevue, one at City Hall and the other at Overlake Hospital. Adding a permanent location for the men's homeless shelter in the city is also on his agenda.

The mayor and deputy mayor have disagreed in the past, but nothing quite like former mayor Claudia Balducci and Wallace. The changed dynamic on the council will be interesting to see, Stokes and Chelminiak said.

"It was tough to lose Claudia," Chelminiak said. "But I think we got a very good person in her place [newly elected council member Vandana Slatter]. John [Stokes] and I work together really well. I think it's going to be a good term."

In other council news:

• Council agreed to the terms for a $1 million state grant to start work on Meydenbauer Bay Park. 

The grant will be funded through the State of Washington’s Recreation Conservation Office, and will help Bellevue expand the existing Meydenbauer Beach Park east along the waterfront. Bellevue has pledged a matching $1 million contribution as part of the grant’s terms.

The park is located near Downtown Bellevue and runs across Northeast 1st Street and Lake Washington Boulevard Northeast. The planned park, when finished, will be 10 acres or a quarter-mile and will connect downtown with the waterfront. 

Phase 1 of the park’s development includes stream daylighting, beach and shoreline improvements, canoe and kayak tie-ups, pathways, trails, landscaping and restroom and pier construction.

Estimates for total costs range just over $12 million between 2014 and 2017. Bellevue applied for the grant in April of 2014.

• Council agreed to extend a residential parking zone near Interlake High School.

The Zone 2 residential parking permit area will include Northeast 25th Street between 162nd Avenue and 164th Avenue Northeast. 

Bellevue’s comprehensive plan allows for permitted areas to reduce parking spillover on residential streets. The area was expanded in 2012 and 2013 to deal with Interlake’s growing student population.

Zone 2 parking restricts parking between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. to those who have a prominently displayed permit.

• Council accepted the terms of another grant from the State of Washington’s Recreation Conservation Office, this one a $250,000 matching grant to replace the synthetic turf at Robinswood Park.

The grant is part of an ongoing parks refurbishment plan to improve Bellevue’s Parks and Recreation.

Much of the improvements are focused on safety in the parks and reducing potential liability to the city.  This includes maintenance, repairs, improved lighting and an improved trail system, as well as dock and tie-up maintenance for shoreline or waterway-adjacent parks.