Longtime Bellevue City Council member – and current appointed mayor – Claudia Balducci last week announced her intention to challenge incumbent King County Council member Jane Hague in District 6 this year. Balducci has proven to be a loyal liberal vote since her election to the council in 2004, and counts as one of her top achievements her position on the Sound Transit Board since 2010.
It is on that board that Balducci has shown her partisan Democrat stripes as an unwavering supporter of light rail, despite all the wasted taxpayer dollars and lies associated with its construction.
After her selection to the mostly ceremonial position of mayor (Bellevue is run as a council-manager form of government) last year, King County Executive Dow Constantine— who chairs the Sound Transit Board—then created a new make-work position for Balducci on his staff, seemingly so he could buy her loyalty at Sound Transit, and in Bellevue, with taxpayer money. Her long and bureaucratic title was “Strategy Section Manager for Criminal Justice in the King County Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget.” Earlier this month, Balducci resigned from that position in order to concentrate on her campaign.
The fact that Balducci is seeking to expand her sphere from influence by running for King County’s District 6 seat, whichencompasses Bellevue, Beaux Arts, Clyde Hill, Kirkland, Mercer Island, Medina, Hunts Point and Yarrow Point, is interesting for two rather relevant reasons. Both have to do with Balducci’s staunch support of light rail, without any regard for taxpayers dollars or any concern for government accountability.
1. Balducci has long backed the Seattle-centric vision of Sound Transit’s East Link rail project, which is due to begin constructing a portion of its light rail and transit station through the Mercer Slough Nature Park along Bellevue Way. As Shift has reported, the prospect of permanent environmental damage to a treasured nature park has stirred opposition. It’s important to note that, contrary to Balducci and others’ denials, the current light rail plan runs through – not next to – the slough, due to the amount of construction space Sound Transit claims to need.
Balducci will have to explain to the Bellevue voters she seeks to represent on the King County Council how she could so callously step on the interests of their community in favor of a transit agency that has proven itself—time and time again—untrustworthy. Particularly, given the circumstances, Balducci will have to address the conflict-of-interest apparent in her employment at King County under the Sound Transit Board chair, while serving as a Bellevue city councilmember.
2. The East Link rail project favored by Balducci will also result in the closure of the South Bellevue Park and Ride (a traffic headache in itself). Initially, Balducci and her Sound Transit colleagues thought it would be a good idea to divert the vast majority of those cars to Mercer Island’s park-and-ride. But, since the park-and-ride is not big enough to handle the extra cars, that meant constructing a new parking garage. The location they choose was in Luther Burbank Park.
Mercer Island residents were not happy with the plan once they found out last year what was about to happen. Organizing a petition, residents demanded that Sound Transit’s plans to permanently damage Luther Burbank be halted. They got their demand, plans were placed on hold and Sound Transit is still attempting to figure out what to do. Given the uproar, we can’t imagine Mercer Island voters will be too keen on the prospect of voting in a county councilmember determined to go against their community’s wishes for the sake of a project that has already cost taxpayers millions more than initially promised.