The panel featured the seven candidates in the five city races on the November ballot — two of which are being contested.
City of Redmond planning commissioner Tom Flynn and Microsoft accountant Joel Wright are running for City Council Pos. 5 — currently held by Council President Richard Cole, who will retire at the end of this term. Redmond resident Sue Stewart is challenging incumbent council member David Carson for Pos. 7.
Redmond Mayor John Marchione and incumbent city council members Hank Myers (Pos. 1) and Hank Margeson (Pos. 3) are also up for reelection but are running unopposed.
Candidates answered five predetermined questions during the luncheon, which focused on the city’s future. It was clear, according to all seven candidates, that improving transportation and developing the economy are key factors in creating a thriving Redmond.
TOLLING ON 520
With State Route 520 being a key highway for the city and the Eastside, candidates were asked whether they supported I-1125, an initiative that if passed, would hinder tolling on the SR-520 bridge and other roads. Backed by Tim Eyman, this measure would prohibit the use of motor vehicle fund revenue and vehicle toll revenue for non-transportation purposes. In addition, it would require that road and bridge tolls be set by the Legislature — not the state Transportation Commission — and be project-specific. The initiative would break apart the state’s vision of using tolls to help build highways, according to analysis by the state Office of Financial Management (OFM).
Six out of the seven candidates said they opposed the initiative with Wright being the only one in favor of the initiative.
Flynn said he does not support the initiative because the lack of tolling money on the SR-520 bridge would delay construction of the new bridge.
“I do not support (I-1125),” she said.
Stewart said tolling on the bridge undercuts their ability to fund the construction project and would lower the government’s credibility because it would extend the project and add to its cost.
Carson, who also opposed the initiative, said drivers will take the route of least resistance and tolling on SR-520 will divert drivers to Interstate 90, causing more traffic on that bridge. He said the system would work better if both bridges were tolled.
Wright, the lone supporter of I-1125, said there are a number of concerns when it comes to tolling. He added that he thought the toll fees are too high.
Another key factor candidates spoke about in improving transportation in and around Redmond was making the streets accessible to all types of users: drivers, bus riders, cyclists and pedestrians.
Carson said one way to do this is to execute plans that have already been approved.
“There are a lot of things that we have done in the last four years,” he said.
Some of these plans are projects currently under construction, but Carson said one obstacle the city faces is funding because money doesn’t just grow on trees.
Many of the candidates said completing the street grid in downtown Redmond will also help in connecting the city for all users.
Light rail was another discussion topic when it came to transportation as it will be one more way to bring people to the city.
Mayor Marchione said the only way to get light rail to Redmond is to get it through Bellevue, so officials must find a way to accomplish this.
Margeson also said getting light rail to Redmond is important. He added that it is also crucial to keep close contact with King County Metro to ensure the agency continues providing bus service to Redmond and the Eastside. This is especially important as Metro faces major budget cuts, he said.
Flynn agreed, saying working with agencies is key in connecting people within Redmond as well as from outside the city.
Myers said to see these projects through, the city needs to find an adequate and reliable capital funding program.
“We continue to push off needed projects because lack of funding in the current six-year period,” he said.
The candidates said improving transportation in and around Redmond will bring more people into the city, which will help the local economy.
Another way to help the economy is to create a livelier downtown that will attract people. Wright said one way to do this is to get residents and businesses involved in the process of various projects downtown and keep city regulation to a minimum.
“Overregulation can stifle creativity,” he said.
Flynn said to bring more people into downtown, the area needs to be more inviting and have areas where people can gather, adding that working in artistic elements along the streets and throughout the area would help bring more people.
Stewart added that to create a livelier downtown, people need more choices for shopping, dining and recreation and said the city needs to coordinate and work together with businesses in the private sector as well.
Margeson said in working to achieve all of its goals, the city must also be fiscally responsible.
“This is a very difficult, challenging time,” he said.
Marchione said it is also important to make the downtown more walkable to “get people to act and to interact.” To do this, people need to have more places to go and things to do.
“You see an empty street, you don’t want to go there,” Marchione said.
To further economic development in Redmond, the candidates also said it is important for the city to provide roads, sidewalks and other infrastructure to support new residents and businesses coming into Redmond.
“We have to help get them here,” Marchione said.