Lynne Robinson first got involved in Bellevue city issues a decade ago when, as president of the Woodridge Garden Club, she organized a letter-writing campaign advocating that the city purchase a 25-acre property in the neighborhood.
Because that effort succeeded, trails now wind through the Woodridge Open Space, where dozens of condominiums otherwise might have been built.
“I loved that the council listened to the community and made decisions for the community. I wanted to be part of that,” Robinson said.
Now, after six years on two city advisory panels, she is running for City Council.
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Competing against Robinson for an open council seat is Vandana Slatter, who offers a very different background.
Slatter, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Canada of parents from India, looks a lot like the changing face of Bellevue, where thousands of foreign-born people have settled to work in the region’s high-tech industries.
A regional senior medical liaison for biotech firm Amgen, Slatter served on the NARAL Pro-Choice Washington Foundation board, and as a member of the state Board of Pharmacy supported its decision to allow an individual pharmacist — but not an entire pharmacy — to opt out of dispensing the Plan B morning-after contraceptive.
She is now on the Overlake Hospital Medical Center Foundation board.
“I reflect the Bellevue of today, and I believe I also reflect the Bellevue of tomorrow,” Slatter said.
Robinson and Slatter are running for the council seat held by longtime member Don Davidson. Slatter edged out Davidson in the primary, 26 percent to 25. Robinson dominated the primary with 48 percent, even though Slatter spent a record amount on her largely self-financed campaign.
The makeup of the council also will be determined by the outcome of the race between incumbent Kevin Wallace and Steve Kasner. A third council race pits Mayor and 20-year Councilmember Conrad Lee against Lyndon Heywood, a native of the United Kingdom who has done no fundraising.
Robinson emphasizes her deep roots in the community, where she has volunteered in schools since 1998 and has chaired the city’s Network on Aging and its Parks and Community Services Board.
Among her accomplishments, Robinson counts lobbying parks staff and the City Council to make completion of Downtown Park a higher priority and to fund projects, such as Meydenbauer Bay Park, that had been put on hold.
“I think that as we improve the downtown livability,” Robinson said, “we are going to attract more employees who want to live downtown and work downtown, and that attracts more employers.”
Those employers, in turn, would pay taxes for public safety, parks and other city functions, she said.
Other priorities for Robinson are putting an idled fire engine back in service, improving routes for bicyclists and pedestrians and providing more affordable housing in the Bel-Red Corridor.
Slatter says that for years she had no intention of running for office in Bellevue.
“I thought it was doing really well,” she said. “But the last five years we’ve been kind of bogged down on light-rail discussions.”
As a candidate who has not “been in the fray,” Slatter said, she can help Bellevue focus on something larger: “the vision conversation about where it’s going to be in 10 or 20 years.”
“I’m data-driven, I’m solutions-oriented; I like to bring people to the table and build bridges.”
Slatter said her discussions with residents while campaigning have convinced her that relieving neighborhood traffic congestion must be a city priority. She also wants to accelerate construction of a downtown fire station.
In the absence of major philosophical or political differences between the candidates, Slatter said, “It’s more about style. Our values aren’t that different. We come from similar values-based backgrounds. I think it will come down to style and leadership and approaches.”
Both candidates sought the endorsement of King County Democrats for the nonpartisan position. After Robinson won that battle, Slatter attacked her in the primary as “an insider who plays politics in partisan organizations.”
After the primary, Slatter won endorsements from three of the City Council’s more conservative members — Davidson, Jennifer Robertson and Wallace.
A fundraiser for Slatter, co-hosted by Wallace’s mother Joan Wallace, “indicates to people you are embracing special interests,” Lynne Robinson says. “That’s the very thing I want to get away from.”
Accepting support from conservative, downtown business interests hasn’t changed her political perspective, Slatter says. “I’ve told Republicans, ‘You know I’m progressive, you know who’s endorsed me. Are you OK with me?’ ”
Two of the council’s more liberal members, John Chelminiak and John Stokes, have endorsed Robinson. Councilmember Claudia Balducci endorsed both candidates.
The Municipal League rated Robinson very good and Slatter good.
Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or firstname.lastname@example.org