Among issues of concern is the proposed men’s shelter in the city’s Eastgate neighborhood.
Directly across Interstate 405 from her law office, Karol Brown can see the site of a proposed Bellevue men’s shelter. A longtime Democratic Party activist and candidate for Position 4 on the Bellevue City Council, Brown supports the Eastgate shelter location and is critical of the city’s yearlong debate over the issue.
“We need to deal with the homelessness problem on the Eastside, and we need to do that sooner rather than wait and delay and stall,” said Brown, an immigration attorney who also lives in the Eastgate neighborhood.
Her opponent in the race, Jared Nieuwenhuis, a marketing executive and community volunteer, supports a men’s shelter in Bellevue, but not at the Eastgate location. He has campaigned as a “champion of the neighborhoods” who promises more outreach and more transparency over shelter siting. He argues that the city should have sought buy-in from the surrounding neighbors before agreeing with King County to explore the Eastgate location in August 2016.
“I got into the race because the city was getting away from the ideals of the ‘Bellevue Way’ — getting substantial feedback from neighborhoods and reaching consensus on significant projects. The shelter epitomized that,” said Nieuwenhuis, a board member of the Lake Hills Neighborhood Association who also serves on the city’s Parks Board and the board of LifeWire, a domestic-violence service provider on the Eastside.
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A third candidate, Heidi Chiat, a Bellevue substitute schoolteacher through June 2014, opposes the shelter location. She calls its plans to house 100 men “too much testosterone in one place” and said she’d like to see several smaller shelters around the city that are better integrated into their neighborhoods.
“People are upset,” Chiat said. “The city handled it poorly.” But she is also concerned about the stereotypes of homeless men as drug addicts and sexual predators that she’s heard during the debates over the issue.
“These are people with an income problem, with a lack-of-support problem,” she said.
Chiat, the only renter in the race, also said she would support more affordable housing in the city as well as property-tax relief for seniors on fixed incomes, including cutting their taxes in half if they’re willing to sell below market value to a young family. She also advocates universal child care and preschool that could be paid for with what she describes as “administrative waste” in the Bellevue School District.
Both of her opponents are also concerned about Bellevue’s skyrocketing home prices.
Brown said she’d like to see the city partner with nonprofit housing developers to build more units in the range of 50 to 80 percent of median income.
“We want to remain a city where our police officers and janitors can afford to live,” Brown said.
Nieuwenhuis also supports Bellevue’s increasing its supply of affordable housing. He said permitting could be streamlined and incentive zoning added so developers include affordable units in new projects in exchange for extra height. He also said the city needs to adjust its multifamily tax exemption program because too few developers are taking advantage of it to build affordable units.
“Clearly the incentives are not strong enough,” he said.
Brown, who served as chair of the 41st Legislative District Democrats from 2011 through 2016, has picked up endorsements from numerous Democratic office holders, including all of the 41st District delegation, Reps. Judy Clibborn and Tana Senn and Sen. Lisa Wellman. Brown also has the support of Bellevue City Council members John Stokes and Lynne Robinson, as well as former Councilmember Vandana Slatter.
Brown has received campaign contributions of about $20,000 and has added $3,000 of her own money, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.
Nieuwenhuis has won endorsements from Bellevue City Council members Kevin Wallace, who is stepping down from the Position 4 seat, Jennifer Robertson, Conrad Lee and Ernie Simas. He has also been endorsed by the Eastside Business Alliance, the Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties and The Seattle Times.
Nieuwenhuis has raised about $28,000 for the race. He is running as an independent but has mostly supported Republican candidates with his political contributions.
Chiat describes herself as a Bernie Sanders Democrat Socialist who has also worked with Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant and would like Bellevue to adopt a $15 minimum wage. She has not reported any campaign contributions, but said she will spend about $4,000 of her own money. She declined to provide a photo, saying she has received messages from Bellevue residents about her campaign “bordering on threats.”
The Bellevue City Council is a nonpartisan body, though members and candidates come from various political backgrounds.
Correction, July 25, 2017: Jared Nieuwenhuis’ position with the Lake Hills Neighborhood Association was incorrect. He is a board member.