REDMOND — The candidates for Redmond mayor have lists of top issues common throughout the region, like housing, growth, transportation. But the two are also focusing on an issue that’s not as often brought up at the local level: climate change.
Redmond City Councilmember Steve Fields and City Council President Angela Birney, who are running against each other in the November general election, say they want their city to continue its role in the global effort to reduce climate change impacts.
Birney points to her work on the city Parks and Trails Commission to preserve open spaces and says she’ll bring an environmental lens to all city work. Fields says he’ll build into the budget a requirement that all departments show what they are doing to reduce their carbon footprint.
“Local government is the catalyst,” Fields said. “That’s where we have the best dialogue. It creates inertia and spreads city to city, then state to state, and beyond.”
Birney and Fields are running to replace Mayor John Marchione, who served for three terms. The next mayor will be tasked with leading a city facing rapid redevelopment and growth that shows no signs of stopping, especially with new light-rail service scheduled to start running during the next mayoral term.
The two candidates may have similar outlooks on Redmond’s efforts to combat climate change, but diverge in how they view the city government’s current performance in other areas. Fields has criticized the city’s past budget and planning decisions, such as the development of a downtown park that he says doesn’t serve the needs of residents. Birney is complimentary of the city’s work under Marchione and says she wants to build on Redmond’s strengths, such as its strong economy and diverse population.
Birney, 51, has been a councilmember since 2016. She was a chair on the Redmond Parks and Trails Commission, which advises city officials on how to improve Redmond’s parks, trails and recreational opportunities. She also taught middle-school science and volunteered with the Lake Washington Schools Foundation. She opted to run for Redmond mayor instead of another term on the city council.
Birney is endorsed by Marchione, who praised her knowledge of the issues facing the city and called her a leader in environmental issues. She worked to double the number of trees planted this year to increase the city’s tree canopy, bringing the city closer to its goal of having 40% of its area covered by tree foliage.
“She knows the issues, she studies her council packets and she comes to the meeting and asks about the outcomes,” Marchione said. “You can tell which council members read and understand their packets and which don’t, and you can always tell that Angela has prepared for the council meeting that night.”
Fields, 67, has served on the City Council since 2018 and owns Down Pour Coffee Bar in Redmond with his wife. He worked in the King County Executive’s Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget as an analyst and budget manager for more than 10 years; as a project manager in the King County Executive’s Office and as a strategic adviser in the City of Seattle’s city budget office. He also worked in the aerospace industry in Colorado and Washington and as a finance manager and consultant for private firms on the Eastside.
Rosemarie Ives, a four-term Redmond mayor from 1991 to 2007, said Fields’ executive experience sets him apart from his opponent. She first met him during his 2015 mayoral campaign — he lost to Marchione by 817 votes — and was impressed with his understanding that the mayor should be held accountable to “a city at a crossroads.”
Birney, who received 54% of the vote in the August primary election, has raised $103,811 as of Oct. 21. Fields received 35% of the primary vote and has raised $21,087.
With the incoming addition of light-rail service to Redmond, Birney said the city plans to reroute and improve the city’s own transit system so that residents can easily get from existing neighborhoods to the new developments. Ensuring that residents can use the new transit services and decreasing the number of people will need to drive to the stations “is going to be a huge challenge,” she added.
Fields said he wants to focus on improving transportation infrastructure so that the new light-rail service is an advantage for everyone, not just those living near the stations, and that “people don’t feel shame in their cars.”
Both candidates say they worry about residents being priced out of the area. In Redmond, the median home price is $840,000 and median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,800. The city needs to look at how it can offer a variety of housing options, Fields said, but first the city and residents need to agree on how they define affordability. Birney pointed to Kirkland’s new housing program where some apartment units are set aside for city employees as a possible solution Redmond could emulate.
“We want to create more opportunities for people to live where they work,” she said. “A lot of teachers can’t afford to live in Redmond, and that puts a burden on our school district as well.”
The new mayor will also work with a city council that has at least one new face, as there are four Redmond City Council races on the ballot. Of those four races, three have an incumbent and one seat, currently held by Birney, is open.
City Councilmember Hank Myers will face challenger Varisha Khan in the Position 1 race. Myers, a transportation consultant, has served on the City Council since 2008. Khan is a community organizer and former political-action-committee director for OneAmerica Votes.
Jessica Forsythe, an owner and creative director of a Redmond design studio, is running against incumbent Hank Margeson, for the Position 3 seat. Margeson, a Liberty Mutual Insurance senior compliance analyst, is running for a fourth term.
Redmond Planning Commissioner Vanessa Kritzer and Eugene Zakhareyev, an engineering manager, are running for Position 5. Centro Cultural Mexicano Executive Director Carlos Jimenez, is running to unseat City Council Vice President David Carson, a software test engineer, for Position 7.