Community Transformation IS Possible, by Tom Fodi

“Bellevue will never see new life again.”

“Bellevue’s a dying town.”

“There’s nothing you can do to save Bellevue!”

“Been there. Done that. Why bother with Bellevue?”

“Bellevue’s a lost cause.”

“If you try anything too bold in Bellevue, the powers that be will never let you get away with it.”

These were the responses many of us heard when we first went public with the idea that has become Liberty in Bellevue. We were told to not get our hopes up. We were warned that taking a chance on this town would only result in failure. We were threatened to “know our place in the community” and remember “who’s in charge!”

Numerous community revitalization projects have been launched throughout the past decade in Bellevue with little or no lasting impact. Business revitalization efforts, community spruce ups, and significant entrepreneurial investments have all come through Bellevue throughout the past 10-15 years, yet our borough remains in economic decline and disrepair. Our business district is marred by massive vacancies and lackluster enterprises. Our residential areas continue to see declining property values and abandonment. Why hasn’t all the hard work in revitalizing our community resulted in lasting improvements? Why haven’t we seen a renewed interest from investors in our borough? What have we been missing?

It only took a small amount of digging to figure out the source of all the problems in the community: a local government more concerned about power trips than nurturing a community open and inviting to new ideas and economic growth.

Why would a restaurateur invest in Bellevue when they know they’ll have to fight tooth and nail for outdoor seating or other creative/essential ideas to attract customers? When other communities do all they can to recruit entrepreneurs, why would anyone risk opening a new boutique or shop in Bellevue when our local leadership actively discourage risk-taking and investment? Why would a first time home buyer consider purchasing in a new home in a “walkable community” with very little to offer in its business district and ever declining property values? Is there any wonder why our school district is buckling under the financial burden of a reduced tax base?

I stumbled upon this short video the other day and was inspired by what Mr. Roberts was able to accomplish in his community in Dallas. Where others saw a dying community, Mr. Roberts envisioned opportunity for new development. Where there were laws discouraging community growth and revitalization, Mr. Roberts decided to stand up to the over regulation discouraging the growth local officials claimed to desire.

It took a little risk. It took a little investment of time/money. It took a lot of hard work. But, at the end of the day, Mr. Roberts and those who joined him in the “Better Block” program were able to overcome the hurdles and see their dilapidated community transformed.

Sometimes, in the midst of the endless arguing, power grabs, and childish ego trips, its easy to forget why we ever began the effort which became Liberty in Bellevue. Liberty in Bellevue began with a goal much like Mr. Roberts – to bring renewed life and growth to Bellevue. After countless efforts to demonstrate to the powers that be that clinging to the past and personal power trips will NOT lead to rejuvenation and growth, it has become strikingly clear to us that the only way forward for Bellevue is to expose the root of the problem to the average person living here. The residents need to see that their elected leaders are far more concerned with the needs of their friends and neighbors and micromanaging borough employees, than with the economic collapse of the borough. The voters need to be made aware that efforts to revitalize and reinvest in the community have been intentionally choked to death by over regulation, jealousy, and egos run amok. The people needed to know that growth will never happen until the proper pruning is done.

Though we’ve been cast off by some as rabble rousers and radicals, all should know that no one involved in Liberty in Bellevue has willingly put their reputations on the line just for the fun of it. Everyone involved in Liberty in Bellevue have day jobs, families, friends, and a whole host of other responsibilities in which they’d rather put their time and energy. We’re not political gurus. We have no ulterior motives. The one thing that draws us together, the one thing that keeps us keeps us moving forward with the mission of Liberty in Bellevue is a love for our community, a love for Bellevue. We see what Bellevue has become. We see where Bellevue is headed. We desperately want to help Bellevue become what it always should have been.

When we look at our crumbling business district, rather than simply seeing economic blight, we see amazing opportunity. We envision a business district chalk full of creative shops, unique restaurants, and a fun-filled community life attracting folks from around the city and encouraging locals to walk to a “night out on the town” rather than driving to a neighboring community.

When we look at our dilapidated residential areas, rather than seeing a lost cause, we see fantastic investment potential. We envision streets lined with freshly renovated, well maintained houses inhabited by families and individuals proud to call Bellevue home with the knowledge that their investments are secure and their children are safe.

We envision a community where the needs of both the young and the elderly are met and all are able to greet one another as neighbors.

We envision a Bellevue that truly is a beautiful view of life well lived in a healthy, thriving community.

Check out the video below and be inspired. Be inspired by the community transformation that IS possible. Be inspired to be part of the solution that brings new life to Bellevue. Be inspired to liberate Bellevue from its downward spiral. Be inspired to vote on May 21st for new leadership and new possibilities for Bellevue.


12 Responses to “Community Transformation IS Possible, by Tom Fodi”

  1. Great post Tom! The video is fantastic and the guy presenting is hilarious! Everyone should watch this!!!

  2. That was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever watched. To know that the LiB team has sat around and tossed around ideas just like the ones that he spoke of in the video gives me the hope and motivation to know that we’re doing good for Bellevue. I sat in my office, alone, watching the video for the first time and literally applauded at the end of it. It was that good, that relatable for me and for our borough. So much symbolism and parallel situations to what our borough is dealing with right now. To me, the cartoon character at the end when he says that people have to “show up” represents our leadership in the borough…the people that simply hate everything new and innovative.

    How can we get some face time at a council meeting to publicly show this video to council?!? People in their positions should be taking the time to go online, research what other towns are doing to innovate, move forward and attract newness to town…but instead, they’re regulating, regulating, regulating, one ridiculous ordinance after another, one ridiculous reason to spend tax payer dollars and “budget” a bunch of stuff that makes no sense for our town. It’s time to really take a look at these people, their vision for the town (or lack thereof, or refusal to actually expose it to us), and it’s time for the voters to really think about the future when voting in May! CHANGE IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER!!!

  3. They are also talking to neighborhoods that “hate their bump outs” too don’t forget…not the towns that are thriving. GREAT video! Thanks for sharing it!

  4. IM A BELIEVER ! For 12 long years ive been trying to get these points across and i am so incredibly encouraged and excited now, because now people are paying attention, now people are learning what is really going on and now, the new majority of people getting involved and speaking up are forward thinkers and have a vision. Now, finally – we are poised for positive change and we can do it , we can make this town all that it can and should be !!!

  5. I forgot to say- Thank you L I B and all the people who care and take the time to get involved in one way or another !!! Aso – this video is great !!

  6. The towns that council are using as anti-bump out backers have 20+ year old bump outs. As mentioned by many professionals on the subject, bump outs have progressed and evolved a lot since the 90’s. But then again, our council majority is stuck in the 60’s…so who can blame ’em for using/seeking out dated information? After all, the more dated the info, the better it serves their agenda! These people are holding the town back, they’re unsupportive of new and innovative ideas, they can’t wrap their minds around out-of-box thinking and strategy. Marketing the town is beyond their capabilities. Without some new council members…we will just keep spinning our wheels in reverse.

    This video and the other videos about this project should be REQUIRED homework for all Bellevue council members! It’s so inspiring and motivating, how can it not make them want to see the town turn around?!

  7. 7:24 —- do it! 😀

  8. Great video. Change is coming for sure.

  9. I have heard those things an awful lot too except when I say this town is declining I don’t just stop there. I use it to fuel energy to do something to help restore what it once was. As Tom said those statements were not made in a vacuum. There are people that think that and do nothing and there are those that want to help whether it be politically, through volunteerism, picking up trash on .the street , working on the PTO’s etc. Did you watch the video? Especially the part where he invites his council and they actually show up and enjoyed themselves? Council needs to be a whole lot more open with the community and accepting of others ideas…if coder Helbling did that then shame on them as well.

  10. Ted talk videos are a great place for many venues of inspiration. I think with this one shows how the community and not just a few members of an elected council can have an impact. It seems that today some people are relying too much on govt. as though it is a separate entity that rules over all thing better. I very much encourage groups to unite and bring forth visions and realize with a positive manner that many times you are the reason for growth in a community.
    Local govt. has the responsibility to represent and ensure that the representations of the said voters are upheld with reasonable merit. Is your elected person representing your voice? Are you getting your group together to be creative and spark this town with passion and flame? No burning permit needed for the last line typed. Let’s do this together and enjoy life!

  11. Vencent,
    I completely agree with you! We cannot expect our elected officials to do these things, as it’s outside of their job description. But in order for the groups of people that want to see change to actually be successful, the elected officials must get behind them, champion them, and support them with their requests and submissions. If we could have that, we could make so much progress here!!
    Thank you for chiming in on this issue, it’s wonderful to know that you’ve watched this inspiring video and see it in such a positive light! I’ve taken the time to watch all of the videos on the “better block” website and it’s been so inspiring to see other places that are really pushing for the future of their towns!

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