It is a shame that someone who isn’t yet elected to serve the people of Bellevue must remind those who are of their role and authority. During the Regular Meeting of Bellevue Council in June, Councilwoman Heffley stated that she, the mayor, and the chief of police decided to, among other things, reduce the hours in which the public would have access to Bayne Park. She stated that the chief had the authority to remove people in the park past their privately decided new hours. I wrote a letter concerning this issue two weeks ago and Ms Heffley responded by reiterating her position by writing, “The chief has the authority to take such action and I wholeheartedly support his decisions.”
At this week’s Bellevue Pre-Council meeting I confronted council for not correcting this usurpation of authority as it effectively broke the law. The reason the decision Ms Heffley spoke of is illegal is due to the restraints and procedures put into place by Bellevue’s Home Rule Charter. As with most rules and procedures in Bellevue, park hours are determined by ordinance. In order to amend an ordinance the following sections of the Home Rule Charter apply.
Article 3-306: All councilmanic authority shall be asserted by the councilmanic body only. No individual councilman shall have any authority whatsoever under this Charter.
Article 4-407: Official actions of the Council must be taken by enactment of an ordinance, of a resolution, or by motion. All ordinances and resolutions must be in written form.
In other words, barring an emergency situation, no member of council, nor the mayor or chief of police, have the authority to change Bellevue’s park hours without going through the legally binding process of amending the necessary ordinance (a process which must include three public readings and a vote of the entire council).
I want to be perfectly clear. This letter shouldn’t be read as a challenge to Councilwoman Heffley alone. This letter should be read as a challenge to every current member of Bellevue Council to learn our system of government and follow it in all of its proceedings. Additionally, this letter should give all Bellevue residents cause for concern. If this ordinance was unilaterally amended by an offline, non-public decision of one, two, or three people, what other ordinances might have been enacted or amended in a similarly illegal and unethical fashion?
Before concluding this letter, I want to also reiterate my initial reason for writing my original letter two weeks ago. Not only should Bellevue Council educate itself on how it enacts new laws and restrictions on its residents. Bellevue Council needs to think long and hard about why it might enact such laws and restrictions. For instance, if the goal of writing new rules and restrictions for Bellevue parks is to keep them safe and enjoyable spaces for all, I challenge the members of council to consider how their actions will likely have the opposite effect. No one other than criminals and undesirables benefit when the use of public facilities and parks are restricted for law abiding citizens. Criminals and other unsavory actors prey on environments that are secluded and unpopulated.
If the desire is to create an environment where families and residents can have fun and feel safe while utilizing our parks, we shouldn’t be restricting access, rather we should be encouraging access. Bellevue Council should be seeking ways to encourage residents, families, and other “desirable people” to utilize the parks for which their tax dollars pay. Instead of telling the thousands of families and individuals who regularly walk their dogs around our parks they’re not welcome, we should be rescinding the dog ban immediately. Instead of telling families with a parent or guardian who smokes to have fun some place else, we should be drafting guidelines which protect those who may be bothered by such substances, but not banning them entirely. Instead of forbidding the elderly couple seeking relief from the heat of the sun from utilizing an otherwise vacant gazebo behind Bayne Library, we should be featuring the space as a welcome and inviting free location for outdoor activities which can also be reserved for larger, private functions.
Bellevue deserves better than what it’s getting from its current council. I challenge Bellevue residents to get involved and contact their council members and hold them accountable to the job they were elected to do.
Democrat/Republican Nominee for Bellevue Council