TJ Filley aims to shift City Council’s priorities
October 11, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
The connector across Interstate 90 at state Route 900 — a $6.2 million bridge to carry bicyclists and pedestrians across the highway — looms large on the landscape and in newcomer TJ Filley’s campaign for a City Council seat.
The city relied on federal and Sound Transit dollars, plus about $350,000 in municipal funds, to complete the project. The connector opened to traffic July 1 after construction delays and cost overruns.
“When I first saw the bicycle and pedestrian overpass over on 90 being built, I originally thought, ‘Gee, they’re going to do something to make it so that traffic isn’t quite so bad around here,’” Filley said. “Then, after a couple months of them working on it, it started to become apparent what it was.”
Intrigued, Filley, 48, started to research the project to determine the reasons behind the City Council decision to start construction.
“I started looking into the project more and more,” he said. “The more I looked into it, the less sense it made to me.”
The project is not so much the problem as the process, Filley said. If elected, he said he intends to change how the council prioritizes transportation projects.
“It’s not that I’m against having bicycle trails or pedestrian overpasses, but it’s more that I didn’t understand how a project like that was given preference over other projects when Issaquah has some notoriously bad traffic problems,” he said.
Instead, city leaders should focus on transportation projects designed to alleviate traffic in Issaquah, Filley said.
“I think that some effort needs to be put into remediating traffic on Front Street,” he continued. “I don’t know exactly what that needs to look like, but that’s something that is a major problem for Issaquah. It is the bottleneck for getting anybody down into Olde Town.”
The council should also focus on using city dollars to complete high-priority projects, rather than relying on outside funds to complete lower-priority projects, such as the pedestrian connector, Filley said.
“That doesn’t mean bringing in additional taxpayer dollars from outside the city and trying to maximize the total dollars spent in the town,” he added. “It means making sure the projects that are most important to people that live here are the projects that are actually getting done.”
In November 2009, Council Transportation Committee members — Councilman Fred Butler, then-Councilman David Kappler and Filley’s opponent, Councilman Joshua Schaer — considered the pedestrian connector, but did not issue a recommendation to the council about how to proceed.
The project reached the council again in December 2009. Former Councilwoman Nancy Davidson and Getting Around Issaquah Together member Karen Behm urged council members to accept the grant, but nobody from the public spoke against the project. The council accepted a grant for the project in a 6-1 decision. Only Kappler dissented.
“There wasn’t a major outcry because most of the people of Issaquah are under the belief that the Issaquah City Council is in their best interests,” Filley said. “It’s when they’re doing something that comes out and is obviously not the most important project in town, that all of the sudden people are going to say, ‘Wait a minute. We need to figure out what’s happening here and we need to fix the process.’”
The onus is on the council to vet such projects — and citizens should be able to trust the board to make informed decisions, Filley said.
“They don’t want to have to micromanage their City Council,” he said. “They want the City Council to make sure that they are performing the priorities.”
The campaign for the Position 4 seat — the only contested race among four council positions up for election — is also creating a discussion about economic development in the city.
“I want to help ensure that those who want to develop in Issaquah have clear, consistent, predictable rules so that they can accurately estimate what their costs are going to be, what their ROI is going to be for when they want to develop in this town,” Filley said.
The council can create a system to encourage businesses to relocate to or set up in Issaquah in the years ahead, he said.
“The primary job of a City Council is to create policy,” Filley continued. “The passion that I have is that I want to help Issaquah change their policies to industry-best practices for management of their portfolios. I want to make sure the taxpayers are getting the maximum value possible out of the taxpayer dollars.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.