If you were driving through Bellevue this morning and noticed firefighters waving signs for city council candidate Keri Andrews, get used to it: the firefighters plan to be out there every day between now and the election.
Why the passion and effort behind Andrews and her race against two-term incumbent Phil Noble? Chronic under-staffing has made Bellevue response times some of the worst in the nation, putting lives at risk and threatening the department’s accreditation. And that could mean huge premium bumps for residents and businesses should the insurance industry lower Bellevue’s Public Protection Classification.
“We are very concerned about our ability to provide a timely response to fire and medical emergencies,” Bruce Ansell, president of Bellevue’s firefighters union, said, “If the people of Bellevue really understood how serious this problem is, they would be asking the City Manager some very pointed questions.”
But rather than fixing the problem the city council keeps lowering the bar. In 2001 the council rejected the national standard of 5 minutes or less for emergency response time as too stringent, adopting instead a target of 6 minutes, 90% of the time… a goal they have not met since 1997. Now, in preparation for review of its accreditation, the city is setting a standard of 8 minutes, 80-percent of the time… almost twice as long as Seattle’s average response time of 4 minutes, 19 seconds.
If Bellevue voters want to continue electing conservative, anti-tax councilmembers like Noble, they could pay with their lives. Or they could elect a progressive like Andrews and get the kind of public service they demand.