It's OK, Mike, we all make mistakes with sweaters.

It's OK, Mike, I regret every one of my sweater purchases, too.

When Mike Shepherd and I sat down for poached eggs back in March, there was still snow the ground, he had just started putting up yard signs, and Cary Bozeman was the strong incumbent with one oppontent: City Councilman Mike Shepherd. As of yesterday, Shepherd says he has 800 signs in the ground, is facing four oppontents in Tuesday’s primary, and none of them are the former mayor of Bellevue. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation over pints of Mac & Jacks at the South Pacific:

It’s he end of the primary.

It’s pretty cool. I’m ready for this phase of it to be over and see what happens next.

You were the only challenger for Cary Bozeman. Do you feel like everybody else has crashed your party?

No. Not crashed the party. But if somebody was serious about doing something, you’d think they’d do some preparations. So, we’ll see how it goes. I mean, it certainly helped me personally to do this mid-year, mid-term sprint.

When you got into the race, it seemed like your message was as the anti-Bozeman candidate. When we first spoke you said that too much attention had been paid to downtown and the outlying areas had been neglected. Is that still your position?

Well, just to clarify, it was wasn’t just being anti-Bozeman. I’ve been involved in the whole design of this re-development since before the beginning. I was the one that pulled the plug on the old original downtown plan which was done in ’89. So I have this whole history of knowing what the plan really was and is.

There were components of the plan that included buildings, like the government center and the convention center, and the marina. At that point though, that kind of focus on construction and buildings always was to shift and move to the next circle out, which would be the people, really, the residential areas immediately around the downtown. Because that’s where the people are that will come to the downtown. Downtown won’t work if people won’t come, and don’t value what’s down there. We needed to make that shift, and we weren’t making it.

But, downtown’s not there yet. Is it worth coming downtown yet?

It goes back to the whole planning concept. You know, you get your basic structures, then you have to work on the people in the immediate area and start filling it in with families. So that it’s vigorous and there’s people around, then businesses will come and provide those things that the people want.

The problem is though that the people that we expected to move here aren’t moving.

People from Seattle?

Yeah. There’s the condo piece of it, but that’s only a few hundred people total. That’s not enough to make the downtown. What we really always needed was the next section out from the downtown to let’s say Veneta and around Evergreen Park. And we have something like 10 percent, 15 percent vacancy there. And in addition, the pressure of families moving into this community hasn’t happened. And that’s because our drop-out rate is so high.

So, just to be clear, you’re saying that in order for downtown to be developed, we needed new people moving in here and those people weren’t necessarily going to be moving into the condos they were going to move into these neighborhoods that you’re saying have been neglected?

Yes. And that’s why we need to work on those neighborhoods, and work with our kids so that they don’t drop out of high school so quickly.

Everybody’s discussion is business or development or more buildings. That’s gonna come. The marina’s gonna work out. And the condos even are gonna work out. But that’s still not enough population to support the businesses that everybody envisioned. We need the neighborhoods immediately around here to function. But there’s no demand for it because the neighborhoods look pretty rough, they are pretty rough, and families won’t move here, when we have a record of drop outs that’s are as high as ours is.

— Chris Kornelis

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