January 27, 2020 Blog

Victory in Bellevue, WA!

What began as a chance meeting between two Bellevue, WA residents at a summer meeting of Indivisible Eastside in June of 2017, culminated last Tuesday night in a surprise proclamation in support of gun violence prevention efforts by the Bellevue City Council at its Study Session.

After the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, I was one of the many Eastside residents who wanted to become more active in the GVP movement. I stepped up to serve as a chapter leader for Moms Demand Action and attended a meeting in Kirkland hosted by Indivisible Eastside.

Hoping to meet like-minded residents and learn tactics to engage my neighbors, I arrived at the meeting and struck up a conversation with the gentleman seated next to me. Turns out, Dwight Schrage was a long-time Bellevue resident with a passion for gun violence prevention who immediately began sharing ideas with me. One thing led to another and I found myself working with a small but mighty group of committed Bellevue citizens: Peggy Albin, Melissa Clausen, Carolee Jones, and, of course, Dwight.

First, we presented to the planning commission but we were unable to convince leadership to amend their comprehensive plan to include a Vision Zero for Gun Safety initiative. Undeterred, we formulated a plan to create a resolution inspired by work being done in Kirkland. Over the course of the summer, meetings were held with nearly all Bellevue city leaders to discuss its passage. It became increasingly clear that while a resolution would be difficult, the majority of council members were supportive of the work.

The resolution was changed into a letter and with the help of Logan Rysemus at the Alliance, the letter was sent electronically to gun violence prevention advocates and nearly 250 signatures were captured and delivered to City Council members in advance of the January 21st meeting.

The Study Session meeting included a comprehensive review of Bellevue’s approach to gun violence prevention with presentations from various members of Bellevue city leadership including Police Chief Mylett. While the work the city does and the programs offered are, for now, creating a safe city, we know that there is more work to be done.

With this in mind, it was a wonderful surprise when Mayor Robinson stood before all in attendance and read a proclamation created by the city which in part stated, “[Bellevue City Government] strongly supports active partnerships with community groups, service providers, the Bellevue School District, and other law enforcement agencies….firearm safety [is] an ongoing matter of high importance and we pledge to proactively address it through communications, education, partnerships and law enforcement outreach.”

The moment was truly bittersweet. On one hand, we were jubilant at our first success! However, we couldn’t help but remember and reflect on a volunteer who worked tirelessly with us and other members of the Bellevue community, Alan Silverman, who sadly passed away early in the fall. We know he would have been as thrilled as we were to hear these words from the Mayor.

To everyone who worked on this effort, the words of Margaret Mead could not ring more true, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

–Beth Silverstein is a Bellevue resident and gun violence prevention advocate.