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Is it time for Cuba to ease travel restrictions?

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Administration of President Barack Obama is pushing hard for the normalization of economic and cultural ties with Cuba, a long-time official adversary of the United States since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. The latest news, reported in the Wall Street Journal, easing restrictions on air travel to Cuba for Americans, is, in many ways, more impactful than the opening of a new U.S. embassy in Havana. But an important question remains: what happens after they land?

Presently, an American travelling to Cuba is largely restricted to the whims of an official government-approved guide, with reasonable exceptions. In practical terms, an official guide makes sense. For instance, Cuba has two currencies: the Cuban peso (CUP) for Cubans and the Cuban convertible peso (CUC) for tourists. An official guide can help an American traveler quickly understand the distinction, along with other practical reasons, like currency exchange rates and locations, taxi services, etc. However, travelling freely in Cuba, an American could stop and ask a rural farmer why he’s spreading rice on a country road to dry, instead of selling his crop. He could freely ask why Cuban baseball players continue to risk life-and-limb to flee Cuba, or he could more freely ask his waiter at a paladar what type of free enterprise restrictions are cumbersome to business expansion and private enterprise. It would certainly expand American cultural awareness if travel guides within Cuba didn’t have to go through rigorous government processes.

Allowing Americans to travel freely within Cuba will definitely lead to positive change, there is no doubt. Freedom of ideas and freedom of commerce will change Cuba and, in the process, change the United States.   

Tags:  Cuba  CUC  CUP  Havana  Wall Street Journal 

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405 Express Toll Lanes Coming September 27

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Express toll lanes between Bellevue and Lynnwood are coming to Interstate 405 this fall, beginning September 27? So where can commuters separate fact from fiction? A good place to start is the WSDOT-produced YouTube video embedded with this post.

WSDOT’s dedicated I-405 Express Toll Lanes website is here. If you don’t want to click the link or watch the video, the below quick facts that will probably answer your questions. Another great spot for information is our Transportation Committee page where you can download a WSDOT PowerPoint presentation delivered at the Chamber in June.

1.       Express toll lanes on I-405 between Bellevue and Lynnwood will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

2.       The minimum toll rate will be $.075. The maximum toll rate will be $10.00. The average toll rate will be between $1.00 - $4.00.

3.       There are exemptions for transit, vanpools, motorcycles, and carpools with a Good To Go! account and pass. Carpools, however, will need a Flex Pass as well as a Good To Go! pass.

4.       Carpools of 3+ will be exempt from paying a toll at all times, as long as a 3+ carpool has a Flex Pass with the “HOV” choice showing. 2+ carpools are exempt from tolls except between 5:00 – 9:00 am and 3:00 – 7:00 pm on weekdays.

5.       Good To Go! rates will be displayed when you enter the I-405 Express Toll Lanes. The price you see upon entering the lanes is the rate you’ll pay – even if you see a higher price down the road. To enter the lanes, merge left until you reach a dashed-line access point, or use a direct access ramp from NE 6th Street in Bellevue or NE 128th in Kirkland.

For other contact points, email, find the Express Toll Lanes team on Twitter @GoodToGoWSDOT, or find them at

Tags:  Express Toll Lanes  Interstate 405  Washington State Department of Transportation 

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Bellevue's 2016-2027 Transportation Facilities Plan

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Tuesday, July 14, 2015

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Bellevue City Council will adopt the City’s 2016-2027 Transportation Facilities Plan (TFP), a 12-year transportation program of high priority projects that typically represents the first step in getting projects funded and built. A lot of work is to be done before the Plan is adopted, of course.

This morning Scott Lampe, the chair of Bellevue’s Transportation Commission, and Mike Ingram, a senior planner with the city’s Transportation Department, presented on the Transportation Commission’s recommendations for the TFP. The capital recommendations include 54 projects: nine are already fully funded in the City’s current 2015-2021 Capital Investment Program (CIP), 18 are categorized as priority projects, 16 are to be implemented in conjunction with other projects, and 11 are ped-bike projects that have been carried over from the previous TFP.

The City Council, the Transportation Commission, and the Chamber agree that planning, funding, and building capital transportation projects in a thoughtful way is integral to Bellevue’s future as the economic and cultural heart of the Eastside - a place people want to live, work, and play. The Chamber is eager to weigh-in with the City soon to share our capital transportation priorities, which will certainly include adding capacity to Bellevue Way out to I-90, a project already identified by the City as a priority going forward. The Chamber’s official communications with the City on this topic will be shared on this blog soon.

For now, check out the Transportation Committee page here for documents from this morning’s meeting and other meetings for your perusal. Be sure to check out the Transportation Commission’s recommendations and weigh-in on what you think with Mike Ingram at or with the Chamber at

Tags:  Bellevue City Council  Bellevue Transportation Commission  Mike Ingram  Scott Lampe 

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Major Bellevue Development Activity

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Monday, June 29, 2015
Check out this handy-dandy PDF from the City of Bellevue Development Services department. Suffice to say, development and commerce in Bellevue is moving forward nicely! Walk around Downtown, or in Bel-Red, or Eastgate, or any number of Bellevue's wonderful neighborhoods, and you will see signs of robust economic activity and progress!

Tags:  Bellevue  Bel-Red  Development Services  Downtown  Eastgate 

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Bellevue Chamber & Eastside Chambers Advocacy Pays Off: the Business Community Rejoices!

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Monday, June 29, 2015

The Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition advocated persistently over the past two plus years for a statewide transportation package anchored by an increase in the gas tax. The Eastside needs investments in I-405, SR-520, and I-90, among many other important projects and maintenance and operations needs. The wait for a badly needed transportation package was frustrating for Bellevue and the Eastside and, fortunately, appears to be over.

A final package has not yet been officially voted on, nor has it been published, but the details are generally well understood. A gas tax increase of fewer than twelve cents phased in over a four year period anchors the package. That increase will help fund vital congestion-relieving, capacity-adding projects like $1.3 billion to upgrade I-405, $1.5 billion to complete the SR-520 overhaul, and a variety of other big ticket items, like congestion relief on I-5, I-90, SR-509, and SR-167. 

Additionally, the transportation package will provide authority for local governments to raise transportation revenue. The most notable authority will be given to Sound Transit, a regional transit authority with taxing authority in Snohomish, King, and Pierce County. The package will give Sound Transit the authority to ask the voters for $15 billion in funding for Sound Transit 3 (ST3), a ballot measure for voters coming in November of 2016. ST3 would build more light rail service and expand regional bus service, a plan Sound Transit considers critical for a fast-growing and densifying Puget Sound populace.

As the precise details of the transportation package are revealed over the coming days, it is important to remember that Eastside chambers pushed legislators toward this goal by sending repeated emails and calls, hosting events, and publicly testifying countless times to the importance of upgrading our transportation infrastructure and providing relief to commuters and freight-haulers. The public investments outlined in this transportation package are long overdue and will help propel our economy forward.

Tags:  East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative  Sound Transit 

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Getting Ever-So-Close to a Transportation Package

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Wednesday, March 18, 2015

This morning a handful of representatives of the Eastside business community and the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition met with 41st District Representative Judy Clibborn, the Chair of the House Transportation Committee. The purpose of the meeting was to get a briefing from Rep. Clibborn on the way forward on a transportation package. We left hopeful, and believe the stumbling blocks in the way of a transportation package can be dealt with in a timely manner. In fact, public discussion of a transportation in the House will begin on Thursday, March 26, at 3:30 in Olympia.

Bellevue and the Eastside need transportation investments, and that is why we testified in favor of the Senate’s transportation package in February. The vast majority of Eastside employees and employers commute to and from work, and places in between, on Interstate 405. The Senate package includes corridor widening on I-405 between Renton and Lynnwood, along with other vital Eastside transportation needs like the completion of SR-520 and the 148th Avenue Overlake Access Ramp. We are pleased to know Representative Clibborn and other transportation leaders in the House fully intend to create their own transportation package – using the Senate’s proposal as a starting point – and negotiate in good faith to relieve congestion, improve travel time reliability, and preserve existing transportation assets.

Representative Clibborn was hopeful and energetic around the issues of concern that need to be worked out between our elected leaders. We fully support their efforts! As we tweeted earlier, we need solutions, compromise, and a transportation package anchored by an increase in the gas tax! We urge all Eastsiders to join us in reaching out to our elected leaders and imploring them to move as quickly as possible to get the job done. Onward and upward!


Who are these elected leaders that need to hear from you?

Representative Judy Clibborn

Representative Tana Senn

Representative Chad Magendanz

Representative Jay Rodne

Representative Ross Hunter

Representative Joan McBride

Representative Larry Springer

Representative Roger Goodman

Representative Luis Moscoso

Representative Derek Stanford

Tags:  Representative Chad Magendanz  Representative Jay Rodne  Representative Judy Clibborn  Representative Luis Moscoso  Representative Ross Hunter 

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Finding business-friendly programs is as easy as ESD

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Monday, March 16, 2015

Below is a guest blog from Chad Pearson, the Shared Work Marketing Manager at Washington's Employment Security Department (ESD)

The Employment Security Department (ESD) isn’t just “the unemployment office” anymore. A full suite of business programs is available to help employers be successful.

  • Find your next employee of the month through our partnership with WorkSource.
  • Dial the employer help line to find information on your taxes and wages.
  • Discover a wealth of labor market data on our Employment and Economic Information website.
  • Sign up for the Shared Work Program to keep employees yo thought you had to lay off.

These and many more services are available through Employment Security and its partners.

Take, for instance, the Shared Work Program. The business climate is improving and unemployment is down in Washington. Yet, participation in the program is up 31 percent over last year because employers like you are learning about it. Watch this short video to see how the program helps both businesses and workers win.

WorkSource offices around the state can help you recruit and interview prospective employees. Upgrades to the WorkSource website will soon bring a dynamic job-match system to help you recruit employees. Plus, many WorkSource locations are currently hiring Career Pathway Navigators to connect mid-career professionals and graduates to jobs and provide you with the talent you need. 

Make use of the employer help line (888-836-1900) to find information on tax and wages. Get answers to questions or request forms with the touch of a button.

On the Employment and Economic Information website, find data about current wages, benefits and other industry-specific information to help you plan for the future.

You always have prided yourself on staying two steps ahead of the competition through innovation, management or great employees. The Employment Security Department can help you keep climbing.

Tags:  Career Pathway Navigators  Employment Security Department  Shared Work Program  WorkSource 

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The Senate's Transportation Package

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Saturday, February 14, 2015
Updated: Friday, February 13, 2015

The Senate’s Transportation Package

The Senate’s proposed package is the first comprehensive proposal available for public consumption. The East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition has argued in favor of the passage of a statewide transportation package anchored by a gas tax for more than two years. We are heartened and excited the conversation has been renewed and encourage legislators – especially those representing the Eastside of King County – to continue to negotiate in good faith and make badly needed transportation investments.

The bill is made up of 11 different bills, eight dealing with reforms and three with raising revenue and approving the sale of bonds to finance the transportation projects included. Overall, the package is $15.1 billion and would span 16 years and would raise the gas tax by a total of 11.7 cents.

What projects are included?

View the entire project list here. Projects of importance to the Eastside – and projects included in the Chambers Coalition 2015 transportation document – include, but are not limited to:

·         I-405 Renton to Lynnwood corridor widening

·         SR-520 Seattle corridor improvements (the west end)

·         SR-520/148th Avenue NE Overlake Access Ramp

·         I-90/EB Eastgate to West Lake Sammamish Parkway

·         I-90/WB shoulder hardening between Bellevue and Issaquah

How will gas tax increase be implemented?

Today Washington’s gas tax is 37.5 cents per gallon. Under the proposed package, the gas tax would increase to 49.2 cents per gallon by mid-2017, including increases of 5 cents in July, 4.2 cents in July of 2016, and another 2.5 cents in July of 2017.

What about reforms?

The eight reform measures included in the package include labor reforms, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) project delivery reforms, sales tax reform, permitting reform, ferry system reforms, and including congestion relief as a stated goal of improving mobility (congestion relief is not presently a stated goal of Washington’s transportation system).

What now?

Legislators – especially bipartisan transportation leaders in the Senate and House – will negotiate on items like total price tag, projects to be funded, and the way those projects should be funded. Again, the Chambers Coalition is excited by the movement on a badly needed transportation investment package that includes a great mix of congestion-relieving highway projects.

Tags:  East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative   transportation package 

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Bellevue City Council back to work; Legislature ready to begin

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Updated: Monday, January 5, 2015

The Holiday Season is in the rear-view mirror and that means it's back to work for our elected officials! Check out The Blitz for updates and news in Bellevue, Olympia, and places in between!

Bellevue City Hall

Some highlights from last night's study session and regular session:

1. Councilmembers provided comments on Bellevue's 2015 State Legislative Agenda.

2. There was continued discussion of a potential Multifamily tax exemption for Bellevue.

3. Mayor Balducci declared January 2015 as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Bellevue.

4. Councilmembers approved a resolution authorizing execution of a King County Youth Sport Facilities Grant Contract toward the development of Inspiration Playground at the Downtown Park.


What's Happening at the Bellevue Chamber? Hear from your Legislators!

If you haven't registered yet for the 2015 Coalition Legislative Breakfast on Thursday, do so here.


Legislative Session Begins Next Week

The Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee Curtis King (R-Yakima) and the Chair of the House Transportation Committee Judy Clibborn (D-Mercer Island) had opinion pieces published in the Seattle Times yesterday. Click here for Senator King's perspective and here for Representative Clibborn's point of view. The East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition wants a transportation package anchored by an increase in the gas tax passed this year.

Inititiative 1351 - an Initiative the Chamber opposed - is looming as a serious potential financial problem for the Legislature.


The Other Washington

Speaker John Boehner is being challenged for his leadership position, a challenge that could dramatically impact the new Congress.


Business Pulse Stories For Your Attention

LIHI targets March for opening 57-unit affordable housing complex in Bellevue

"The Bellevue Apartments project - a final name for the complex is yet to be decided - includes 12 units for homeless families and individuals, a minimum of eight for veterans and three for families with children with developmental disabilities."

What Donors Want

"The [U.S.] Chamber thinks Republicans should be prepared to fund infrastructure, even featuring that message in some of its candidate advertisements last year. 'The key ingredients to thriving free enterprise are roads, bridges and tunnels...'"

Tags:  Bellevue  City Hall  Curtis King  Human Trafficking Awareness Month  John Boehner  Judy Clibborn  Mayor Balducci 

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Hear from your Legislators on January 8 and Happy Holidays!

Posted By Lincoln Vander Veen, Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Festive Photos at Eastside Elected Officials Reception

The Chamber hosted its Eastside Elected Officials Reception in Bellevue on December 9. We had a great time mingling and toasting our wonderful public servants to end 2014! Check out the pictures here.

Bellevue Holiday Guide has a Holiday clearing-house-of-sorts for all Bellevue Holiday events. The Blitz knows many of you have already brought family and friends to extraordinary events such as Snowflake Lane and Garden d’Lights but if you haven’t visited Bellevue yet for the festivities, please do so! The Huffington Post highly recommends it!


Hear from Your Legislators in Bellevue on January 8!

REMINDER: on Thursday, January 8, from 7 – 9 am at the Hyatt Regency Bellevue, the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition is holding its Legislative Breakfast. The timing is such that business people can hear from Eastside legislators just a few days before the legislative session kicks off in Olympia on January 12. Register today to get insights and enjoy thoughtful discussion from an Eastside business perspective and the Coalition’s 2015 Legislative Agenda!


Wanted: Eastside Congestion Relief

Jim Kleppe, the co-chair of the Chamber’s Transportation Committee, was included in this look at Eastside growth and the desperate need for additional capacity on I-405, especially between Bellevue and Renton.


Governor Inslee’s Budget Proposal

The Chamber’s message to Eastside legislators on the 2015-2017 biennial budget is relatively simple: expand under the sustainable 2013-2015 biennial budget by passing significant business tax reform legislation to spur economic growth and entrepreneurship.  Unfortunately, Governor Inslee’s proposal may not be “financially feasible” – at least when that phrase is accurately defined.


“Paramount Duty” and Governor Inslee’s Budget Proposal

The title of this article includes the headline, “Inslee promises $2.3B more for schools…” and ends with this:

Inslee’s plan would make education spending 47 percent of the state general fund. That’s up from 39 percent in 2007 and up from 45 percent in the most recent budget cycle.”

Would 47 percent make education the state’s “paramount duty”? The word paramount means “superior to all others.” The East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition (Coalition) supports a legislative proposal that would direct a majority of new general fund revenue increases from existing sources toward education, including early learning and higher education. Check out the Coalition’s top three priorities for 2015 here.


Governor Inslee’s Cap-and-Trade Proposal

Governor Inslee announced last week a statewide cap-and-trade program that is similar to California’s cap-and-trade scheme. The Coalition is opposed to the implementation of a cap-and-trade scheme at either the state or local level.


Business Pulse

Smart Space to boost Bellevue startups

"What we wanted to provide was a class A facility for startup companies, so that would give them a similar feeling of working at a world-class office facility," extraSlice CEO Binu Reghunathan said. "I see a great opportunity for Bellevue and the Eastside area to become a technology hub there."

Dept. of Ecology updating stormwater permits

“Currently, local governments in Western Washington are seeing a few changes to the permits that are required for managing their stormwater.”

China’s wealth finds home in Washington state

“Behind their growing economy, wealthy Chinese homebuyers have poured into the U.S., spending $22 billion on property in the states, tops among all foreign purchasers over the 12 months preceding a March study from the National Association of Realtors.”

Tags:  Bellevue Chamber of Commerce  Binu Reghunathan  Governor Jay Inslee  Jim Kleppe 

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