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Mark is the founder of the Attachment and Trauma Specialists, an internationally recognized agency specializing in treating severely neglected and abused children. Mark and his family have been islanders for 17 years and have been very involved in the community during that time.
Currently, the most pressing issue is the construction of light rail on I-90 and the closing of certain lanes on the freeway for the next 7 years. Mobility will be severely impacted, but an even greater concern is safety. There will be significantly more cars around our town center due to the I-90 closure, the narrower lanes on I-90 have increased accidents risk, and getting emergency services on and off the Island expeditiously will be difficult. We must make safety a priority.
I think we actually do a fantastic job addressing homelessness and families in need. Youth and Family services reach out to many needy families with all kinds of support – clothing, food bank, mental health and social support. Apart from that, many churches on the Island have hosted those who are homeless, from Tent City to temporary shelters where homeless can sleep, shower and do laundry. I am proud of our city for being a haven for people who need help.
I am in this race because of senior citizens as they are the treasure in my neighborhood.They have the historical knowledge, the wisdom, and are very active in the community. However, developers have been very predatory in trying to push older people out of their homes so they can buy the lot and max the land out. Many seniors are harassed multiple times to sell until they finally relent. When they finally do, it is very sad as many just want to 'age in place' amongst their friends.
We need to be a Sanctuary City, and we already have been in many ways. There are some great residents who have stepped up and hosted many immigrant families in the wake of policies being tightened nationwide. Our ability to share the wealth of our community and give of ourselves really speaks volumes about the strength of who we are as a city. It’s also an essential learning opportunity for our kids to help those who are less fortunate.
We have a major budget deficit and property taxes will have to be raised in the next year or so. One of the most important parts of this budget deficit is the loss of funding for our Youth and Family services counselors in our schools. They had been funded by a Communities that Care grant, but it has run out after 5 years. We must ensure that our kids have access to mental health support in our schools and we can continue to fund our counselors.
Safety first. We must ensure the changes to our transportation infrastructure does not threaten the safety for our citizens. We also have to continue our support for our Emergency Services in light of our budget issues and increased risk on our streets. Lastly, we have to ensure our kids have sufficient mental and social support in our schools by funding Youth and family Services.
Our new City Manager Julie is fantastic, and has reached out to many citizens to solicit feedback, support and increase transparency in the government. As a Council Member, I believe we have to continue to follow suit and create a more open and honest system that truly reflects the needs and desires of our citizens. We need to be a representative government for our citizens and increase communication with our population.
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I have lived on Mercer Island for over 33 years and am currently serving my first term on the Mercer Island City Council. Prior to serving on the Council, I have served on the MI Schools Foundation and MI Community Fund. I am an attorney practicing in real estate and business law.
First, single occupancy vehicles were recently denied westbound I-90 access via Island Crest Way. The denial impacts the city’s road infrastructure since many commuters must now drive to other on-ramps. The traffic diversion causes more vehicles to drive through the city’s main commercial area and along other arterials that were not built for the traffic volume that they will now carry. It’s reasonable to assume that the increased traffic on these other streets will cause faster degradation than originally projected, require a more frequent repair schedule and have a future budgetary impact.
Next, the city had a boil water incident due to the presence of E. coli in its water system. In response to this incident, the age and deteriorating condition of the city’s water pipes were highlighted. To minimize the occurrence of another incident, the council increased the city’s utility and water rates to provide funds needed to increase the city’s replacement rate of its aging water pipes.
Since homelessness is a significant regional problem, all cities and towns must work together to address it. One way that Mercer Island has helped to address this problem is by increasing its monetary contribution to A Regional Coalition for Housing (ARCH). During the city’s 2017-18 budget process, I successfully advocated for increasing the city’s past annual contribution level of $20,000 to $64,000 in 2017 and to $96,000 in 2018. This was the first significant increase in many years and the funding will help address homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in the region.
I am committed to ensuring our city’s seniors’ needs are addressed. Compared to other cities, Mercer Island has a higher percentage of seniors with nearly 20% age 65 or older. We need to organize our community to assist seniors to “age in place,” including improving sidewalks (walkability) and access to transportation services. One way that the council addresses the city’s seniors’ needs is to fund its Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. MIYFS has programs focused on individuals, who are 55 and older, and their families. One program involves the services of a dedicated geriatric specialist and licensed mental health counselor who provides consultation, counseling and care management related to aging.
I have also worked for seniors in my private law practice by forming and counseling some organizations that provide a wide array of social services for seniors including a skilled nursing home, assisted living facilities and senior day care centers.
Since we cannot determine a person’s legal right to be in this country by looking at that person, I believe that Mercer Island like any city should be an open and welcoming city that treats each person with respect and dignity regardless of that person’s status. We passed a proclamation supporting a National Day of Action to show support of the immigrant community and our commitment to diversity. I also supported a public immigration forum that was hosted by the city’s police department.
Some of the major issues facing our city will be:
a. Identifying the best way to use the Sound Transit settlement funds to mitigate the city’s loss of mobility due to the closure of the I-90 center roadway. The identification of possible street improvements and bicycle and pedestrian facilities to address the loss of mobility will take time and involve an extensive public engagement process.
b. Determining whether a performing arts center will be constructed on the Island.
c. Providing adequate funding to complete identified safe routes to schools and other bicycle and pedestrian facilities including the widening of the road shoulders around the Island.
d. Continuing to educate and help city residents prepare their families and neighborhoods in the event of a major natural disaster like an earthquake.
e. Engaging the public in a discussion about the city’s finances beyond the current budget cycle and the public’s desired level of city services.
In my opinion addressing our loss of mobility due to the closure of the I-90 center roadway is the most urgent issue since it has just occurred. We need to assess the impact of the traffic diversion and ensure that public safety is not adversely affected. In general, to the extent any of the above issues involve public safety concerns, they are urgent because providing our city residents with a safe place to live is a paramount duty and obligation.
I am also committed to working with other local elected officials, our Congressional delegation and others to change the federal government’s current position denying our SOV access via the Island Crest Way on-ramp.
First and foremost, whatever methods I and the other councilmembers use when working with our city manager need to respect the distinct roles that each one has in governing the city. As the city’s chief executive officer, the city manager’s job is to manage the city, ensure that the council gets information it needs to make thoughtful decisions and implement the council’s adopted policies. One practice started by our city manager is to hold monthly one-to-one meetings with each councilmember. Such direct dialog helps the city manager know what are my concerns with issues coming before the council and provides me with an opportunity to share ideas and information with the city manager. We also have a policy to notify the city manager of any communication a councilmember has with a city employee so that the city manager can assist the employee if necessary. Open and constant communication between councilmembers and the city manager is essential for a well-functioning city government.