Letters to the Editor, Sept. 26

Letters published in the Sept. 26 issue.

Thank you

On the evening of Friday, Sept. 7, the Mercer Island Chamber Commerce once again partnered with the Mercer Island Visual Arts League, Mercer Island Arts Council, the city of Mercer Island and Seattle Uncorked to host the fifth annual Art UnCorked in downtown Mercer Island.

With a whole new configuration that was inclusive of wine tasting and arts and crafts together, the event was a tremendous success, bringing residents throughout the community of Mercer Island together for a fun and relaxing evening. Live music was performed by Gretchen Yanover, La Fonda and Micaiah Sawyer as well as by the Mercer Island High School Jazz Band.

I would like to extend a sincere “thank you” to our wonderful sponsors this year, as well as to our Art UnCorked committee, volunteer coordinators Jayme Whitman and Lori Coe, and our many volunteers, whom without this event would simply not happen. Last, but certainly not least, thank you to Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce executive director Laurie Givan for another amazing job.

If you missed the event this year, please look for it in September next year. Again “Thank you” to all who participated and volunteered for this event. It was with great pride that we watched residents and businesses gather together as a community on the streets of Mercer Island.

Ralph Swanson

President-board of directors

Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce

Time for arts venue

I write today to urge the council to use the opportuinity presented by the redevelopment of the Tully’s site to complete a dream of some four or five decades: The creation of a performing arts venue for Mercer Island.

I doubt I came to the dream early — my involvement started in 1976 when the city convened a committee to explore a performing arts center as a strategy to spur vitality in Town Center. In the end, no perfoming arts center appeared but the city created the Arts Commission and some years later, with the acquisition of Mercerview as a community center, founded a rotating visual arts gallery which continues to this day.

In the 1980s, the city worked to replace the Shorewood Apartments City Hall with a purpose-built city hall. The loss of our only bowling alley, at the time argued to be the “only” activity for teenagers, encouraged consideration of a performing arts center as a part of the replacement. The city hall turned out to be a heavy enough lift and then our default community performing arts center became the multi-purpose room of North Mercer Junior High School (NMJH), soon the home of the Youth Theatre Northwest (YTN). For more than two decades, NMJH served that purpose well. Unfortunately, the attractivess of our community and school district resulted in the need for Northwood and YTN lost a home.

Our community investment in kids makes Mercer Island a great place to grow up. We invest in schools, true, but parks, play fields, the Mary Waite Pool, football, baseball, soccer and practice fields, our library and other capital investments give kids choice and reflect their diverse interests. Tully’s provides an opportunitiy to continue these investments, keep YTN and expand arts education for future generations of Islanders.

We shouldn’t forget adults either. A performing arts center creates opportunities for islanders to engage locally, building stronger community ties with friends and neighbors and without the hassle of our region’s congested transportation system.

The time has come. You have the opportunity to make performing arts a reality. Let’s do it.

Fred Jarrett

Mercer Island

Please vote “Yes” on Prop 1

In August 2010, my girlfriend and I were looking for our first apartment together. I was finishing my fourth production with Wooden O Theatre, and when she came to see the show at Luther Burbank, she said, “Why don’t we live here?” Two months later we did.

We would later marry and have our first child, while comfortably living as renters here on Mercer Island. We knew that owning a home here might not be in the cards for us, but it is where we decided to start our family nonetheless. We were comfortable.

Things became less comfortable for us when my wife, the main income earner at the time, was laid off from her job while six months pregnant with our second child. Interviewing while visibly pregnant proved fruitless, maternity time was needed, and she later had a long stretch of always being the second choice for a job. She wouldn’t find work for more than two years, and even then, it was at a significant pay cut. I was able to increase my hours and start bringing in some more money, but with two children and a reduced income, we struggled. Savings were evaporated, and we needed help.

Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) was an invaluable resource for us. We had spent several years as part of this community, and the community was there for us when we needed it most. Without their help, we would not have been able to continue living here, and our daughter would not be starting her first year as a Northwood Owl.

It was the beautiful parks, and commitment to the arts that brought us to Mercer Island, and the amazing MIYFS that allowed us to stay. Please continue fully funding these departments by voting “Yes” on Proposition 1 this November.

Patrick Allcorn

Mercer Island

City moving in right direction on climate

On Sept. 17 a hearing was held at City Hall on a resolution before the council to issue a formal endorsement of I-1631, the Washington State ballot initiative to put a price on carbon emissions.

Many islanders came to testify in favor of the endorsement, and others to stand in solidarity with those who spoke. The many testimonials in favor were impassioned, eloquent, informed and deeply personal.

One islander voiced agnosticism about the initiative, raising some valid questions about its assumptions. These questions were ably addressed by a subsequent speaker, who also masterfully dispelled the tired and flimsy arguments made by a representative from the fossil fuel industry-backed “No on 1631” campaign.

At the end, each council member was given an opportunity to speak. One by one, each voiced their strong support, saying that bold action on climate was long overdue and was now a moral imperative. The vote in support was unanimous. Our city will formally endorse I-1631.

Our city’s elected officials have taken many steps already to get us moving in the right direction in addressing climate change, but I believe this was a defining moment where they acknowledged their solemn duty to take an unwavering stand on the most important issue of our time. It was a symbolic gesture, yes, but a momentous one. It will make their grandchildren’s grandchildren proud.

Kim Rice

Citizen for a Sustainable Mercer Island

What’s really going on with levy lid lift?

It’s confusing to me why the city council voted to put a “dead on arrival” property tax increase on the November ballot.

The consultant they hired to survey Islander satisfaction with city services asked respondents directly if they’d support a city property tax increase. The response was a solid “No.” I heard the consultant say over conference call at the public council meeting, “I wouldn’t put this on the ballot. It won’t pass.” So, why is the council pressing ahead? Why?

Furthermore, after essentially wasting months of community leaders’ time on the Community Advisory Group (CAG) efforts, the council did not heed the advice of the CAG majority (or have any respect for the CAG minority), but instead went all-in on a permanent 45-percent tax increase. Clearly, there’s more to all this. I’d like at least one council member to be transparent with the motivations here.

It seems to me that the city employees are behind this ballot measure more than the council. I’ve personally been lobbied by one department head, including fabrications about her salary, which she later recanted. Islanders are generous employers, arguably too generous on some fronts. Threats to cut the police, fire or school counselor budgets are insulting to all of us.

The math on the proposed levy is undisputed. The yard signs tell the truth that this is a 44.56-percent compounding increase in city property taxes over the next six years. Worse, this levy Proposition 1 sets the new, highest percentage as the new “normal” from 2024 forward, rather than expire the increases back to 2019 rates, the more usual practice. This is a nervy move by the city manager and the council, all of whom know that more enormous levy requests for replacing infrastructure are coming soon. It’s bold, it’s unconventional and it’s very confusing why the council supports operating this way.

I’m voting “No” on Proposition 1, along with most of the rest of my neighbors, as the consultant predicted.

(By the way, how much did that consultant cost, and just like the CAG’s, his advice was ignored?)

Susan Lund

Mercer Island