Mercer Island Reporter


Closing the books on 2012

Mercer Island Reporter Former editor
December 26, 2012 · Updated 3:35 PM

With the heart — and face — of a competitor, Blake Ronald, 4, of Mercer Island, fends off older children to secure his space on the starting line before the Half Mile Kids’ Dash on March 25, at Luther Burbank Park. / Photo by Matt Brashears


The new year begins as the Mercer Island High School Marching Band appears in the Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif. As the 270-member band rounded the corner onto Colorado Avenue, at least one television station went to a commercial, leaving Island viewers shaking their fists at the TV. Luckily, the march was soon posted on YouTube.

Tolling begins on SR-520, pushing thousands of motorists onto I-90 instead. Two Island businesses, Quiznos and Cellar 46, close.

Minimum wage for Washington state workers jumps 37 cents.

Councilmember Bruce Bassett is sworn in as the new mayor of the city of Mercer Island.

Former mayor, Jim Pearman, resigns after 10 years on the City Council. Just four Islanders applied for the position, in contrast to 17 who applied a few months earlier to replace Steve Litzow, who was elected to the State Senate. Tana Senn is elected. She joins Debbie Bertlin, who was elected just two months before, in the November election, when she ran against incumbent El Jahncke.

A powerful windstorm on Jan. 20 brings snow, downed trees and power outages. Kids grab their sleds and head for the hills.

The city begins discussion about ‘parking partners’ in the Town Center as a way to get property owners to agree to share some parking in their private lots. No progress is made.

Services are held for Islander pioneer Larry Lunden, who is killed after being hit by a car’s side view mirror on Island Crest Way as he stepped from the curb into a crosswalk that had been recently moved. He was 90. Lunden built the family home on the Island by hand in the late 1940s.


The Mercer Island School District School Board votes to put a $196 million bond issue on the April 17 ballot. The bond was to fund a major construction effort to rebuild Island schools and facilities. The school district says that the schools are overcrowded. The present facilities are not configured for what educators say is the kind of learning environment that students need to be successful in a rapidly changing world. The proposal sets off a flurry of letters to the editor. Writers are split between what students need to be successful in school versus the cost and the perception that existing school buildings are still usable. The letters and discussion is to last throughout the year.

Islander Lisa Vian Hunter, who is a couture clothing designer with her own shop in Seattle’s Madison Park, is tapped to compete on the reality show, “Fashion Star,” on NBC television. She sells a design to a major retailer. She makes it through three rounds before being cut.

End of year numbers released by the Northwest Multiple Listing Service show that 262 single family homes and 38 condos sold on Mercer Island in 2011, an increase of 19 percent over 2010. Through November 2012, 262 Island homes and condos have sold to date.

Two new businesses open on the Island;  College Nannies and Tutors, and Mercer Island Pilates.

The King County Assessor’s office mails out tax assessment notices to Island property owners. On average, Island home values decline slightly.

The Hudsman property, the location of The Islander Pub restaurant and True Value Hardware, sells for $8 million. The buyers, The Legacy Group, represent the Keeler family of Mercer Island.

Jasper Hugunin travels to Washington, D.C., to compete in the White House Science Fair, where he wins an award for a computer game he designed.

Mercer Island High School alum and UW grad, Timothy Wettack, dies in an early morning  traffic accident. An emotional, standing-room only crowd attends a service for him in the Mercer Island High School Performing Arts Center.


As the vote for the bond issue to rebuild Island schools draws near, the school district moves to buy the Stevenson Farm land on Island Crest Way, one of the last large pieces of undeveloped land on the Island.  School officials meet with neighbors who tell them that they do not want a school in their neighborhood.

There are also discussions about possibly purchasing the land owned by Redeemer Church next door. That option does not materialize. The purchase would have been made possible by the passage of the bond issue.

The King County Republican Caucus holds their election of candidates at Islander Middle School. The multipurpose room at the school is packed. The press is neither welcomed nor allowed to speak to delegates.

The City Council looks into restricting parking on the Mercer Ways to ensure safety for cyclists and walkers. The effort is later dropped.

The exclusive and rare Pliny beer is once again served at the Roanoke Inn. It sells out in minutes.

Mercer Island School District Destination Imagination teams go on to win big in regional competitions.

The City Council again discusses how to fill empty storefronts in the Town Center around the 60/40 rules that dictate how much retail vs. office space is allowed. The rule to limit offices is to encourage a more vibrant Town Center on evenings and weekends. The discussion covers whether or not changes should concern changing the ratio to allow more offices rather than retail, or that Town Center property owners need to reduce rents to encourage retail merchants.

More than a dozen car prowls occur over the single weekend of March 10-11.

The school district announces plans to add three portables to deal with overcrowding at schools. Each costs $100,000.

Some 4,500 runners and walkers sign up for the annual Rotary Run. Mercer Island High School senior Lauren Knebel is the first Islander female to cross the line.

The City Council debates the idea of prohibiting smoking in all or some city parks and play areas on March 19. They decide to post signs to discourage smoking rather than making it part of an ordinance.

The Mercer Island School District hires Vicki Puckett as the new principal at MIHS — she is the fifth principal to serve at the school in less than 10 years.

The school district announces plans to add two more portables at a cost of $100,000 each.

The school district announces its intent to purchase the $6 million Stevenson Farm property.

UW admissions officials say that 26,000 applications were received for a class of 6,000 entering freshmen, of which 4,000 would be Washington residents, with 2,000 nonresidents. At Western Washington University in Bellingham, the admissions office receives 9,631 freshmen applications for about 2,800 freshman slots for fall quarter, up by over 500 applications in 2011. The Arts Council

obtains Saturn rocket fuel tanks from the Dale Cox family for artwork placed later in front of the Mercer Island Community and Event Center.

Letters for and against the school bond fill pages in the Reporter.


New Eastbound HOV lanes on I-90 open. In a drenching rainstorm, Sound Transit, WSDOT and local officials gather at the top of the ramp on 80th Avenue S.E. to cut the ribbon.

Plans for the South end fire station rebuild are presented to the public.

According to data from the state, sales for Island retailers rebound to 2008 levels.

Mercer Island School District Superintendent Gary Plano and Lucia Pirzio-Biroli, a West Mercer Elementary School volunteer, are named Earth Heroes.

The school district wins a $464,000 energy grant from the state to upgrade heating and cooling systems. Reports of thefts of items that range from sweatshirts to computers are up at Mercer Island High School.

Cases of whooping cough or pertussis begin to grow in number in Western Washington, alarming public health officials.

The $196 million school bond issue is overwhelmingly defeated. School officials immediately begin to revise their proposal and hold meetings with voters, and conduct a survey to find out what made the vote fail.

After a hiatus, the student/parent-run Safe Rides program, a way for students to get a safe ride home with no questions asked on weekend nights, returns after problems with finances and management are resolved.

Islander John Urquhart announces his decision to run for county sheriff.

Letters on the school bond continue to fill pages of the Reporter.


The Island’s favorite lunch spot, Alpenland Delicatessen, is sold. The new, local owners will keep the character and menu intact.

Bids are sent out for resurfacing and reconfiguring Island Crest Way. The project includes crosswalks, re-striping and changes to the sometimes harrowing Merrimount intersection. Construction begins late in May.

Maureen Judge and incumbent state Senator Steve Litzow file to run for re-election in the 41st Legislative District. Incumbent state representatives for the 41st District, Marcie Maxwell and Judy Clibborn, also file to retain their seats. Clibborn runs unopposed.

The results of a survey are released on why the school bond failed. It shows that voters thought the $196 million was too much. Others thought that the existing buildings, remodeled in the mid-1990s were sufficient.

State Health officials declare whooping cough an epidemic.

Seattle-area Rotary Clubs, including the Mercer Island Rotary Club, are named Seattle’s Citizen of the Year.

Letters fill the Reporter about the changes ahead on Island Crest Way, aka, the road diet.


The VFW Hall gets a new roof through Post 5760’s Operation Restoration, the ongoing effort to revamp the Keewaydin Clubhouse.

Island groceries and mini-marts begin selling liquor.

Due to disruptions at oil refineries and other murky circumstances, local gas prices soar.

The Mercer Island Farmers Market begins its fifth season and adds musicians, celebrity chefs and more.

Mercer Island High School graduates 351 at its 55th commencement ceremonies, held at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. The four class valedictorians are: Ashley Bobman, Samyukta Lanka, Andrea Lin and Elizabeth Orem. The two salutatorians are Annelise Giseburt and Anna Partridge — all young women.

Sixty-five Islanders graduate with bachelor of arts degrees from the University of Washington, and 30 graduate from Bellevue College.

The results from the survey about why the school district bond issue failed are released.

A car driven by an Island woman hits a power switch at the corner of 77th Avenue and 27th Street. The damage causes PSE to down power to the Town Center and beyond.

The city names Harborview emergency physician, as the Citizen of the Year.

Two pertussis (whooping cough) cases are reported on Mercer Island.

At the 2012 annual meeting of the Aging Services of Washington, the Senior Foundation of Mercer Island receives the 2012 Award for Public Trust. Board officers Alanna Burdell, Angela Decker, Barbara Levinski and Leslie Scott accepted the award on June 6 in Spokane.

The city readies a $5.2 million bond issue for a new South end fire station, for the November ballot.

The road diet project, to reconfigure the four-lane stretch of Island Crest Way south of 42nd Street into three lanes, is set to start July 1. Lakeside Industries is awarded a contract of $1.2 million for the work.

Three thousand voters dial in to participate in a ‘town hall’ style meeting by telephone held by state Sen. Steve Litzow.

Audrey Unger skydives to celebrate her 82nd birthday.


According to data from Mercer Island Youth & Family Services, gross receipts from the thrift store reach nearly $1 million. Islanders alone spent 620,000 or about $75 per household, for the 12 months ending in May.

Pauline Reed receives the Flash Family Inspirational Award. She rides in a fine convertible at the Summer Celebration Parade.

Islanders bask in the sun during Summer Celebration! The growing Mercer Island Community Band, organized and led by Islander percussionist Bert Pound, adds flair to the grand parade.

The Island is quiet as residents head off on vacation.


By chance, Christoph Schmidt-Warnecke meets Hope Solo, a member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Soccer gold medal team, in the wee hours of the morning on his way home from Europe with his family at a New Jersey airport. She graciously poses for a picture with him.

A record number of Islanders gather in parks and on beaches and backyards for National Night Out, an event that promotes community and encourages looking out for neighbors in the event of an emergency.

As the first day of school approaches, Island Crest Way work begins to wind down. There are delays and back-ups as crews finish up repaving and re-striping. Islanders grumble about long delays.

A 1950s vintage green vinyl bar, once a centerpiece of family life at a home on Faben Point, sold and remodeled some years ago, is returned to the granddaughter of the original owners after it is found by an acquaintance of the family at a resale business in South Seattle.

A new multi-story, mixed-use development named Legacy Mercer Island is proposed for the Hudson property. Islanders are concerned about the fate of The Islander restaurant and True Value Hardware.

Islander native and father, Nate Bahner, 33, dies while wakeboarding, Aug. 10, on Lake Washington. Island Park P.E. teacher, dancer and mentor, Jesse Jaramillo, dies on Aug. 17. He was 59.


After months on the real estate market, the Stevenson Farm does finally sell close to the asking price of $5 million. The farm land is to remain for horses and riders, according to reports.

Island children return to school. Enrollment reaches 4,080, just 30 students under what was forecasted. However, there are 14 more sixth-graders than expected. But the district expects 300 more students here in 10 years.

Islander native and MIHS grad Kaeli Swift gets a $90,000 National Science Foundation grant to study crows and behavior at the University of Washington with renowned UW scientist and crow-whisperer, Professor John Marzluff.

The city sets up a citizen-city sustainability task force.

Shoppers find that prices for liquor are higher than what was expected or promised after the state law changed to allow private retail sales. The average retail price of a liter of spirits, including taxes, is up by an average of 11.6 percent. Despite the jump, sales are up by nearly three percent for the first four months of privatization, over 2011 levels.


The Mercer Island School District faces a discrimination complaint brought by an Islander family who said that their son was harassed at school by fellow students. The district would later appeal the decision.

A survey finds that fewer Island children go to private schools than a few years earlier.

Youth Theatre Northwest sets up a committee to be ready for a possible move from the North Mercer location, near the high school.

Longtime MIHS soccer coach and Island resident, Steve Newman, dies on Oct. 11.

The paper, the airwaves and Island mailboxes are filled with political advertisements during the final push for the general election on Nov. 6.


Results for the general election show that more than 86 percent of Island registered voters, or 15,233, cast their ballots.

The draft update to the City of Mercer Island Shoreline Master Plan is in the hands of the Washington State Department of Ecology for final review.

The city is just 38 Puget Sound Energy Green Power customers away from reaching the “stretch goal” of 750 by the end of the year and earning an additional $5,000 for a Community Center solar array project.

The previous goal of 650 new customers was achieved ahead of schedule and has secured a $25,000 grant for the solar project.

Three Islander women — despite being turned away from the New York City Marathon, cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy — return to Seattle and later take the top spots for women in the Seattle Marathon.


The city finalizes its budget. Some fees and taxes for Islanders will increase.

Two Islanders are deployed by FEMA to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. Puget Sound Energy sends crews back east to help restore power.

The city revisits parking issues in the Town Center and says that the number of parking spaces are adequate. The Council notes that drivers need patience and help to find spots.

The news of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., shocks and saddens Islanders. School officials and Mercer Island police plan to again review procedures to protect Island school students.

By the numbers

• 3 – number of pieces of public art that were installed on Mercer Island this year

• 10 – Islanders who became Eagle Scouts; 2 Girl Scouts win Gold Award

• 13 – the number of shows Youth Theatre Northwest produced in 2012

• $1.75 million – the amount of revenue raised by the Mercer Island Schools Foundation in 2011-2012

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