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Pos. 3 candidates’ views on Island issues

During the last two weeks of July, Reporter staff and editorial board sat down with City Council Pos. 3 candidates Mike Cero, Bob Bersos, Maureen Judge and Jon Friedman. As the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 21 primary election, Cero and Judge advanced to the November election. Along with the other two primary candidates, these responses were printed in the Aug. 15 issue of the Reporter.

Why they’re running for public office:

Judge said she studied political science in college and serves on the board for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services. Mike Cero has a tremendous list of pubic service including the Army, PTA, VFW and Boys and Girls Club. Here’s what they said motivated them to run for City Council.

Judge: I am running for City Council because I have felt that we need a balance. I want to balance the growth on Mercer Island. We need fresh ideas and we need ways to tackle issues that have been daunting Mercer Island forever, for instance parking. My experience in product management has taught me to be a consensus builder and work together with people to get things done. You can’t launch a product when everyone has a different idea how to do it without making some compromises. I am a consensus builder and will bring that to the Council.

Cero: It’s another form of public service and I have a long record of serving the community. I’m active with the school district and enjoy that. The school district and the City Council are so complimentary of with each other it introduced me to city politics and city issues. I became interested in those issues and sensitive to them. It’s one way for me to help the community with my leadership and my experiences I feel I could be a benefit to the community.

On their top three priorities:

Both candidates’ top priorities differ. Cero is concerned about the Renton Airport, wants the city to be better prepared for disasters and thinks Council meetings should be televised.

Cero: The Renton Airport is a big issue that will affect our quality of life that we have here on the Island. This is a regional issue and we will have to work with Renton, Boeing Field and the FAA. I want to work with them so we can be proactive because once they start moving dirt it’s too late.

Emergency preparedness is also an important issue. First responders are only going to be effective if they have a piece of mind. That their families, most of which don’t live on the Island, have to be taken care of. I would hope that my family support group have communications with their families off the Island so they can be 100 percent focused on the job they are inevitably going to be called upon.

I think the Council meetings should be televised. Folks have kids in school and right when those Council meetings happen that’s when they’re getting them from soccer practice or whatever. On the other end, we have a large senior citizen group who are very active in politics but it is difficult for them to get around.”

Judge: I want to continue funding the amazing programs like Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and senior services. The work they do with the school district and through their alcohol and drug prevention program is phenomenal. And we also have a large senior population here that these city programs really provide assistance to.

I also have learned from talking with residents that many feel the growth here has gone unplanned. So I want to see better growth management coming from the City Council.

Bringing more bike paths and pedestrian connections to the Island is another priority. Making sure we have the accessibility, connectors or paths that match the needs and the growth of the community. Specifically in downtown. While we move forward with these new developments we need to make sure the plans are in place to make sure there are public spaces built.

On mitigating the impacts of PEAK:

Back in July, Judge and Cero stated they did not support the Boys and Girls Club’s proposal to build the youth facility near the high school.

Judge: I have always had trouble with the proposed site of PEAK and I think it needs to be revisited. That’s an enormous facility on a small piece of land. It’s not just a parking issue and there’s no meaningful way to mitigate the traffic. There’s a lot of people that feel the West Mercer location would be the best site for that project. I would like to see it re-examined. There’s a lot of work that can be done about PEAK that needs to be addressed.

Cero: I do support PEAK but I don’t support PEAK at the district site. I’ve visited the Federal Way center twice that they use as the example. I haven’t deviated from my position on PEAK that it is better situated at the existing site. That’s a lot of money being spent on PEAK from a school board that is looking for money, hurting for money and has to bring on additional students from off the Island because of financial issues. I just don’t see the district getting the bang for the buck for just finding the money to accommodate PEAK. I would like to see it at the existing site because that continues to maintain the charm and character of Mercer Island.

On the parking woes in Town Center:

The candidates suggested the city needs to make some changes to make parking available. Cero wants to revisit the assumptions the Council has regarding traffic signals, bus service and parking. Judge said she supports a Island resident parking sticker.

Cero: It’s unfortunate that the city is working with property owners on the parking issue this late in the ballgame because the supply and demand curve tells me it’s going to cost the city a lot of money. We need to look at traffic and transit or shuttle service so the Town Center is usable for every resident. Right now, it is developing as a place for people who live there, not the rest of the Island. The assumptions we have for Town Center with reference to traffic and parking also need to be reevaluated. If the assumption is that traffic at 27th Street [and 77th Avenue S.E.] will increase about 30 percent and won’t be that big of a deal, then that is a bad assumption.

Judge: I am in favor of a Mercer Island only parking sticker good for parking around transit facilities and the Town Center. I think people want to get out of their cars but we need to make it easier for them. I would also be in favor of looking into acquiring land in the Town Center for parking.

On public plazas in the Town Center

Judge said she wanted to work with developers to make sure the right incentives are in place so they build the public plazas the city seeks. Cero said better enforcement of the city code would bring the plazas.

Judge: I want to make sure the spaces are being built. We can take a cooperative stance to make sure of that. And taking land when it becomes available.

Cero: Enforcing the rules we have in the first place. I propose that we require developers to provide the “wills” in the code. We can negotiate the “shalls” but not the “wills.”

On their top park projects

Like the other candidates this year, these two have many ideas about Luther Burbank Park. Neither candidate supports the idea to have private development or enterprise help fund the cost of maintaining and upgrading the waterfront park.

Cero: To preserve the resources we have. The Island is not going to get more land. We also need to retain the quality parks staff employees. Pete [Mayer] does a great job with his crew. The folks on Mercer Island use the parks and the Council needs to maintain the parks adequately and I want to continue to do that. But it’s also in my nature to do things better. The best of the best organizations always have room for improvement.

Judge: Luther Burbank is such a great gift. I’d like to see wetland education there. It is the Island’s only wetland and what a good idea to use it as an outdoor classroom for the kids to learn about the place they live. I want to expand the parks, making them accessible to educators. I also love the landings here. I remember playing around them when I was a little girl and I would make sure that those are maintained and preserved because so much of the waterfront is private.

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