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2006 Island year in review
Our top stories of the year come from near and far. As the Island took on issues about land use, dogs in the parks, parking and traffic, forces far greater took over Island life at the end of the year.
In January, the Reporter published stories about the sale of Shorewood Apartments and the Farmers New World Life; buildings that house the most Island residents and the most employees, respectively.
Islander and car dealer Michael O’Brien agreed to purchase the Boys and Girls Club facility in the East Seattle neighborhood, contingent on PEAK project approval and adequate fund raising.
Fire damaged but did not fell the famous “Castle House” on West Mercer Way.
The Mercer Island High School marching band braved unprecedented rain and wind as it marched in the Tournament of Roses parade in Pasadena, Calif.
The Island also had its share of bad weather at the year’s beginning, with rain and mud and even a power outage on the eve of the Seattle Seahawks’ first Superbowl appearance.
In the following weeks and months, the new commercial buildings in both the Town Center and the South end took shape. The City Council discussed more traffic signals as citizens weighed in on the master plan for Luther Burbank Park.
School levies passed by a wide margin. The city drilled for an emergency water supply for $230,000. The city conducted traffic studies in the neighborhood around the high school. The city completed its 2007 transporation plan. Islander Jessica Epstein won $26,000 on the Jeopardy television show.
Staffing changes proposed throughout the King County Library System in March upset patrons and staff alike. The high school chess team won its first state championship in 39 years. Island home prices reached a new high. Citizens continued to ponder the Luther Burbank Park Comprehensive Plan. More than 3,000 runners from near and far hit the streets for the annual Rotary Run.
In April, Mercer Island Police Officer Jennifer Franklin threw the first pitch at opening day for Mercer Island’s own Little League baseball season.
School district leaders and parents debated transfer credit policies. Local businesses held the first ever Mercer Island Home Show at the brand new Community Center at Mercer View that had opened in December. Contractors took down the scaffolding at Island Market Square. Construction at the North Mercer Park and Ride began. The long-awaited Luther Burbank Park Master plan was approved.
The City Council approved a change in the amount of impervious surface to be allowed at the proposed PEAK project in May. School enrollments for the Mercer Island School District were forecast to continue to decline, exacerbating the outlook for school funding. A committee of Islanders explored ways to find more tax dollars. The principal at West Mercer Elementary School announced she would step down. A discussion about the leash laws came to the fore. The City hired its first communications coordinator. A man ran onto Mercer Island across freeway lanes after he eluded a state trooper on Interstate 90. Armed troopers, local police and a Sheriff’s department helicopter searched for the man who was found nude in a tree in the Park on the Lid. The city hired a civilian patrol officer to implement the new leash aw. Plans to revamp Rotary Park, including a facility for additional water supplies, were unveiled. Peter Horvitz, former owner and publisher of the Reporter’s parent company, King County Journal Newspapers, announced the 10-paper group was up for sale. WASL scores released for the Mercer Island High School Class of 2008 showed most students met or exceeded standards for all three areas of the test.
As the summer began, Islanders felt the effects of price increases that pushed gas costs to over $3 a gallon. The City won an award for its shared e-citygov Web site. Many Islanders began to install locking mailboxes as awareness of mail thefts grew. The new leash law took effect. Mercer Island High School graduated 364 at a ceremony at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle. Permit data showed that existing homes were being demolished in record numbers to be replaced by new homes.
In July, 2,000 people went to Luther Burbank Park to rally for Israel after the conflict between Lebanon and Israel in the Middle East worsened. Islanders embraced scooters in response to increasing gas prices. Island pioneer and politician George Clarke died three days after his 100th birthday. More than 1,000 people gathered in the Temple B’nai Torah in Bellevue to memorialize former Islander Pamela Waechter, who was killed at the Seattle Jewish Federation in a shooting that injured five other women. The Boys and Girls Clubs hired Islander and former professional basketball player Blair Rasmussen as the director of the Mercer Island club.
In August, air traffic over the Island from the Renton Airport increased dramatically due to the repair of a runway there. A proposal to increase the use and revenues from the airport caused controversy that continues due to the expectation that more aircraft noise will be the result. A team of geologists from the University of Washington presented a map displaying the geological characteristics of the Island based on a study of local fault lines, topography, density and soils composition. Island leaders appeared optimistic about chances for Islanders’ single occupant vehicle (SOV) access to HOV lanes of I-90 if or when high capacity transit is added to the center lanes of the roadway. The first phase of changes to the I-90 roadway is expected to begin in 2007.
City Councilman Sven Goldmanis was arrested by Redmond police for investigation of felony theft and insurance fraud.
The school year began with a Mercer Island High School sophomore accused of stabbing a classmate after school at a Metro bus stop. An Island resident and two of his family members were arrested for investigation of trafficking of stolen goods through a Seattle pawn shop, Liberty Jewelry and Loan. Primary election results for the 41st District races in the state house placed Islanders and incumbents Judy Clibborn and Fred Jarrett against Erik Fretheim of Bellevue and Islander Dale Murphy, respectively. There were no City Council or School Board positions up for election.
In October, Clayton L. Scott, one of the region’s best known aviators, died. Scott celebrated his 101st birthday July 15, when Renton Municipal Airport was named Clayton Scott Field in his honor. Scott, associated with The Boeing Company in its early days, was still piloting his own airplanes in his 90s.
Mercer Island High School was selected as a “No Child Left Behind” Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Principal John Harrison credited parent involvement as a major factor.
In November, Barack Obama, the junior senator from Illinois considered by some as a potential candidate for president in 2008, mentioned to a crowd in Bellevue that his mother graduated from Mercer Island High School. Legislative veterans Clibborn and Jarrett were reelected. The city took a hard look at how well permit fees cover city costs for new developments. Jaywalkers beat a path from the North end QFC to the newly opened Noah’s Bagels across the street. The City Council mulled a parking zone to protect residents from parking impacts caused by the high school and the proposed PEAK project. The King County Journal Newspapers, including the Mercer Island Reporter, were sold to a Canadian company. No changes are planned to the Reporter.
A snow storm hit the Island just before Thanksgiving. Icy conditions across the region cancelled school, because two-thirds of the school district staff live off Island and could not safely make the trip to work.
In December, the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce named Albertson’s as the 2006 Business of the Year for its charitable mindset and ongoing support of local service. As awareness grew of the city of Renton’s plans to increase usage of its airport, the Mercer Island City Council promised to be involved. A torrential rain set the stage for a days-long power outage when a powerful windstorm hit the region and Mercer Island, causing considerable damage to Island homes and businesses when trees fell and power poles snapped.
And the rest, as they say, is history.