Mercer Island City Council candidates seeking the Position 1 seat are Dave Rosenbaum and Daniel Thompson. Rosenbaum works at a technology company and Thompson is a partner and founding attorney of Thompson & Delay law firm.
How would you look to preserve or enhance Mercerdale Park?
Dave Rosenbaum: Our 475 acres of parks and open spaces are a high priority for me. As the parent of a toddler, I spend lots of time at Mercerdale, especially at the “choo choo” playground. We are fortunate to have a large green space, and other diverse attractions so close to our business district. I will work to ensure the park, including the native species garden, is well maintained. I will ask the parks department to pay special attention to the safety of features in the skate park, the walking path and the playground. Mercerdale also has even more potential. I would like to see a water feature or splash park for children, and the existing restrooms improved.
Daniel Thompson: With incredibly hard work and determination the citizens did preserve Mercerdale Park. Again. I actively opposed the permitting for the Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA) in Mercerdale Park because it would have ruined the park and MICA would have surely failed in Mercerdale Park with no onsite parking and a mile from transit. (I support MICA.) I was also actively involved in objecting to paving Kite Hill for a regional parking lot, and the recent Aubrey Davis Master Plan. A primary plank of my campaign is to permanently protect all our parks. I don’t think a trust or metropolitan trust is necessary. Instead, I would amend the comprehensive plan and development regulations to require a vote of the citizens before any park designated property can be rezoned.
What would be your budget priorities and why?
Rosenbaum: Our budget should be a reflection of the community’s priorities. That’s why I will listen to Islanders as we develop the biennial budget to ensure their priorities are reflected. That is how I will help craft a budget that meets the needs of every member of our community. Having spent 14 years working in the U.S. Congress, I have extensive experience working with public sector budgets to achieve policy goals, and I look forward to drawing from that experience to benefit our friends and neighbors. My priorities include funding for our parks, public safety, transportation, community programming and mental health counselors. Fully funding these priorities reflect what I value as an Islander, and having spent so much time listening, I think many members of our community share those priorities.
Thompson: Basically there are three major budgets: The maintenance and operations budget; the capital budget; and the water and sewer line replacement budget.
I opposed 2018 General Election Proposition 1 because I agreed with the 2018 surveyor a M&O levy could not pass in 2018 due to unpopular council policies, mostly regarding residential development, and the city needed to wait until 2020 to determine the accuracy of the city’s forecasted budget deficits, which turned out to be inflated.
I think the city and council have a moral obligation to look for efficiencies to ensure that every penny of the citizens’ taxes reach the intended beneficiaries, which is the only way to rebuild trust for future levies. However, I do believe that additional revenue will be necessary and would suggest the following schedule: 2020 levy to reinstate the $20 tab fee if I-976 passes; 2021 renewal of the parks levy that expires in 2023; 2022, a capital levy to address the huge backlog of ignored capital projects, including in our parks; 2023, a water and sewer line levy that I estimate at 40 years and more than $100 million.
How do you balance development and growth against maintaining the town’s current character?
Rosenbaum: Any decision about development made by the council should be made after thorough discussions about how it will impact the culture and character of the Island. This is a close-knit community. I love seeing friends and neighbors at community celebrations, city council meetings, and at the supermarket. That small-town feel, just a few minutes from Seattle and Bellevue, is worth protecting, and that’s exactly what I am going to do on the council. When it comes to balancing growth with Mercer Island’s character, one of my guiding principles is enhancing our quality of life. We will do that through careful and thoughtful development aimed at creating more opportunities for small businesses and entrepreneurs. We will also create more retail and dining options in our town center. Bennett’s and Mioposto are two success stories when it comes to enhancements to the retail center, in blocks that were redeveloped, that we all enjoy. But the key is listening. We will set our growth plans in partnership with the community, listening and building consensus about how to protect the unique character of the Island while we add amenities and improve our quality of life.
Thompson: In 2015 the council enacted a two-year development moratorium and began a very contentious two-year rewrite of the town center development code. In the end, little changed. The process forgot the citizens’ demand for the original rewrite: the public amenities for additional height.
Mercer Island must meet certain regional population targets, and the council has determined the additional growth should go in the town center to preserve the residential neighborhood character and zoning. These population targets require a certain density and height in the town center. However additional height in the past has not created a vibrant retail core. The key to this is better design and control of the street level.
The entire town center code should be reopened to create a master lan. This time, recognized experts in creating town centers for small cities should be retained. We must tie additional height above the base limit of two stories to vibrant retail, which means affordable lease rates, some drive-up parking, and adequate underground residential parking to avoid spillover to the public streets. Unless additional height creates and preserves a vibrant retail core it is just height for height’s sake.
How would you support transit developments, and how/when would you push back?
Rosenbaum: I commute downtown, often by bus or carpool, and many of our neighbors do as well. These are among the reasons I support transit developments and innovations that meet the needs of Island commuters. For example, we need to make commutes easier and shorter. As the opening of light rail approaches, we must implement first and last-mile transportation systems that ensure Islanders can use the new station. After all, Islanders voted by a clear majority for light rail. We also have to work closely with our emergency services and public safety officials to ensure they have the resources they need as the station opens. None of this will be easy because, at the end of the day, we are a small town dealing with larger county and other government agencies. But I have the experience to get it done. During my time working in Congress, I served as the chief policy advisor to a member of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. I worked on policies that encouraged innovation and improved transportation options for communities. That is how I know that, to effectively advocate for the Island’s priorities, Mercer Island has to be strongly represented at the earliest ideation and planning stages for transportation projects. The old adage, “If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” comes to mind. We must play an active role, and operate at a sophisticated level, to deliver positive results for our residents. That’s what I intend to do on the council, to make sure everyone reading this can benefit from major transportation changes coming to the Island.
Thompson: Tom Acker, Save Our Suburbs, and I first stopped the council’s approval of a bus intercept in 2014, which is why this issue even exists today, because then and now there is no benefit to Mercer Island from a bus intercept.
In 2017 Bob Medved, Mark Coen and I appealed to the Growth Management Hearings Board, which then issued an order of noncompliance that required the council to finally adopt a transportation concurrency ordinance, knowing that tying town center street and intersection capacity to development — including a bus intercept – would be critical to objecting to or limiting a bus intercept.
My position is and always has been the council must write to Sound Transit stating drop offs on the North side of NMW and bus layover bays are material changes to the 2017 settlement agreement Mercer Island objects to — which alone would limit buses closer to eight per hour and off-Island passengers to 800 per peak hour, which is still a huge increase compared to the 2016-17 ST estimates of 800 per day. I think even the “limited” service configuration would change the character of Mercer Island, and that the council must perform a traffic analysis of the existing traffic capacity on NMW, what each bus service configuration would consume, and how each service configuration would negatively affect the rest of Mercer Island, from TC development to SOV access, which is probably less than eight buses per hour.
General Election is Nov. 5.