Letters to the Editor

City Council race

I am writing because I am disappointed and saddened by the letter from former Mercer Island mayors and other elected officials endorsing Dan Grausz for City Council. While we can endorse whomever we wish, it is unfortunate that the writers feel it necessary to include distortions in their endorsement. The possibility of tolling on I-90 is not a scare tactic — it is a very real possibility. Judy Clibborn herself has acknowledged that she does not know how long she will be able to forestall this possibility, which, if it comes to pass, will have profound effects on all residents, businesses and employees. Whenever anyone, tradesman, visitor or friend, comes to MI, a cost will be born by MI residents. No other community will bear such an expense for all aspects of daily living. We do need a Councilmember who will be a very strong advocate for Mercer Islanders. Ira Appelman has not been an opponent of funding for school improvement, park maintenance or the Community Center. He has been the voice of fiscal responsibility in trying to fund the city’s needs in a fiscally sound fashion. He questions the need for additional park operation and maintenance levies, which the city then converts into capital expenses, as in the latest such levy conversion. The current Community Center was built for $19.5 million less than the initial 1998 bond put forth by the City Council after Ira Appelman galvanized the public to defeat that excessive expenditure. He is not against city projects, but he is for fiscally sound and prudent spending. Spending which will not saddle Mercer Islanders with taxes and fees for years to come.

Carol Danielson

For Grausz

As a member of our Mercer Island City Council, Dan Grausz fostered and supported using our Luther Burbank shoreline, our docks and our brick building to create a program for youngsters to learn to sail. He exemplified good public practice: utilize our city’s assets (in our Parks Department) for recreational education in a lifelong hobby. Deeds define.

Myra Lupton

For Appelman

Recent letters to the editor supporting Dan Grausz for re-election seem to indicate that his strongest quality is that he gets along with the other members of the City Council. The other members have shown their gratitude by endorsing him. Dan may be a congenial fellow, but that hardly means he represents the interests of Mercer Islanders well.

I think that someone who doesn’t just “go along to get along” much better serves us. Ira Appelman has advocated for Mercer Islanders’ rights and fiscally conservative approaches for years.

He supports our right to commute to Seattle on the I-90 bridge without paying a toll; he resists narrowing Island Crest from its current four driving lanes to two driving lanes. Although these are specific issues, with which you may or may not agree, the underlying values being supported are individual rights and property rights.

Let’s elect someone on the City Council who has a proven track record of looking after our rights and our money. Who wants to spend their time going to the City Council meetings, just to “keep ’em in line?” I want a watchdog that will bark loud enough for me to hear when the others get out of hand. Without someone like Ira as our watchdog on the City Council, we will not know until it’s too late. Let’s balance out the old boy’s club with Ira Appelman.

Robert and Betty Harper

For Grausz

I’m supporting Dan Grausz for re-election to the Mercer Island City Council. I believe Mercer Island is even better than it was when I moved here — and I give credit to Dan and the Council for making it so.

Specifically, I appreciate the improvements in our fields, Community Center and school district relationships made possible by the hard work from our elected leaders, including Dan Grausz, who often takes a lead on issues that require deep research and hard decision making.

I have watched enough City Council meetings on TV to know that discussion is often spirited and opinions vary, but respect is very strong, and I admire that. Serving as a publicly elected official is difficult, and I appreciate Grausz’s approach to finding common sense solutions and understanding details before acting.

Dan Grausz has earned my vote.

Ken Glass

The letter sent to Islanders by six former mayors suggests that they are scared to death about the possibility of sharing city power with Ira Appelman.

What does the letter tout most about Dan Grausz? 1) That he has been “the major catalyst” for lots of spending measures; 2) that, “while other governments are having to make drastic cuts,” he has helped to keep all programs operating; 3) that he always finds “common ground.”

What do they dislike most about Ira Appelman? 1) That he wants to consider a stoplight at Island Crest and Merrimount; 2) that “this spending priority is fiscally irresponsible”; 3) that he has opposed other spending in the past.

Many of us Islanders were not inclined in either direction until we received this “doth protest too much” letter.

Do these former mayors really think we have not noticed two other traffic lights being installed here in the past few months? Do they think we do not question their estimate that the Island Crest light would cost $1.5 to $3 million (while the new 86th and 40th light cost $400,000)? We need representatives who represent us — who strive for transparency in decision-making rather than obfuscation and cover-up.

Watching Grausz and Appelman answer questions at the political forum on Oct. 14 reinforced our impression that Grausz is part of the “old boys club.” This became abundantly clear when all three current Councilmembers were forced by audience questions to divulge their real motivation re: the disputed light.

Grausz may have served well for 10 years, but we need a change. We need a few feathers ruffled. We need fiscal responsibility — especially in this difficult economy. We need more honesty from our elected officials — especially as Mercer Island copes with complicated issues such as Tent City and the sexual harassment lawsuit we are facing.

As an organizational psychologist, I know that total agreement in decision-making is seldom healthy. Without realizing what they were doing, six former mayors have essentially endorsed Ira Appelman as the people’s representative.

Maryanne

Vandervelde

_________

As an observer of the Mercer Island City Council and a former city staff member, a citizen, and a member of advisory panels (Community Development Services and Central Business District Design Guidelines), I would like to comment on this current election. This is probably the most diverse set of viewpoints that has occurred in many years on the Island.

For 40-plus years, I have watched how the Councilmembers build consensus or create division. I have not always agreed on every issue with Dan Grausz, and I do agree with Ira Appelman on Island Crest — it needs fixing. The current situation is very dangerous. I, my wife, and my 12-year-old pass through that intersection numerous times per week. It is very unsafe, and cost should not be the sole determining factor.

However, this election is not about one issue. Councilmember Grausz has worked long and hard to build consensus. I first met him when he and neighbors had concerns about the expansion of Northwest Yeshiva High School. My firm was assisting the school as consultants. We met at my dining room table and worked out things between the high school and his neighborhood, to build consensus.

He was key to that consensus. Dan brought these same consensus-building skills to many of the tasks he has undertaken. Most recently, he worked tirelessly with the neighborhood surrounding the Mercer Island Boys & Girls Club to help the Council broker an agreement that allowed for the city, school district and the Boys & Girls Club to move ahead. I served on the Downtown Revitalization Committee with Dan and agreed with him on several things, and “agreed to disagree” on some minor points — but with mutual respect. He was always there working tirelessly, thinking things through, and high in energy and efforts for the betterment of the community.

The Council is well balanced. It has people interested in parks, trails, youth, schools, not raising taxes, public safety, etc. The majority of Councilmembers always seem to work well together, and respect each other.

Adding Mr. Appelman would, in my view, create unnecessary conflict and dissension. Someone with his “mindset” on the Council would make an even harder job for Mayor Jim Pearman and Mayor Pro-Tem El Jahncke, who I think are doing excellent jobs, along with the majority of the City Council.

My view of 40-plus years, in challenging economic times: Council productivity and chemistry will be served by returning Dan Grausz to the Council this fall.

Robert Thorpe, with Anne and Brook Thorpe

_________

We can honestly disagree about the shape of change, but all of us want to remain in our community.

The cost of living on Mercer Island is increasing to the point that it is difficult to remain here. Apparently, the majority of residents must be millionaires because people don’t seem to mind continually paying more from increased water bills and garbage bills to city and school levies and bonds. Few question the necessity of spending more, and unfortunately, unlike Mr. Fred Jarrett 20 years ago, when someone has a different opinion they seem to be dismissed as difficult, not community- or school-oriented.

I do not know Mr. Appelman, but I appreciate him or anyone who questions how money is currently spent and whether spending more is necessary. Mercer Island is my home, and I want to stay. No one outside is helping me fund my children’s schooling or my health care or care for my elderly mother at home. I do not expect them to, but I need my City Council to be aware that not everyone can continue to absorb more and more costs. The price of food, college, the plumber and income tax rates are all beyond their control, but they can contain local taxes and utilities.

People in this community, City Council, schools, Parks and Recreation, and athletic clubs are largely good-hearted, volunteering thousands of hours without pay. That is why I find casting aspersions about people who ask questions I might ask — or someone with a different point of view — disheartening. The recent letter from six former mayors was ugly in its depiction of a dissenting voice. No, Mr. Appelman doesn’t scare me.

Vote based on what you value, your own inquiry into issues rather than cliches, and vote for the person you have researched or spoken to personally and not because they are endorsed by this person or because you heard that this person was good or bad. Mercer Island lost much of its open space that I cherished, but I know it has not lost its caring and intelligent citizenry.

Shirlee Taki

_________

Dan Grausz has my full support! He has proven his ability to make things happen, unlike his opponent, who is consistently wrapped up in processes designed to prevent things from happening.

I find the prospect of Ira in office frightening. I generally take a “live and let live” attitude and actually am fine just ignoring his “Mr. No attitude” in his role as a citizen. But as a public official? As a representative of me and my community? This can’t be ignored. Ira has a strong track record in one thing: wasting local government resources to attempt to support his latest conspiracy theory.

City and school officials spend thousands of our tax dollars, resources and time servicing his broad, exhausting and frivolous “freedom of information” requests that support his anti-government paranoia. He consistently pushes for additional meetings, public input sessions and costly studies to slow down our community’s forward progress, and he’s constantly arguing for costly public elections for each and every city decision. This activity is simply money out of our pockets; money that could and should be spent on improving our local community.

We run under a representative government here. Ira’s approach to local government certainly doesn’t represent me. Dan’s approach does.

Kris Kelsay

_________

The first time I ever spoke with Dan Grausz was the day after both of us were elected to the City Council in 1999. I had endorsed his opponent. In spite of that, Dan called me and said that we should sit down and talk as we needed to find a way to work together. That began eight years of finding the means to achieve common ground even though we were from different ends of the political spectrum.

That is the way Dan has always carried himself. He is willing to work with others even when it might be possible to just push something through with four votes. Instead, he always looks for ways to find consensus solutions because he realizes that the long-term interests of the community are best served by negotiating compromises rather than just winning. It was that way when we were deciding whether to build a new Community Center. I recall hours of discussion with Dan during which he listened to my concerns regarding the proposed new Community Center, helped refine the proposal to take them into account and ended up getting my support for a project that, in an earlier version, I had led the opposition to. He did not need my support, but he was determined to get it.

In this day and age, there are far too few legislators who are willing to work with their counterparts. I know Dan’s opponent, and he will definitely not be one of them. We need people who can cross ideological lines to find a middle ground. I encourage Islanders to keep Dan on the City Council because I know his being there makes a real and positive difference for our community.

Sven Goldmanis

_________

The contrast in the upcoming City Council election couldn’t be more clear, and Dan Grausz is the obvious choice.

In a deeply divided Council, Dan is the member who works most effectively with his fellow Councilmembers to find compromises and solutions to the problems that Islanders care about. His opponent is an obstructionist who freely wastes government time and money in an effort to oppose virtually every initiative brought forth. Dan is an active supporter of our parks, ballfield improvements, schools funding, the Community Center, the PEAK, the school construction bonds that funded remodels of our schools in the ’90s, and funding for drug, alcohol and social services counselors in our schools.

His opponent actively opposed all of these initiatives, among others. Dan Grausz has been a tireless advocate on the Council on behalf of Mercer Island kids and families. Dan’s style of listening to people and then working effectively with others to achieve positive results on our behalf is in stark contrast to his opponent’s approach of endless information requests, accusations of graft and conspiracy theories. I urge all Islanders to join me in re-electing Dan Grausz to another well-deserved term serving us on the City Council.

Brian Emanuels

_________

This is to urge voters to vote for Ira Appelman for City Council as a man truly dedicated to the improvement of our community. Though not on the City Council (as yet), he has probably attended more Council meetings than any Councilmember. Ira is committed to keeping Island Crest as four lanes instead of narrowing it to two lanes.

His opponent, Dan Grausz, has yet to make such a firm commitment. Ira is also for advisory voting by our citizens to decide which are the most important questions for our City Council to review and act upon. This, rather than only the City Council making decisions regarding important issues for residents. Newer Island residents may not know that Ira led a campaign to have the North-end fire station remodeled, which resulted in Mercerdale Park being preserved. They may also not be aware that he campaigned to have a draconian tree ordinance overturned. These are only a few of the things for which he has worked. Electing Ira is an opportunity for us to add fresh perspective to our City Council.

Bitty and Jim Rauch

_________

In this day of contentious politics, I find myself looking at candidates in a new light. With young but increasingly aware children in the house, I ask myself which politician is leading the debate in a way that I feel exemplary — a way that I feel will be helpful in teaching them to deal with many of life’s challenges on the playground, in the classroom and as future (economic) contributors to society.

Based on this criteria, my endorsement for City Council clearly goes to Dan Grausz. I’ve worked with Dan in many contexts over the past years — as a single professional, now as an involved parent. It is Dan’s ability to grasp, acknowledge and work with the complexities and sometimes differing interests of demographics, neighborhoods, cities and region that resounds so clearly.

My most recent exposure to Dan’s approach is the initiative that he showed in contacting the Mercer Island Preschool Association this past winter. Thanks to his leadership, we now have the “Fire Engine Park” at Luther Burbank. Acting on a letter he received from an Island senior, MIPA, the city and City Council were able to cooperatively create a new space where seniors can bring toddlers and children with physical limitations to play. Small budget, but big returns.

So when my kids ask about politics and why I support one person or another, I talk to them about their ability to think critically, work cooperatively and show respect for others. This is Dan within the City Council. I hope we’ll be fortunate enough to have him for another term.

Debbie Lloyd Bertlin

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