Stay healthy and safe, Mercer Island | Letter from the mayor

Stay healthy and safe, Mercer Island | Letter from the mayor

Dear Mercer Island Community,

A couple of weeks ago we celebrated the country’s birthday. Like many of you, it was an appropriate time to reflect upon our blessings. No doubt, it has been a tumultuous four months for our world, country, state and Mercer Island community. So many things have occurred that physically, emotionally and spiritually divide people.

We are in the midst of a health crisis that requires each of us to maintain social distancing and to wear masks. The pandemic has crippled the economy and especially impacted small businesses and driven the unemployment rate to unprecedented levels. Our youth were separated from their friends and teachers during the middle of a school year. The education of our youth from kindergarten through college has been interrupted. Parents with school-aged children were and continue to be under increasing pressure and stress to help educate their children. And, recently we have been painfully reminded that systemic racism still permeates through our country and must be finally addressed.

Locally, these events have impacted the city’s finances and consequently the level of services that we have been able to provide to this community in the past and have called upon us to reflect on how we should change policies and practices that address systemic racism.

Despite these divisive events and forces, I am thankful for our Mercer Island community. Because no matter the strength and destructive nature of the division, I have seen greater strength exerted individually and collectively in our community that is focused upon binding us together. Different community groups came together to form the WeLoveMI campaign. Residents increased their donations to the city’s Food Bank. Working through The Mercer Island Youth and Family Services Foundation, our community donated a significant dollar amount to the city to help fund much-needed school-based counselors. Neighbors have been encouraging and supporting neighbors and helping them with their grocery shopping and other errands. Student leaders and community members came together to shine a light on the need for all of us to address systemic racism and also created a safe space on Mercer Island to reflect and to “Say Their Names.”

As we move into the second half of 2020, continued uncertainty and difficult decisions lie ahead. For instance, the city must still deal with current financial challenges due to shrinking revenue and must begin work on adopting a balanced budget for the 2021-2022 biennium. Simultaneously, the City Council needs to prioritize community programs and services with much less resources. The Mercer Island School District needs to develop a plan that allows teachers to teach and students to learn in a safe and new environment. Despite all of these challenges, I am comforted with the knowledge that I can count upon our community’s willingness to roll up its collective sleeves to work with the City Council and each other on finding common ground that binds us together, instead of dividing us.

Thank you. Stay healthy and safe!

Benson Wong

Mayor of Mercer Island

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