With 2020 ushered in, we would like to continue our annual tradition of looking back on the news of the past year.
This past year, 2019, saw budget cuts, contentious politics and offensive gestures. It also featured a cat that lives on in perpetuity in the imaginations of many Islanders.
“Budget cuts force event center to reduce hours,” published Jan. 16, 2019: Following the defeat of Proposition 1 in 2018, the city began making cuts to services in the first month of the new year. The first area to see a budget cut was the Community Event Center. Operating hours were scaled back 27 hours per week.
Later in the month, the council cut Summer Celebration and other events.
Snow, snow and more snow: Headlines included “Snow Day!” on Feb. 6, 2019 (with the elusive exclamation point to emphasize the dramatics of the fluffy and frigid situation), “Winter wonderland… again” on Feb. 13, 2019 (with an ellipsis to show how exasperating and unexpected the second round of snow was), and “Delivering a helping hand” on Feb. 20, 2019 (though not exactly a snow themed headline, it prominently featured a picture of a person helping to dig out a United Parcel Service driver who was seemingly stuck in the snow).
Later, throughout spring, school districts on the Eastside discussed the best way to make up for the several missed school days.
“MISD students make ‘deeply offensive, Nazi gestures’ off campus,” published March 13, 2019: Islanders were shocked when a photo made the rounds on social media showing two students making Nazi hand gestures off campus during a snow day. The community came together in a show of solidarity (the solidarity event was covered in the March 20, 2019, issue). The offending students owned their actions through a written statement, saying “What we did was wrong,” and they encouraged others to speak out if they see other offensive actions or behaviors in the future.
“City terminates plans for Mercerdale” published April 24, 2019: Plans to build a facility and develop a portion of Mercerdale Park ended, much to the appreciation of several outspoken Islanders. Though the city still had to cross some Ts and dot some Is, the park was essentially saved from development plans.
“Mercer Island’s city manager resigns” published May 15, 2019: Sometimes enough is enough. Though former city manager Julie Underwood said she “did not come to this decision lightly,” she also didn’t mince words on her way out the door, describing a lack of civility from the community “that frankly has taken a toll on me and my family. I’m fatigued from the mean-spirited criticism that I’m feeling … My spirit is broken…”
In June, Jesse Bon was appointed as interim city manager.
“Residents plan the first All-Island Fourth of July Picnic” published June 26, 2019: Though the failure of Proposition 1 led to budget cuts in the city, including cuts to beloved city events like Summer Celebration, the residents of the Island were not impeded. They still found a way to gather and celebrate the summer without the city. The All-Island Fourth of July Picnic was announced in June and planned for Independence Day at Mercerdale Park.
“Male, female dead after car shooting at Luther Burbank Park” published July 17, 2019: A tragic situation when two lives ended at a park on Mercer Island. The public was seemingly not in danger, but the shots were heard by witnesses and the story was important to the community.
“WDFW: Cougar sighting ‘not unheard of’” published Aug. 14, 2019: It was cougar mania on the Island for several weeks. While the cat was likely on the Island and then gone over a tight timeline, the animal lived on by way of social media and general hysteria for weeks on end.
“Council voted to find Mayor in violation of code of ethics” published Sept. 18, 2019. Mayor Debbie Bertlin was voted in violation of the city’s code of ethics for using city email to conduct personal campaign business. Bertlin did not win in the November election following the complaint against her.
“Bodies of missing boaters located on Sept. 30” published Oct. 9, 2019: The drowning victims were named, families were notified, and bodies were recovered from Lake Washington after two boats went missing in September. The two people had been missing since Sept. 2. Several agencies assisted in finding and recovering the bodies.
As it was in 2018, so it was in 2019 — a contentious election divided the Island and dominated the Reporter’s headlines. Neighbor against neighbor. Letters aplenty, ads aplenty — and no lack of contention for either — through October and the first few days of November. And the situation dragged on to the bitter end with the race between Daniel Thompson and Dave Rosenbaum going into extra innings with a machine recount in December. Rosenbaum won by 40 votes.
“New reserved parking permits for Park-and-Ride” published Dec. 4, 2019: With development and public transportation booming in the Puget Sound and set to grow further with the development of light rail, Sound Transit created reserved parking spots at the Mercer Island Park-and-Ride. The monthly fee is as much as $120. While there was no outspoken opposition, some people did mention concerns that not everybody would be able to afford to pay for a spot (even at a discounted rate), making their respective morning commute that much more difficult.