Kate Akyuz and Lisa Anderl. Courtesy photos

Kate Akyuz and Lisa Anderl. Courtesy photos

Akyuz versus Anderl: City Council Position No. 6

  • Monday, October 18, 2021 8:30am
  • News

Kate Akyuz

* Why are you running for Mercer Island City Council?

There’s an artificial rift in our community that’s been driven by social media. But when I have campaigned door to door, I have heard the same values expressed over and over again. Preserve and maintain our parks. Keep our schools great. Keep our community safe and clean. Use our talents and resources to help neighbors in need. We need leadership that will elevate and reinforce all the common values and goals we share.

* What do you feel are three of the most critical issues on Mercer Island and how do you hope to address them?

· Parks preservation, sustaining Mercer Island Youth and Family Services, and addressing the housing crisis are the most critical issues I see facing our community.

· I think there is broad community support for creating a Parks Conservancy for all forested parks on Mercer Island. A conservancy would ensure Islanders that our beautiful open spaces will not be subject to development and take some of the heat out of land use conversations. It could also be a way to better address city-level parks planning and enable the city to leverage grant funding to acquire additional open space. Finally, it could be a vehicle for channeling mitigation funds for building permits where on site mitigation is not practical and aggregating them to better fund maintenance and restoration.

· The city needs to create a reserve fund for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services to complement the fiscal responsibility of the MIYFS Foundation. Too many kids and seniors had services cut off just when the pandemic was taking hold and the negative social effects of isolation were setting in. I would also work for an additional full-time outreach and intervention social worker to fill a critical gap in coordinating fire, police, and MIYFS services. Our first responders deserve to have a person to hand off chronic cases to, that are better serviced by social work than policing. I also think it is shameful that after 40 years the left and the right factions of government haven’t figured out how to address the mental health crisis at the national and state levels. We need to lobby the state legislature, coordinated with other Eastside communities, to address the lack of long-term, nurse-supported community residential housing for those that cannot take care of themselves.

· We have 1,000 seniors living alone on Mercer Island, 90% of whom are cost-burdened by housing, and 75% are women. This is a crisis that needs to be daylighted. We need to work with state, county, and private partners to figure out how we can subsidize a diversity of housing options on Mercer Island without excessive tax increases.

* What’s your life philosophy and how can you apply that to council matters?

· My life philosophy is to dream big, take both measured steps and risks to reach your dreams, and forgive others and yourself when things go sideways.

· We have become a society of people that talk past each other, making assumptions about intent, and not listening when someone speaks their truth. It is imperative that we turn this around. Even if you don’t agree with what someone is saying, it is critically important to suspend your disbelief, or you will never have the opportunity to learn something new and grow in your relationship.

· A revision to public process is long overdue. For example, the three-minute, one-way speeches that precede council votes that provide no room for dialogue. I wouldn’t say to eliminate them, because they can be a great way to capture final public sentiment, but something needs to precede these rounds of speeches to build common ground.

We also need to implement standards for councilmember decorum. I have observed several council meetings over the last year where councilmembers have made humiliating speeches that undermine the credibility of our city staff. The public forum is not the place to express discontent with staff; we should be better than that.

* The last 18 months during the pandemic have been tough on everyone, and it continues to be that way. What will you do in your role as a councilmember to support the community and strengthen the city?

· I was a strong advocate for fully reopening schools after all teachers had a chance to get vaccinated. COVID sucks. It really does, and the palpable fear around infection is completely legitimate. But I watched firsthand as high school juniors and seniors suffered and flushed long standing dreams down the drain. I saw teen girls and boys completely check out because every prize they had worked more than a decade to win vaporized. I think the city could have opened up the community center in some way to support families that did not have the ability to thrive in isolation.

· Human beings need one thing that the rest of the animal kingdom is exempt from –- we need hope. We need to be able to envision a positive future to persevere. It’s high time we create a shared community vision for our Town Center and end the development moratorium. We need the city to take a lead on this and work proactively with developers on a master plan instead of waiting around for piecemeal development proposals and then complaining that the developer didn’t get it right. This development philosophy is not good for anyone and is certainly not helping to build the vibrant Town Center that so many residents desire.

* What’s special about Mercer Island, and what are some improvements you feel could be made?

· Mercer Island is in the most densely populated county in the state, and we are the most heavily populated freshwater island in the United States, and yet our residents make up only 1% of the population in King County. We are big and small at the same time, and that is why I think we are stuck in a struggle over our Town Center vision. We are an ambitious community of helpers, entrepreneurs, and innovators. I would like to radically re-envision our public engagement processes so that they are compelling, well-attended, and welcoming to all in our community. I think a public process to develop a citywide Parks Conservancy or a 3-D model for our Town Center vision would great opportunities to try a new approach to community dialogue.

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Lisa Anderl

* Why are you running for Mercer Island City Council?

I am running for city council to continue the work that we started in 2018 when I was first appointed. I love serving this community. Doing effective work on council requires a significant amount of time to understand the issues, be prepared for meetings, serve on boards and commissions, and, most importantly, make good decisions. I have the time to devote to this work. I want to preserve Mercer Island as a first-class city, delivering first-class services, with a balanced budget, fiscal discipline and sustainability, and attention to and priority for our community’s needs.

In the next four years we will have important votes and decisions on transportation issues, zoning issues, infrastructure issues and many others. My understanding of these issues will enable me to make the best decisions for the Island. I will work to preserve the special feeling of community that we have here. I will always vote to preserve our parks and open spaces. I think it’s important to maintain single family neighborhoods. I want to preserve the tremendous record of public safety we have on the Island.

* What do you feel are three of the most critical issues on Mercer Island and how do you hope to address them?

Budget. Safety. Infrastructure.

Budget: I believe one of the most important issues facing the Island is maintaining a balanced budget. That’s because many of the other issues that need to be addressed hinge on having enough money to accomplish the desired outcomes. Discipline on this issue is hard, and the city has overspent in the past, leading to a failed request for a tax increase, and a need to make tough financial decisions. To this end, I will press for prudent financial leadership. Spending must be sustainable, with funding sources identified before making expenditures.

The council has recently enacted financial guidelines that I believe set us on a good path to the future. Our city manager is keenly aware of the need to operate under a balanced budget and has implemented many changes that enhance efficiency of operations so as to maximize the benefit to the city whenever we spend money.

Safety: Public safety is a critical issue. In fact, the most common theme I have heard while out ringing doorbells is “public safety.” We need to adequately fund our first responders, provide resources for our police department, and focus on crime prevention. I voted to support the hiring of four new police officers who should come on line in 2022. I voted to fund the purchase of automatic license plate readers for the police so that their encounters with the public are safer and more effective. Finally, I voted for the ordinance to prevent encampments on public property. This will keep our public property safe for all of our residents and guests to use. My opponent wanted to weaken the ordinance in a ways which would have allowed 48-hour encampments that could have shifted from place to place on public property, but I do not think that’s a solution that benefits anyone. I have also strongly supported connecting people with treatment and shelter if they are in need.

Infrastructure: A third critical issue is infrastructure. Maintaining our water and sewer systems is a critical city function, though not a particularly flashy or glamorous one. I support using COVID relief funds to focus on infrastructure projects in this area, as permitted, including upgrading and improving the systems for the long term. Great projects are already in the works on this front, including a booster chlorination system, and a full replacement of water meters with digital equipment that will enhance efficiency and eliminate the need to manually read the meters. This takes a vehicle off the road and frees up staff for other work.

* What’s your life philosophy and how can you apply that to council matters?

My life philosophy is “persistence and determination.” It is based on this quote, which is attributed to Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

I apply this philosophy to council matters in the sense that we must continue to work tirelessly to attain and retain what we value in the community. It’s great to have smart and talented and educated people on council, which we do, but the only way we end up with good things for the community is to press on with the work we believe is important.

An example of this is the decision we made to engage in litigation with Sound Transit to hold them to the promises they made in terms of the traffic burden on the north end of the Island. We could have given up or given in –- and some wanted us to –- but we made a unanimous decision to persist. I don’t know how this will be resolved, but I am proud that we are advocating for the interests of our community, while still trying to find a solution for buses and rail to safely serve the Island.

* The last 18 months during the pandemic have been tough on everyone, and it continues to be that way. What will you do in your role as a councilmember to support the community and strengthen the city?

I think it’s critical that we maintain our sense of community and connection, even in a pandemic. I have supported bringing city services back on line, as we are able, when permitted under state mandates. This includes re-starting services at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center, and restarting sales and donations at the Thrift Shop. I will continue to support events that bring our community together, such as music and other events in our parks. Finally, I will continue our work as a council to ensure a vibrant and healthy Town Center, where Islanders can gather, play, dine out, and shop.

* What’s special about Mercer Island, and what are some improvements you feel could be made?

We are fortunate to live in an area of tremendous natural beauty, with weather that (generally) allows for year-round enjoyment. Our parks and trails, along with multiple access points to the lake, really make Mercer Island special. We are also fortunate to live in a “full-service” city. By that I mean the city provides all the essential city services, and then some. Mercer Island Youth and Family Services stands out to me as the “and then some.” MIYFS provides student mental health counselors to the schools, adult and family counseling, senior services, rental assistance, and food pantry assistance, just to name a few things. I don’t know of any other community that is able to provide this range of services, especially a community as small as ours. And, while I am sure there is room for improvement, I will end on a positive note by simply saying I love living here.


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