Mercer Island City Council candidates vying for Position 4 are incumbent Lisa Anderl and Patrick Allcorn. Anderl was appointed to city council in December 2018 and works as an in-house regulatory counsel for CenturyLink. Allcorn manages a food tour company in Pike Place Market and serves on the Affirmative Action Committee.
How would you look to preserve or enhance Mercerdale Park?
Lisa Anderl: The issue is how to best preserve Mercerdale as a park for future generations. An option that I’d like to explore are the pros and cons of placing the park in a trust. This park in particular has a history of unsuccessful attempts to develop it. The property was originally purchased in 1956 for a possible school site but the site was deemed unsuitable. In 1970 a joint city/district community center plan failed for lack of federal funding. A 1986 Civic Center Plan failed because of heavy Islander opposition. Again in 1987, Island leaders tried to place City Hall on the park but was stopped at the ballot. In 1997 the council tried to develop the park for a new fire house. This initiative was also stopped by citizens, as were more recent. Mercerdale Park is a wonderful green space in an otherwise highly developed area. The downtown area is likely to be further developed, making this community asset even more valuable as an open space.
Patrick Allcorn: Mercerdale Park is a Mercer Island treasure that should be preserved and enhanced. Whether it’s the tree lighting, Mostly Music in the Park, the farmers market, or just fellow parents getting their kids out for some fresh air (and a “new” toy from Mercer Island Thrift Shop), Mercerdale Park is a place for community. While it’s on the southern edge of it, Mercerdale is certainly the highlight of the town center.
The former recycling center on the north end of the park presents an obvious opportunity for enhancement. I was a supporter of building an arts center in that location, provided it had a minimal sprawl into active park space, but those plans were changed. The one park feature we often travel off island for is a water feature. I would love to see our park improved with a splash pad or wading pool in the space currently occupied by a non-functioning relic. The voters will soon have to pass a water and sewer line replacement levy, and I think this would be great to tie in with that levy.
What would be your budget priorities and why?
Anderl: My budget priorities are to preserve essential services – police, fire, water, sewer, street maintenance, parks, and Youth and Family Services. As a councilmember, I will continue to advocate that the city undertake efficiencies before asking to raise taxes, and I will support the city manager in these efforts. This past summer we’ve found several operational and organizational opportunities, and we are currently operating under a balanced budget. It is also important the council understands the budget, looks at critical city infrastructure, including necessary capital projects, and maintains our parks.
Allcorn: Maintaining funding for the Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) Fund. Guaranteeing funding for mental health counselors in each of our schools is my top priority. We need this, not only for our kids, but for overall public safety. I will take every step possible to make sure the funding for these counselors, through MIYFS, is never in jeopardy.
I also think we need to invest in our city staff. They do incredible work to keep the city running, and with the failure of Proposition 1 last year, they are working with reduced budgets, and they’re lacking the security they deserve. We need to prioritize their salaries in this competitive employment environment, and ensure that they are fairly compensated.
Our emergency services deserve our continued financial support and should be viewed as untouchable when writing the budget. I will not support any cuts to the police or fire departments that do not come with the recommendation of the chiefs of those departments.
How do you balance development and growth against maintaining the town’s current character?
Anderl: As an Island sandwiched between Seattle and Bellevue, Mercer Island is one of the most sought-after and profitable areas to develop. As a member of the city council, I think it is important to provide clear direction to the city manager that we need to continue to evaluate the town center codes and determine how to encourage better and sustainable retail opportunities that support the community. The unique shops and other businesses that give Mercer Island its character should be able to thrive here. Parking, lighting, greenspace, setbacks and other amenities need to be considered.
There are also external pressures. The region is pushing for additional density near light rail, but this demand needs to be balanced against the quality of life we currently enjoy and not let that be diminished. To balance growth with development the council needs a strong majority who will stand up to and challenge the blanket population quotas and density dictated by the Growth Management Act. Local control is critical in this area.
Allcorn: I don’t subscribe to the notion that these things need to be balanced against each other. The character of a place should evolve as people move in and out. As Mercer Island grows I hope that our character changes for the better and that we are being inclusive of our new neighbors. We need to be smart about our growth and understand that on an island we do have limited resources and space, but I don’t think we should assume that growth means losing character. It means evolving, and that is a good thing.
How would you support transit developments, and how/when would you push back?
Anderl: Right now the city is facing real challenges with the integration of bus and light rail service. Originally, Mercer Island was supposed to be just a light rail stop, not an intercept, and not a bus turnaround. King County and Sound Transit (ST) did not include a bus intercept when they asked Islanders to vote for ST3.
In 2017 the city signed a settlement agreement with Sound Transit regarding transit configurations. ST and Metro are now pushing the city for significant additional concessions outside of the settlement agreement, with no offsetting benefit for the Island. I do not support any additional burden on North Mercer Way beyond that which was agreed to by Sound Transit in the settlement. This means limited layovers, and pick up and drop off only on the south side of North Mercer Way. Alternatively, if that cannot work operationally for ST and Metro, they could consider an alternate station for the intercept, with greater capacity than Mercer Island can provide.
In addition, I think it is in the best interests of Mercer Island residents to have some buses continue from the Eastside through to Seattle, but that is not in Metro’s current proposal. This would eliminate a significant number of transfers and pedestrian traffic going to the trains, and for each bus that goes through it would eliminate the need for a layover.
Finally, I believe that ST and Metro should make significant and tangible commitments to ensure that they are equipped to keep the public safe at both the bus and rail stations.
Allcorn: We are facing a climate crisis and no action that will help to halt the destruction of our planet should be viewed as too small. With the growth occurring in our region, we have a duty to assist in creating an efficient and safe public transit system, so that we can reduce the number of single occupancy vehicles on the road. Many of us moved here because of the proximity to jobs in the surrounding cities, so I don’t see how we can say no to transit developments, provided they are done in collaboration with the city. When agreements are broken, then it’s time to push back.
When considering transit developments, I think we also need to consider cyclists. We need safe bike lanes to get people around and through Mercer Island. Students should be able to safely ride their bikes to any school on Mercer Island, and we just aren’t there yet. I’d like to see investments made in that infrastructure. We should also focus on making the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail as safe as possible for the people cycling across, as well as for the pedestrians who also use the trail.
General election day is Nov. 5.