Becker versus Nice: City Council Position No. 2

Daniel Becker

* Why are you running for Mercer Island City Council?

I’m running for city council because I care about my hometown, our future, and helping our city become an even better place to live. I grew up here and have seen Mercer Island go through many changes. I want to preserve what is great about our community, while continuously striving to make tomorrow better.

I’ve never been in politics before, because I’ve been focused on building a business from the ground up to nearly $50 million annually and raising my young family. Campaigning for city council is no small task, but I wanted to put myself out there because I know we can do better. I want to do my part to leave our city a better place for my son and the next generation.

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

Culture of Positivity

We deserve a community that is optimistic and respectful. I don’t want the negative tone on Nextdoor to seep further into city hall. We have already lost too many valuable staff members across numerous departments. City council should be an example of leadership, showing our kids and city staff what we can achieve together. If you think these are just buzz words, they’re not — I am committed to holding people to a higher standard and legitimately improving the culture within our city.

High-Quality City

We pay so much to live here and give so much back to our community in a multitude of ways. I want to ensure our city reflects our high standards with clean parks, safe communities, more retail, and reliable government services. Our city is known for being difficult to conduct business in –- from delayed permit review timelines to cumbersome requirements. I want to make sure we are adequately staffed to review permits and operate effectively. I want our emergency responders have the tools they need and confidence in our city council, so they can deliver the services that keep our community safe. All of this speaks to quality of life, and that will be a key focus and guiding principle in everything I do as a representative of the residents of Mercer Island.

Environmental Sustainability

Creating a Climate Action Plan has been our intention for years, and it is finally on the council schedule for 2022. I’ve reviewed multiple plans from other cities and the end products vary widely. The breadth and depth will depend heavily on the direction provided by city council, and its interest in committing time and resources. I fully support an aggressive and actionable CAP, which will guide our policies and effect real progress in achieving our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050, compared to a 2007 baseline.

As councilmember, I will champion efforts to make Mercer Island a leader and ensure we do our part to preserve our planet for future generations. It is important to recognize that for any policy to be successful, it needs broad community support. I am doorbelling daily, hearing from residents about their opinions. Sustainability is a top concern, so I know change can be achieved if we listen to our residents and businesses. Importantly, many of the measures do not have to compromise quality of life and can in fact be a net positive.

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

Make things better. It is that simple. At my company, there are no bad ideas. We discuss, innovate, and drive improvements through open-ended discussions before settling on a course of action. I will bring this mantra to city council. I believe fostering a positive work environment gets you further. Being grounded in reality, while open to new ideas let’s everyone do their best work, and the city council needs to take the lead on this approach. When I meet with staff, residents, and our business community, I do so to find out what they think –- not so they can hear what I think. I use this wealth of information to identify priorities and determine a path forward.

* 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?

The past 18 months have been incredibly difficult. As we emerge from the pandemic, I want to promote an optimistic outlook while recognizing that people are struggling in so many ways. The uncertainty of what tomorrow may bring can be paralyzing.

We need to start bringing back community events and programming. This has already begun to some extent, but we need a much more robust effort and a sustainable level of programming. Let’s have a real summer camp program, a mid-summer community celebration, and programming for our seniors. Although our Parks and Recreation staff has been severely depleted, we still have some amazing employees that are ready to help us build back.

Another focus will be working with the thrift shop to find practical ways to effectively improve operations and revenue. I have a background in ecommerce and operations, and can work with the thrift shop to optimize potential in these areas. A large portion of MIYFS funding comes from thrift shop revenues, which is amazing. Let’s take advantage of this great resource and make it even better.

Businesses have had to make incredible shifts and be nimble to make it through the pandemic, something I have experienced firsthand. I have heard too many stories about how difficult it can be to open businesses and shift operating models on Mercer Island due to bureaucratic requirements. Let’s figure out how where the roadblocks are and help streamline the process for our businesses.

Finally, we need to conduct a debrief on lessons learned to better understand how we can prepare for and respond to unexpected circumstances in the future.

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

There is so much that makes Mercer Island special, from our amazing parks to the people who step up in big and small ways every day. Our greatest strength is the heart we all give in making our community what it is today and will be in the future. This community has meant so much to me throughout my life and that is a large part of why I decided to invest the past six months in campaigning for city council. So what can we do better? We can embrace what we have and look to the future. Let’s make sure our Town Center Vision is updated to include the light rail and that we find ways to get people there when it opens in two years. Let’s figure out what services residents most value and find creative ways to improve them. And let’s continue to work together to appreciate what we have but know we can always do better.


Salim Nice

* Why are you running for Mercer Island City Council?

I moved to Mercer Island as a first-generation American and a person of color in 1979. Like many who grew up here, my wife and I returned because of the excellent schools and safe community.

I have seen first-hand the changes our community has gone through with good and bad governance, and I grasp both the importance and consequences of our actions.

My goal is to bring people together, find a balanced perspective, and implement sound policies for future generations of Islanders.

I value ethics and transparency in government. I make decisions by listening to the data, subject-matter experts, and, most importantly, my constituents’ views and values.

I’m seeking re-election to continue serving my community with these values in mind.

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

As Mercer Island’s councilmember, I will continue to align my view of critical issues with our community.

First and foremost — Public safety. It forms the foundation of a healthy and thriving community and has been a hallmark of my years of service on the city council.

I voted for increasing diversity within our police and fire departments, adding Asian, Latino, Black, and female police officers and, for the first time, a female firefighter to our ranks this year.

I voted to launch a pilot project equipping three Mercer Island police patrol vehicles with automated license plate reader (ALPR) technology to increase officer safety and aid in the identification of missing persons, stolen vehicles, and persons with warrants.

I proposed, and the council approved in a 7-0 vote, the modest conversion of the former Tully’s Coffee building into a Town Center police precinct in 2022. A MIPD precinct staffed with volunteers will hub officers and their equipment steps away from the new transit station.

I support and voted for Ordinance 21C-02, which protects our parks, open spaces, and rights-of-ways and connects people experiencing homelessness to the critical services and shelters they need, none of which are available in Mercer Island.

I will continue to work with our police chief, firefighters, and public safety staff to identify and resource additional tools necessary to ensure the levels of public safety Islanders expect.

When an emergency happens, we must have an immediate, local response. This is a non-negotiable priority for me, and I know our community shares this value.

Second, our regional transit partner, Sound Transit, must honor the 2017 Settlement Agreement with the City of Mercer Island that seeks to protect bicyclists and pedestrians and provides $10 million in critical safety and mobility mitigations to the bus and train operations scheduled to begin operations in 2023.

Many of these mitigations directly address bicycle and pedestrian safety along the Mountain to Sound trail, a popular commuter and recreational trail that runs on North Mercer Way’s north side adjacent to the train station.

Why is this important?

Sound Transit has submitted plans to offload potentially thousands of transit riders daily directly into this busy bicycle and pedestrian corridor as well as stage buses for unlimited periods, 24 hours per day, along this same corridor, including the north side. Sound Transit’s plans directly conflict with the 2017 Settlement Agreement. The council voted 7-0 to uphold the original settlement agreements terms.

Having a councilmember directly involved in the original settlement agreement benefits the community, litigation team, and city staff.

I will continue to work with all parties to ensure these critical safety and mobility concerns are addressed.

The third critical issue is — Parks and park preservation. We must protect our communities’ most valuable asset, our parks systems. Islanders currently benefit from more than 475 acres of parks and open spaces.

I propose adding language to our Comprehensive Plan which ensures the viability and health of the park system. Parks and open space acreage should be measured and calibrated against the total Mercer Island population. The proposed language would ensure future councils protect and grow our parks system as Mercer Island population peaks, ensuring future generations have the same access to parks that we all enjoy today.

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

Compassionate and accountable governance.

Reasonable people can disagree. My approach is to listen first to understand, be empathetic, and find the best path forward to represent the interests of our community.

I’m about finding solutions.

It takes time, and I’m committed to the work.

* 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?

The pandemic threw a lot of challenges at our community. We met those challenges head-on, with honesty, transparency, and a core value approach: protecting, prioritizing, and adapting.

We Protected the services most important to our community for safety: police, fire, and Youth and Family Services.

We prioritized the needs of our most vulnerable residents.

We adapted our finances and service delivery for the virtual world.

Moving forward, I want to continue our momentum with a stable budget, protected services, and a critical issues worklist. Continuity on the council and the many committees I serve are crucial to maintaining progress without losing time.

Simply put, I’m an experienced leader who will hit the ground running on day one, delivering results. And, this brings me to three differentiators from my opponent:

Experience –- Since 2017, I have served both on city council and as deputy mayor (2018-2019). In my time on council, I have led with ethics and transparency in government. I craft decisions by listening to the data, subject matter experts, and, most importantly, my constituents.

In addition to being a long-time resident of Mercer Island, I have served on the following boards: Commissions & Committees: Growth Mgmt Planning Council, Sustainability Committee, Finance Committee, Town Center Council Working Group, MIYFS Sub-Committee, Arts Council, WRIA-8

In addition to my public service experience, I am president and CEO of Healthcare Reimbursement Solutions and formerly held executive roles, including senior vice president and COO, and vice president of Information Technology and Information Services.

Engagement and collaboration — I provide tangible results for our community because I listen to my constituents, build positive relationships, and seek solutions that align with our community goals.

I am a proven collaborator, having served with my council colleagues and city staff on issues across the board to implement new strategies to the highest ethics and diligence.

Five of my councilmember colleagues have recognized my ability to work together in their endorsements for my re-election. They are joined by numerous other elected and past-elected local officials along with many constituents.

Voting record as proof –- As my voting record reflects, I will continue to support and fund our communities’ priorities:

Public Safety: Police, fire and Mercer Island Youth and Family Services.

Park use and preservation.

Stand strong without waiver as we face Sound Transit.

Master planning toward a more vibrant Town Center, supporting small businesses and expanded retail space.

Represent and advocate for Islander interests with balanced and independent governance.

Maintain diversity and inclusion in our decision-making.

Protect residential neighborhoods and improve permitting processes.

Climate Action Plan formation and implementation.

Understand regional metric requirements and maintain responsible growth management and stable infrastructure.

Continue constant community engagement!

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

We’re a small, close-knit community, surrounded by water and nestled between two large cities. I believe Islanders should be able to live, work and play safely in our community.

I’ve heard so many Islanders, over the past year-and-a-half, share their experiences of finding a new park or path, shopping for their needs on the island, and simply appreciating all the unique resources our community has to offer.

I’ve also heard from Islanders about the need for an improved Town Center with more restaurants and retail. I share this goal and am passionate about keeping our small businesses thriving.

Current development regulations reduce our retail in favor of high-rise development. I’m working to change development regulations to protect and grow retail space for future town center vibrancy.

This week alone, I have spent more than 20 hours working on an expert committee to improve the parking plan for our Town Center, which will drive restaurant and retail revitalization. This work is important, and I’m looking forward to continuing our progress.

I encourage all that want to learn more to visit my website, and I humbly ask for your vote and support of the continued work for Islanders.