On Oct. 3 all 10 General Election candidates for Mercer Island City Council participated in a forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce at the Mercer Island Community and Event Center.
It was a catered luncheon event with about 50 chamber members, residents and chamber board directors in attendance.
The candidates were seated side by side with their opponent and took turns answering questions. For each prompt, one person had two minutes to answer the question and their opponent would have one minute to rebut. They then rotated.
There were 20 questions asked in total, pre-chosen by the chamber’s board of directors and randomly pulled from a hat, so each duo received two questions, and each candidate had the opportunity to answer once and rebut once.
Facilitated by Chamber’s executive director, Laurie Givan, the topics included downtown revitalization, devisiveness, transit and the arts.
The first question was about transit and traffic, tackled by Daniel Thompson and Dave Rosenbaum, who are both running for position 1.
Thompson said he’s against the bus intercept plan that would have between 10,000 and 14,000 Eastside Metro commuters get off their buses at the Mercer Island light rail station and transfer onto the train. He said it was crazy trying to find parking in order to get his haircut in advance of the forum and he couldn’t imagine how mobbed downtown could be in the future.
“Traffic congestion is going to require some type of possible down zone of our future development,” he said.
Rosenbaum said he sees East Link light rail as a good opportunity but shares concerns over bus-rail integration.
“I agree with Daniel. We’ve got a lot to work on when it comes to the settlement agreement, and the bus intercept. I think we should stick with the original settlement agreement,” Rosenbaum said. “But I also think we should try to really capitalize on this and help small businesses develop new customers.”
The issue of retail parking was posed to Wendy Weiker and John Hanlon, who are vying for position 2. Weiker said she was lucky to get a spot in the park and ride that morning.
“Retail parking is a challenge, right? We have limited geography and limited space. But I think we are on a good path forward,” Weiker said. “I think having designated spots for Mercer Island folks to park to use our retail spaces and access light rail and public transportation and go downtown for a few hours is a good way to start.”
She said she hopes the city, chamber and local businesses can partner to make the town center more accessible.
Hanlon talked about the preference for surface parking rather than inside/garage parking. He spoke of his wife and his 4-year-old twins, and other moms that they know.
“Our recent developments have forced a lot of the parking inside the buildings, have taken away street parking options that provides easy access to businesses that are out there on the frontage,” Hanlon said. “All the moms universally said going into a parking garage and wrangling the kids through there is such a pain compared to businesses where we can just drive up, get out, do we need to do and get back in. How we efficiently can move [cars] through the center and enable businesses to thrive is super important and something I will focus on in council.”
Each candidate also gave an introductory statement. Various pamphlets, stickers and info sheets related to each person’s platform were laid out on a table near the entryway.
The formal set of questions lasted about 25 minutes, then there was time to mingle and attendees could choose to interact with the candidates.
“Thank you all for coming here and doing this,” Givan said.
It was the first forum of several that the candidates will attend. More forums are planned, hosted by various organizations, including at Island Books on Sundays Oct. 6, Oct. 13 and Oct. 20. Full details can be found at the bookstore’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/mercerislandbooks/.
There also was a forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Mercer Island on Oct. 8.
The General Election is Nov. 5.