City council discusses its priorities, work plan and more at meeting

Annual planning session took place on March 26.

With the majority of the city’s council and leadership team attending in person, the council held its annual planning session on March 26 in the Mercer Island City Hall chambers.

The hybrid meeting featured a review and update of council priorities, a work plan update and a review of council rules of procedure.

To get the discussion rolling on council’s 2023-24 proposed priorities, councilmembers submitted 25 ideas to briefly touch upon and which ranged from enhancing community trust and communication to beginning the Town Center analysis.

“These are the broad themes to help us focus our work into the next biennium,” said City Manager Jessi Bon. Mayor Salim Nice added that a tightened-up list would be submitted to staff and returned to council in an agenda bill in the future.

On the communication front, councilmember Jake Jacobson noted, “That essentially refers to me doing a better job of communicating with citizens, telling them what’s going on in our city and engaging/and or encouraging them to tell us what they think.”

Councilmember Lisa Anderl suggested that the city focus on local control while it prepares for the impacts of growth and change. She zeroed in on ESHB 1660 and explained that it could have dramatically and substantially changed Island zoning via a statewide mandate.

“It is very, very important that we maintain self-determination about the character of the community we live in,” she added.

Councilmember Ted Weinberg spoke of the city’s emergency response services during the pandemic: “We’ve done an excellent job of navigating the rough seas of this pandemic and it’s time to bring back as much as we can in terms of services to the community.”

Jacobson voiced his concerns about the Town Center analysis and suggested that the city bring a business development consultant on board to help push things forward.

“My reason for suggesting this is that we’ve struggled back and forth and made very little progress in developing and sustaining a Town Center business development, which I think we badly need to do,” he said.

Councilmembers and staff also submitted suggestions for possible inclusion in the 2023-24 work plan. Council and staff rolled through 40-plus items at the meeting, embracing a plethora of them by consensus and advancing them into the consideration phase of the work-plan process.

A few of the items that made the cut were Bon and councilmember Craig Reynolds’ submission that a number of aging city facilities need to be evaluated for replacement or repair; a staff submission regarding bike share and other mobility pilots to offer low-carbon options for residents traveling to and from the future light-rail station; and another staff submission to expand curbside/doorstep options for “difficult to recycle” materials like Styrofoam.

Also included in the robust list was a trio of items already in staff’s hands as a budget proposal: restoring the Youth and Family Services programs assistant position to full time, the second middle school mental health counselor position and the individual, family and geriatric counselor position.

A video of the meeting is available on the council’s YouTube Channel at