Sustainable Mercer Island surveys local candidates on environmental issues

Sustainable Mercer Island recently conducted a survey on community sustainability with the Mercer Island candidates for City Council and School District Directors.

After the primary election, the top two candidates for each position moving forward to the general election in November are as follows: for City Council Position No. 6, Katie Akyuz has 2,950 votes (47.01%) and Lisa Anderl has 2,510 (40%); for Mercer Island School District (MISD) Director Position No. 2, Brian Giannini Upton has 2,322 votes (38.02%) and Dan Glowitz has 2,190 votes (35.86%); and for MISD Director Position No. 4, Deborah Lurie has 3,205 votes (53.63%) and Lacey Aaker has 1,707 votes (28.56%).

Upton and Glowitz did not respond to the survey.

The candidates answered questions about their personal history and their opinions on various county, city and school district plans related to the environment.

Akyuz, who has an undergraduate degree in urban forestry and a master’s degree in forest ecosystem science, said she supports the King County Cities Collaboration (K4C) goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by the year 2030 when compared to 2007 levels.

She also supports the development of a Mercer Island Climate Action Plan and stated that there is a need to address Mercer Island’s transportation infrastructure. Akyuz said she was open to committing financial resources to climate action and addressed ways the city can encourage sustainable behavior like using alternative energy sources and composting food waste.

“My family has deep roots in the Pacific Northwest and that drives my attachment to this beautiful place we call home,” Akyuz said. “I have always been drawn to public service, wanting to continue the legacy of leadership of my family, but in a way that was restorative to the environment.”

Anderl, the City Council incumbent, serves as council liaison to the Open Space Conservancy Trust and the city’s representative to the Lake Washington/Cedar/Sammamish Watershed salmon recovery council.

She also supports the K4C greenhouse gas emissions goal and said the development of a Mercer Island Climate Action Plan is part of the Council’s Comprehensive Plan. Anderl said she supports working toward those goals as time and resources permit, but would like to hear if residents believe a climate action plan specific to Mercer Island is necessary.

“I strongly believe in being good stewards of the environment,” Anderl said. “I personally work to minimize car travel and to live a conservative lifestyle in terms of energy consumption.”

Aaker, who interned at the Environmental Protection Agency in Seattle as a graduate student, said she would focus on community input and added that she would explore food sourcing and preparation at the schools as a possible avenue for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

She said she would support increasing funding for MISD sustainability initiatives and including sustainability in student curriculums.

“I am passionate about protecting the environment and have combined my talents and skills in education to help advance environmental protection,” Aaker said. “Study after study and poll after poll have demonstrated that a large portion of our current generation of students view climate change as a defining issue of their future.”

Incumbent Lurie, who co-wrote a board resolution on sustainability and environmental stewardship, said protecting the environment should always be a factor for consideration when making facility decisions.

Lurie added that although she supports learning and decision making based on environmental impact, any school initiatives beyond basic education curriculum would need to come from outside grants and donations.

“I believe that sustainability is and will remain a major force in the education of our students. Why? Because our students demand it,” Lurie said. “Sustainability is a regular topic of discussion and learning in science classes, health, the lunchroom, green teams, the recycling programs and many more.”