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Rob Sexton and David Laub
There is much to do in February.
The showing of a promotional video by the Boys and Girls Club during school hours at Mercer Island High School to drum up support for the PEAK project was inappropriate. Yes, the presentation took little away from school time and, in and of itself, was harmless. But what was the intent here? Persuasion. Mercer Island High School students will be presenting a petition with 1,000 student signatures to the City Planning Commission at a hearing on the project. Clearly the club wants to enlist students in their quest to convince adults and decision-makers to support the PEAK.
About three years ago, I happened to be a parent chaperone riding along on a school bus with a bunch of excited music students and their teacher, Vicki White-Miltun. Vicki asked, all too casually, “Would you be interested in serving on ‘the Fine Arts Advisory’?” I replied, “The what?” She then spoke of a group of volunteers without whose support over the years she might not have made the career decisions she has made: to virtually single-handedly build and keep nurturing ever since our school district’s excellent orchestra program. Well, I revere Vicki for that, so of course I said that I would think about it, and now I find myself president of the group. I did not know then quite what I was getting myself into, but I gladly tell you now that Mercer Island’s Fine Arts Advisory Committee (FAAC) is well worth my time and your support.
Change can be intimidating. Prospective change to our own cherished neighborhoods can be particularly intimidating. Add to that, the perception that neighborhood stability and property values may be denigrated and change becomes downright threatening. Such are the emotions raised when land-use zoning changes are contemplated, changes which could introduce smaller lots into the medium-sized lot zoning in an existing older neighborhood.
Every now and then, what we say can really count beyond who we voted for on "American Idol" or "Dancing with the Stars." It seems that many local public agencies are asking for our opinion and taking action accordingly.
Whether on the Eastside or in downtown Seattle, many voters expressed anger when they were forced to sign a partisan oath or attend a partisan caucus in order for their views to matter in last month’s election. This should not surprise the political parties or our elected officials. Washington’s political culture is fiercely independent. We are a conscientious and well-informed electorate that takes our democratic responsibilities seriously. We do not like being told who we can or cannot vote for.
Being environmentally sensitive for most of us might be having a vegetable garden and recycling the trash. It is quite another thing to actually make your own fuel — with your bare hands. A group of Islanders do more about their greenhouse gas emissions than just buying a car with higher gas mileage. A story in this issue describes the steps in creating a vehicle-worthy alternative fuel, which is actually being performed by your neighbors.
Did you know that some of the social studies textbooks used by the Mercer Island public schools are 20 years old? Published before the reunification of Germany and the collapse of the Soviet Union, they are so out-of-date that replacements can no longer be obtained. On top of this, state funding for new curriculum adoption is severely limited.
What could be better than digging up worms in the garden and taking each of them on a special ride in your swing? But it is just another day in the life of my 3-year-old — simple pleasure exploring the wonders outside.
Even though the Puget Sound region has been largely able to resist the effect of the national slowdown caused by higher prices and shaky financial markets, there are signs that the fever has begun to seep in. Real estate markets are losing strength. A loaf of bread costs $3, and energy costs loom large. Prices at the pump continue to climb. Electricity and natural gas prices are also higher. Those prices have crept up - a few percent here, a cost adjustment there - adding up to higher utility bills.
The Mercer Island School District Board of Directors has chosen a new superintendent of schools. Interim Superintendent Gary Plano was chosen this past week over two other highly-qualified finalists. Plano has been serving as the interim superintendent since Dr.. Cyndy Simms resigned last summer. Prior to his appointment as interim, Plano was the associate superintendent of instruction, taking over from long-time Mercer Island School District administrator, John Cameron. Cameron worked with Plano for a year before he retired.
Expect excellence! It is the phrase we use to characterize the Mercer Island School District. Excellence does not happen by accident. It takes effort, energy and engagement.
Rev. Dale Sewall