During the month of October, we are hosting meet and greets with candidates for the Mercer Island City Council. This Sunday we welcome Heather Cartwright to meet with her consituents.
As a long-term Mercer Island resident, Heather is invested in our community. She and her husband Ken are raising their three daughters – Lauren (junior at Cal Poly), Olivia (senior at MIHS) and Sophie (8th grade at IMS), with plans to retire on the Island. Heather understands the values of our Island first-hand. She’ll be a council member who cares about Mercer Island. Regarded as “the citizen’s choice for city council”, she will raise her voice and take action on behalf of the Mercer Island community.
Islanders are concerned about increased congestion with light rail, the proposed bus intercept, tolling, and the loss of HOV lanes. As someone who has commuted to Seattle and now to the east side, I truly understand the impact even small transportation conflicts can have on your daily life, and that will influence how I lead on city council.
Mercer Island is in the heart of King County, and we’ll continue experiencing change to the way we commute on and off the island, but I-90 access is essential for residents to get to services that don’t exist on the island. Congestion and limits on how we commute aren’t just inconveniences, they impact our quality of life.
Regional transit solutions have to work for all Islanders and multiple types of commuting. We need a city council that negotiates for solutions without environmental, noise, pollution, and increased congestion. I’m going to be focused not only about improved parking for Islanders that want to take public transportation, but also fight for no tolls and improved accessibility to I-90 for Islanders that use their own vehicle transportation.
Prioritization, data-driven decisions, and fiscal efficiency are key for the future success of our Island. The recent Prop 1 election highlighted an Island united in support for our community values –parks, schools, community events, and services. But it also highlighted that citizens want to prioritize efficiency with our current tax dollars -not just default to increasing taxes. This is increasingly important as the city will need large, (and costly) infrastructure improvements to our water system in the future.
Islanders expect and deserve a city council that prioritizes smart spending. In my career, I’ve successfully managed organizations with budgets from $10K to $5B. No matter what your budget, there is never ‘enough’ money for everything you want – the answer is prioritizing and looking for improved ways to deliver those priorities.
We can run more efficiently, improve our city, and still ensure we deliver the services that are important to Islanders. It requires understanding what citizens need and want, setting clear priorities and measuring our expenditures and performance against those priorities. We should be thinking creatively about how we can do more for our city. I believe we can, and I want to contribute my experience to bring more fiscal sustainability to our city budget.
Green space. Once it’s gone, it’s hard to recover. Islanders value our parks, and I want to ensure the precious green space we do have is protected. Many current issues impacting our parks and community areas stem from decisions in the city’s planning committee that prioritize density or development over green space. City parkland should be viewed as valued asset in our community, not an asset we can trade for development revenue. The diversity of our parks - whether we design it for sports, cultural events, play, or just enjoying nature, is what makes our island special. Citizen input matters on how we enhance our parks, and transparency matters so we can make educated decisions and continue to keep our parks special.
Increasing revenue from new development and more density has been the focus from both our planning committee and current council. Improved retail development in our downtown can bring benefits to the city, but becomes an issue when we don’t proactively plan or manage the impact to our schools, utilities, and traffic.
Mercer Island has added significant density in our downtown area and in the neighborhood communities thru division of large lots in the neighborhoods. Our priority now should not be more density, but managing what we’ve already created and evaluating what is and isn’t working for the island community.