Thank you to everyone who responded with their comments letting me know about last week's Voter Forum. I can listen to the the whole podcast on the plane to New York this morning, but meanwhile, my readers pointed me to two audience questions near the end, where the differences between Mike Cero and Maureen Judge were most obvious.
The first was about whether the City Council should sign a petition for the Families and Education Program. Here's Mike's answer:
I'm in favor. I have two years experience on the signing board; I was Lakeridge PTA president last year; I understand the challenges of the district. From the beginning, looking at Olympia, I don't see relief on our financial issues with the district from Olympia to happen in the short term. So I am all for islanders helping Islanders. That's going to be an efficient tax, if you will, to improve our school district.
Now, I may try to influence, if you will, a little bit of the direction that the school board goes, and they all know what direction that may be--Frank you know what direction that might be, we served on the same committee together (class size). Absolutely, I think that's a win-win situation. The reason my wife and I moved here 11 years ago were primarily for the schools and the education that our schools will get from the district and I certainly support that Frank and would use that as an opportunity to promote class sizes -- at least get the ship going in the right direction.
I support the petition as well. It is one of those things about MI that makes it so special. People move here for the schools, and if we don't fund them properly, not only do our children suffer, all of us suffer. So yes, I am definitely in favor of the petition.
I also believe that we need to apply more pressure at the state level, for appropriate funding. When I met with the MIEA for their endorsement interview I made the point of saying "We're all in this together" and as a City Council person, I would be down in Olympia testifying that we need more money. We're in this together. It's not just up to Brian and Judy and Fred. I will be standing by them when they need to, perhaps, increase taxes so that we are appropriately funding schools.
Interestingly, both of the sitting councilmen (Steve Litzow and El Jahncke) were non-committal, reminding the audience that the City is already hugely exposed to a looming budget shortfall caused by a $20M lake sewer project and that any use of tax money for schools would be lower priority.
To the second audience question, on low-income housing, El Jahncke (Councilman up for re-election this year) responded by saying he prefers the term "workforce housing", and that we should find incentives for City police/fire and teachers to live where they work.
I'm a little bit apprehensive about low-income housing, workforce housing -- whatever you want to call it. This is an affluent island and I don't apologize for that. It's going to be tough to maintain the charm and character of our many different neighborhoods and get quote-unquote affordable housing. I was on a police ride a couple weeks ago and he basically said 'I don't live on Mercer Island; I don't care to live on Mercer Island." Yes it would be nice to have our teachers, some of the police force, some of the firemen living on the island but the fact of the matter is, this is an affluent island. I don't apologize for it. We have some wonderful neighborhoods with charm and character, and you start fooling around with that charm and character, with great intentions for affordable housing, but the end result is it doesn't end up being affordable housing because of the market demands. It ends up being a very expensive, affluent house like we have on Mercer Island.
I think we can work with the developers -- there's still so much building going on Mercer Island. I think there are creative solutions to try to block out affordable housing. You know, it's not a simple answer but I think creative solutions in this case -- working with developers, giving them incentives so we can make housing available to people who do want to be on the island and to stay.
I was pleased to see that, in spite of the short amount of time given to audience questions, it was still possible to see sharp differences between the candidates, and I look forward to listening to the whole thing.
Meanwhile, you know who I think did the best job overall? Steve Litzow: his opening statement about "pothole" issues nicely summarized exactly what I think a local official should be, and his informed responses to the parking and education issues gave me a new level of respect for him.