Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Voter Forum

Much as I wish I could have attended all of tonight's Mercer Island Voter Forum, my day job has kept me far too busy lately and I had to rush home. It was nice to see a few familiar faces, especially Steve Litzow, who agreed to be my friend on Facebook!

I heard the best soundbite was from Maureen Judge, who promised to fight for us from Olympia.  But what else?  If you attended, please pile on in the comments of this post and let us know what you thought.



Anonymous said...

I couldn't attend either, hoping your site would have the scoop. Anybody know what the questions were?

Anonymous said...

That's not what Maureen said. The Olympia remark was actually the best dud zinger of the evening. Her naively exuberant message that she is going to Olympia to fight for education was way off mark for a potential Councilman.

Anonymous said...

The two questions posed to the candidates were 1) what would they propose for the downtown parking and traffic congestion, 2) what do they think should be done with Luther Burbank park.

I almost fell off my chair when Maureen mentioned fighting in Olympia for gives one the impression that she is clueless about what a city council member does. Cero pointed out in his closing that he would not be in Olympia but would be "right here on Mercer Island" taking care of our business. Interestingly, Cero has been attending all the council meetings, design, planning, utility meetings, etc... She has attended one maybe two council meetings. ????

I thought Maureen's answer on the Luther Burbank question was interesting...she wants to develop a wetland education program/center there...because it's Mercer Islands only wetland...NOT - what about Ellis Pond? Guess she hasn't quite figured everything out in her 11 months here!

Overall, I thought the format of the forum was seriously lacking. Candidates (6 of them) had two questions posed by the sponsors (Reporter/League of Women Voters) and 10 minutes of audience questions (which allowed for about 2 questions). More time was spent on the Pro/Con statements for Prop. 1 and Initiative 67. It was a great opportunity to find out just where each of these candidates stand on critical Mercer Island issues - that did not happen.

Anonymous said...

The biggest Zinger was Cero who said Mercer Island is affluent and he wouldn't want any workplace or affordable housing here to mess that up. (NOTE: this was after El brought up that idea).

Scary comment from a potential city leader. Sad actually. Much scarier than potential council member saying she's fight for our city at the state level.

Anonymous said...

I believe what Mr. Cero said about affordable housing was that it would be difficult due to the affluency and home/property values on the Island. I certainly did not hear him say anything about affordable housing "messing up" the island.

By the way, I agree with John about the format of the debate. How are voters supposed to make any kind of informed decision based on two questions with a 1 minute response. I would have liked to hear alot more from the council candidates. I thought the school board candidates were a waste of time...they are all unopposed.

Anonymous said...

Cero went out of his way to say that Mercer Island is affluent -- and that affordable or workforce housing doens't belong here because it will change the great place we have. He added that he didn't apologize for Mercer Island being affluent.

He went on to say that he talked with some city employees who don't want to live here, which he said is just fine since Mercer Island is for the affluent.

Two folks whom I don't know near me were aghast at the comments.

I found it a horrendous comment -- one that underscores (and apparently justifies) the prejudices people have of Mercer Island. And it would embarass me to have a city council member who believed that.

If you dont' believe me (and believe Rachel), listen to the rebroadcast this weekend. It's Mike's own words.

Anonymous said...

What a great suggestion anonymous...I too would encourage voters to check out the rebroadcast. We don't have televised council meetings yet but I am hopeful we are moving in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Interesting letter on the online Mercer Island Reporter site this week (

Reference: Mercer Island City Council Candidate Mike Cero

This is a letter to Mercer Island voters advising them that I asked Mike Cero, in person at a Chamber of Commerce Meeting, to clarify the letter he signed as President of the Lakeridge PTA, in opposition to the Mercer Island Boys and Girls Club PEAK Project. Mike indicated there was no discussion with the Lakeridge PTA Board or any individuals on the board. He also testified at the Mercer Island School Board hearing prior to their 5-0 vote to approve the PEAK levy. My wife Anne and I are members of the Lakeridge PTA. We do not agree with his position on the PEAK, and most of the parents that I have talked to at Lakeridge also do not. Voters should ask Mr. Cero to clarify.

Anne and I have advised Mr. Cero that we are appreciative of his service at Lakeridge and nationally. However, we do not agree with all his positions, some on Elementary School Special Education programs and some on our country’s national policies.

Our issue is one concerning integrity, forthrightness and disclosure. Mr. Cero’s letter, signed as PTA President, does not seem to meet this test. We believe he needs to revise this letter, otherwise the letter continues to be misleading at best. In the current political climate, the candidates to be successors on this Council need to bring the highest level of integrity and forthrightness.

As one who has been involved in Mercer Island issues since 1968, is if Mr. Cero wants to earn people’s votes, I believe he should provide clarity and full disclosure on this issue. Unfortunately, absent that, he has not earned my or Anne’s votes.

Robert W. Thorpe, AICP

Anonymous said...

Cero's response about affordable housing was painful. His arogance and elitist attitue were clear to all in attendance. It was embarasing. I was considering voting for him, until now.

Anonymous said...

Since you are reprinting Letters to the Editor I thought you might be interested in this one...

Council person must fight for Island’s interests

My name is Art Vertner. I am a Democrat (that has never voted a straight ticket). My professional experience is in architecture, engineering and construction. I have lived on Mercer Island for 14 years and lived in the Puget Sound region since 1976. I’ve been thinking about the Mercer Island City Council race, specifically Position 3, and doing a little research.

I’ve decided I don’t want an off-Island City Council person.

But wait, you say. Both candidates are residents of Mercer Island. This is true; however, Maureen Judge relocated to Mercer Island only 11 months ago from Seattle. Her opponent, Mike Cero, has lived here 11 years.

Maureen proudly calls herself a “Progressive Majority” candidate (and here I thought this was a non-partisan race). I have to admit that I am some what politically na•ve — so I tried to find out what it means to be one of these candidates. I learned from the “Progressive Majority” national Web site that their goal is to recruit, promote, train and support those who will emerge as candidates for higher office in the future.

The Web site also highlights our City Council race: “Maureen’s win over a conservative city council member would ensure that progressives have a lasting majority.”

Maureen advises us in her campaign literature that she resigned her corporate position in 2005 to “pursue her lifelong dream of a career in public service.” 2005 pursue career in public service, 2006 purchase home on Mercer Island, 2007 Run for City Council. It sure appears she moved to the Island to run for office, simply as a stepping stone to further political goals. It sure appears a vote for Maureen is a vote to further her political career.

But to further her career, she has to have friends in Seattle and on the Eastside. Lots of friends. Maureen and the Progressive Majority Machine have enlisted the support of PACs/Special Interest groups and influential supporters from Seattle. According to her financial records from the PDC her contributors break down as follows (Sept. 25):

32 percent other (Bellevue, Bothell, Everett, out of state)

29 percent Seattle

23 percent Mercer Island

16 percent Pac/Special Interest

If elected, think of what this implies.

In order to further her political career, she must support issues that further the “regional good.”

But I don’t want a council person supporting the “regional good.” I want someone who will fight for Mercer Islanders’ interests.

The “Region” wants lots more of Mercer Islanders’ transit capacity and an expanded Renton airfield. If Mercer Island had supported the “Region” in the past, we would have a 10-lane super freeway splitting our Island in two with one on/off ramp and no HOV access.

In 1978, Mercer Island residents and government demanded and received mitigation in the design of I-90 and our access to it in order to allow the corridor to be expanded. The freeway was put in a “canyon.” A significant portion was put under a “lid.” Architectural features were added and significant landscaping added. Our North end was just now seeing the results of the landscaping improvements we demanded in 1978 come to maturity...notice that all that beautiful green is being torn out for bus lanes.for the “region’s good?”

I know. I was a young architect working on the design of I-90 in 1978. I know the disdain that Seattle, Bellevue and Washington State officials had for Mercer Islanders during that time. I worked on designing some of those mitigations. I know how much more the mitigations cost. I know how much time they added to the construction schedule. I know they would not have happened if Mercer Island had a City Council that was willing to subrogate our interests to the “Region’s.”

And Maureen has already signaled that she is willing to give up our SOV access (Seattle Times, Aug. 9, 2007). I am deeply concerned.

I want a City Council representative who will:

á Fight for mitigating measures that will not destroy our North end community with poorly designed structures and unmitigated noise.

á Fight to mitigate the expansion and noise from the Renton airfield.

á Not give up Islanders’ SOV access in the HOV lanes.

For these reasons and others, I will support, endorse and vote for Mike Cero on Nov. 6. Mike has the experience we need:

11 years, Army Corp of Engineers, Major (tours in Germany, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and two tours in Iraq)

PACCAR Executive, Quality Improvement Manager

Hurricane Andrew Response Team

B.S. Civil Engineering, West Point

M.B.A. Accounting, Seattle University

I have known Mike Cero for 11 years. Mike is not running for the City Council to “move up” in politics. To my knowledge, Mike has refused political contributions from PAC’s and Special Interest groups (I have asked him). Mike receives 98 percent of his support from Island residents (you can check for yourself at

In addition, Mike has spent the last 11 years serving the Mercer Island community (his list of community service is way too long to list). I encourage you to visit his Web site for more details:

If you would like to join me in supporting or endorsing Mike Cero, you can send an e-mail to his campaign at: or visit his Web site.

Thank you for your consideration.

Art Vertner

Anonymous said...

Richard - FYI...

Posted on the MI Reporter website today:

Mercer Island City Council

Why is a national political action committee (PAC) selecting, training and supporting candidates for the Mercer Island City Council? Is it in the best interest of Islanders to elect Council members beholden to a PAC or any off-Island interest?

Mike Cero is independent. He has avoided potential conflicts by refusing politically tainted contributions and endorsements from off-Island interests. His supporters are Mercer Island residents and include a wide spectrum of political leanings. Mike will act in the interests of Mercer Island without pressure from outsiders.

Cero’s opponent has lived on Mercer Island for less than a year, an insufficient period to recognize that our City Council is non-partisan. Maureen Judge was selected, trained and is supported by an off-Island PAC. According to Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) reports, over 80 percent of the contributions to Judge’s campaign come from off-Island sources. Before voting, ask yourself if Judge will be acting on behalf of Islanders or responding to her supporters’ interests.

By the way, PDC reports show that 98 percent of Mike Cero’s campaign contributions have come from Mercer Island residents.

Martin Kasischke

Richard Sprague said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I have a few too:

1. This is a local election, not a state or national one. I think it's legitimate to ask whether some problems (like affordable housing or carbon footprint)are better solved at the state/national level.

2. A disclaimer: keep in mind that I have no idea who the commenters are -- you could all be the same person for all I know. So although I thank everyone (whoever you are) for contributing, please accept that "the opinions expressed are not necessarily blah blah". And note that some of these posts may not be from real people, or real Islanders.

Anonymous said...


Your comments about local vs state/national is a good one.

However, the question about affordable housing (morphed to workforce housing by Councilmember Jahncke) was specifically an entire local Mercer Island issue. It was about Mercer Island and only Mercer Island. It wasn't state or national in scope at all.

It was about whether there could be some housing on Mercer Island for affordable housing. Councilmember Jahncke suggested "workforce" housing was more applicable....meaning city and school district employees. It was only about Mercer Island housing.

As Jahnce repositioned the question, it was about how great it would be for our teachers, police workers, fire fighters etc. to be able to afford to live on MI. Nothing state/national there at all. He liked the idea of those folks working here. Mike, in his answer, was clear he did not. Very clear.

Cero (and by extension you in your posts) has done a good job spinning Maureen to be caring more about regional and non-MI issues. However, if you listen to her, and look at the facts, perhaps the spinning will stop and the truth will out (hopefully).

The only two local organizations that have endorsed any candidate chose Maureen over Mike. These are the firefighters and the MIEA. Both have no concern beyond our island. Neither chose Mike. Both chose Maureen.

Four of the six (including the Mayor and Deputy Mayor)current city council members who endorsed in this race chose Maureen over Mike. Certainly they care about Mercer Island!

Come to think of it, every single group that had endorosed any candidate has endorsed Maureen. Local and otherwise. To an objective observer, that suggests leadership and respect. To spin that as a negative suggests the sppiner likely has some unstated motive.

Finally to your point about anonymous posting. Your blog allows it...and the value of the discussion is much enriched as a result. Some like expressing their views wihtout the shining light of publicity and they take the risk that folks dismiss the opinions. Others create blogger names (rachel, john) who could be anybody as well...might as well be anonymous.

You deserve real credit however. You put your actual name out there. You take positions. And you allow folsk like me to express mine anonymously. And I thank you for that.

I am an Islander (living here a lot longer than Mike Cero) who has learned that the length of residence has zero impact on the quality of leadership. None. Some of our worst leaders were those that have been here for long periods and some of our best are relatively new to the Island. And vice versa. The lenght of residence is a silly issue that has no relevance to the kind of elected official one will be.

Richard Sprague said...

Thanks, Anonymous, I appreciate your well-thought comments, which stand in stark contrast to many of the other anonymous comments I haven't published, due to their profanity. (and why do the nasty ones always come from the same side?)

No question: time in residence doesn't by itself mean anything.

But do endorsements mean anything either? Once the Democratic Party has chosen its nominee, it only makes sense for fellow Democrats to get in line.

Political party affiliation is important at the state-national level, where it's impossible for normal people to get to know a candidate. But at the local level, don't you think an elected official should be approachable and integrated into the community?

How am I, Mr. Average Joe, supposed to learn anything about somebody who, as far as I can tell, has never even been to a City Council session -- and may not bother in the future either, depending on the election results?

I'll listen to the recorded debate and maybe I'll change my mind.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's sad that people swear, etc. Though I wouldn't suggest one side does that more or less. Quick reviews of the local poltical blogs show that it happens equally (and equally nastily) on all sides. Sad that it happens on your blog.

By the way, our only elected republican representative (Jarrett) endorsed Maureen. Makes the agrument she's a political hack a bit specious. If anything, give your democrats following democrats supposition, a republican would be more likley not to support someone who is already supported by democrats. Presumably Jarrett checked both out and decided to support Maureen because she's a better candidate for our city council (and he's former Mayor, city council guy and school board member).

Anonymous said...

I did attend the Voter Forum. I thought all the candidates did a nice job. The only exception was the comment by Cero referenced in the other posts here where he came across as pretty insensitive by saying that workplace housing does not belong on Mercer Island. Sans that Cero did fine though. The Olympia comment by Judge was much ado about nothing. I doubt most people really believe we can address all the issues a Mercer Island City Council person needs to address by living and working sequestered on Mercer Island.

I agree strongly with the anonymous poster here who talked about qualities like leadership. How long someone has lived on the island or where their donations come from does not tell me whether that person will be a thoughtful and effective leader and particpant in the council.

In that regard, it is not the voter's forum but the note from Mr. Thorpe that has me most concerned. One could start by wondering how someone who has worked so hard for kids could be against the PEAK which is such a incredible gift to our youth and community.

But an even bigger issue is that Cero showed very poor judgement in signing his letter against the PEAK as Lakeridge President and then not acknowledging his mistake when confronted with it. To me that is a major red flag on core issues like judgement and integrity.

Based on what I have seen and read and the endorsements she has received I am now going to vote for Judge. If she is elected and one day moves on to try for an elected position off island that will be good for us - just like what happened with Fred Jarrett.