Lisa Anderl is running for reelection to the Mercer Island City Council, but not for the seat she currently occupies. Instead, she’s running for Position 6, a move she said was prompted by learning Kate Akyuz was running.
The increasingly contentious race, one of three Mercer Island City Council contests, is the island’s most expensive in at least 14 years. The two candidates have traded and refuted accusations about each other’s policy positions, and each says the other has spread falsehoods, in what Akyuz called ugly and Anderl called shameful ways.
Anderl was appointed to the City Council in 2018 to fill the seat vacated by Tom Acker and elected in 2019. She worked as an attorney for the state of Washington and as in-house counsel for CenturyLink, and has lived on Mercer Island for 22 years.
Akyuz is a senior capital project manager with the King County River and Floodplain Management Section and has lived on Mercer Island for nine years.
In the August primary, Akyuz received 47% of the vote, and Anderl received 40%. The winner of the general election will succeed Mayor Benson Wong, who didn’t run for reelection.
Ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday or placed in a King County Elections drop box by 8 p.m. that day.
Anderl has emphasized what she says is her fiscally conservative approach to work on the city’s budget. The city has been able to provide quality services, she said, without a tax increase, and the budget is balanced through the 2021-22 biennium.
“You can be balanced one day and not the next month, if you aren’t careful,” Anderl said. “That is why I feel like it’s a big issue. It’s a boring issue, not a super sexy issue, but a foundational thing on which all other good things are built. All the good stuff the city does is contingent on having enough money.”
Concern about public safety is another issue Anderl said she hears often from voters. Mercer Island has a much lower crime rate than neighboring Seattle and Bellevue, but there has been an uptick this year in property crimes, according to Mercer Island Police data.
In February, Anderl voted in favor of an ordinance aimed at restricting people who are experiencing homelessness from staying outside or in their cars overnight on the island. The ordinance, which prohibited camping on public property, passed 6-1. Anderl described that period as a tumultuous time, with advocacy brought in from “off the island,” she said, to make Mercer Island look bad.
“All we were trying to do is update our ordinance with ordinances within the region, and protect our public lands, sidewalks, school grounds, and other areas, where encampments could be set up,” she said.
Akyuz has two main policy priorities: Secure more funding for Mercer Island Youth and Family Services and create an islandwide park conservancy. Mercer Island Youth and Family Services provides counseling services and case management for youth, families and seniors; emergency financial assistance; and a food pantry. In June, the City Council voted against putting a Youth and Family Services levy on the general election ballot.
Akyuz would like to establish a conservancy that would protect and restore the island’s 300 acres of open spaces; she said the island doesn’t have enough workers to adequately care for them. She cited her background working for King County and the city of Seattle as an urban forester, doing grant work to leverage other agencies and private sources for natural resources preservation and restoration.
“These resources need to be protected in perpetuity, and they are not,” she said. “That is for the health of future generations.”
The public process around the camping ordinance was “pretty awful,” she said, adding that she wished the city had held a moderated discussion, instead of just public comments in a City Council hearing. She would have liked the City Council to have added a way to address the gap in mental health services.
“If we can’t address that as a community, we need to get with other Eastside communities and Seattle and lobby hard to fill that mental health gap,” she said. “We aren’t going to solve the problem until it’s addressed.”
The two candidates have received roughly the same amount of contributions, between $40,000 and $45,000.
Incumbent Salim Nice is running against Daniel Becker in the Position 2 race. Michael Curry is running against Ted Weinberg for Position 4, which is being vacated by Anderl.