Since we bought the bookstore nearly three years ago, one of the rules that we have followed is that we do not publicly get involved in politics at a city, state, or national level. We have always politely turned down requests for candidate and issue endorsements. Why? We believe it’s bad for business. We are in the business of community. We recognize and respect that there are a diverse set of viewpoints within that community and we don’t want to take sides in the community that we serve. Today, we’re briefly breaking that rule. Why? We believe it’s bad for business if we don’t. We think that by not taking a position and speaking up, it affects the ability of Island Books to serve the community in the long run.
In late January, the Mercer Island City Council held its annual planning session. As a part of that, the city council updated the Goals and Work Plan for 2018-2019 (draft found here: 2018-2019 Mercer Island City Council Goals and Work Plan). We sincerely appreciate all of the hard work, dedication, and public service of our city council as well as the thought and effort that went into creating this document. In February, the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce expressed concern to the city council regarding the draft plan and the lack of a high level goal to improve the business environment on Mercer Island. Since the issue was raised, the city council (represented by Benson Wong and Tom Acker) has been very responsive in listening to the feedback from the chamber members. The outcome of these meetings has been a request by the MI Chamber of Commerce for an additional goal to be added to the 2018-2019 Goals and Work Plan document that reads “Create Policies that Support an Accessible and Healthy Business Ecosystem on Mercer Island."
There is a City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 3rd at 7:00pm at Mercer Island City Hall, Council Chambers. The Goals and Work Plan adoption are on the agenda and we believe that the proposed change to the goals will also be discussed. Island Books strongly supports the additional goal proposed by the Mercer Island Chamber of Commerce. We urge you to express your support for the addition by contacting your elected city council representatives prior to the meeting this Tuesday (tomorrow) – details on how you can do so are below.
Prior to buying Island Books, we both worked for large organizations. We know that within large organizations (and city governments are no exception) if something is not a top-level goal during these planning periods then it’s not prioritized and significant progress is not made toward it. It’s been our experience that these top level goals are the way organizations prioritize, measure themselves, plan their activities, and hold themselves accountable. While some may argue that the goal of a healthy business ecosystem really cuts across many of the existing goals and should be reflected in the action steps under the existing proposed goals, we would disagree and argue that experience has shown us that goals, priorities, and focus are lost that way.
We strongly believe that a goal for developing an environment for a healthy, vibrant business ecosystem on Mercer Island should sit alongside the current proposed goals for mobility, quality of life, sustainability, arts and culture, infrastructure, emergency preparedness and city codes, policies and practices. We believe that a goal for developing a healthy business ecosystem on Mercer Island not only benefits the business community but it also improves the quality of life for those of us living on Mercer Island and the surrounding areas.
We feel comfortable breaking our “no politics” rule and making an exception in this case for a number of reasons. We think the issue is non-controversial. The language that was communicated to the city council representatives (Benson Wong and Tom Acker) by the chamber is not prescriptive as to how to achieve the goal. The goal doesn’t supersede the other goals of the city council. The goal doesn’t advocate for a single specific issue. It doesn’t advocate for only retail businesses. It doesn’t advocate for only MI Town Center businesses. It doesn’t advantage Island Books over other businesses on the island. The goal simply asks the city council and the city government to include the prioritization of a healthy vibrant business ecosystem in its planning and work items.
The request is very straightforward. We believe that the Mercer Island City Council needs to add a high level goal to its draft 2018-2019 Goals and Work Plan Document that reads "Create Policies that Support an Accessible and Healthy Business Ecosystem on Mercer Island.” We hope you agree. We ask you to urge your city council representatives to agree as well (and when you contact them, don’t forget to also thank them for their service to the community).
Here’s the contact information for the Mercer Island City Council:
Now we’re going to get back to what we do best, selling books (and gifts and toys) and building community. Island Books has been doing that for almost 45 years and we hope to be able to continue to do so for a long time to come.
Thank you for your continued support.
–Laurie and Victor Raisys