Sustainable M.I.
Act Locally

Summary version of letter

Rationale for Sustainability as a Framework  for All Planning in the City of Mercer Island

Summary of Citizen Letter to the Mercer Island City Council  

January 1, 2018


  1. Choose sustainability as the fundamental framework for all city planning.

  2. Adopt the STAR Community Rating System as a ready-made tool for setting sustainability goals, measuring progress, and reporting to our citizens.

  3. Become a role model and leader among King County cities on these issues.


In 2006, Mercer Island made a formal commitment to sustainability by adding this language to the City’s Vision Statement in the Comprehensive Plan:

“Mercer Island strives to be a sustainable community: meeting the needs of the present while also preserving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. We consider the relationship between the decisions we make as a community and their long-term impacts before committing to them. We understand that our strength is dependent on an open decision-making process that takes into account the economic, environmental and social well-being of our community.”

In 2012, the City convened a Sustainability Policy Task Force that developed specific recommendations related to waste reduction, energy and water conservation, yard toxins, green building, and sustainability communications.  Many of these recommendations have been put into practice during the last five years.

However, two key recommendations have not yet been acted upon:

  1. Incorporating sustainability as a core concept that drives decision-making at all levels.

  2. Creating a comprehensive sustainability action plan with measurable indicators to chart progress.


  • Recent changes in the State Legislature will likely create a more favorable regulatory environment for sustainability.

  • The City’s voice and impact are amplified by our coordination with neighboring jurisdictions through the King County-Cities Climate Collaboration process.

  • Over the past year, new and existing citizen groups (Sustainable MI, Citizens Climate Lobby, Green Schools, Sustainability Ambassadors, 100% Clean Energy-MI, Neighbors in Motion) have shown the depth of support for this type of initiative.

  • We have begun to experience direct consequences of global warming, in the form of smoke from more extensive wildfires, heavy rain and flooding, drought, and heat waves.

  • A “turnkey” approach for sustainability success is available -- many neighboring jurisdictions have successfully adopted the STAR Community Rating System.

  • The planning and coordination required to adopt the STAR system will strengthen the city’s ability to respond and to provide services during emergencies.

  • Sustainability strategies can improve efficiency in operations and the coordination needed can help break down organizational barriers.

  • To tap into the transformative power of smart urban technologies, cities need a visionary framework to guide their decision-making.  

  • Sustainability policies can promote economic growth by enhancing the city’s liveability and by attracting more “green” businesses.

  • Debt rating agencies look more favorably on cities that adopt policies to reduce financial risks associated with extreme weather events.

  • Sustainability is a moral imperative as climate change continues to accelerate.


The prospects for transitioning to a low carbon future while maintaining economic development have never been brighter. Practicing sustainable values can enhance trust in government. Development must meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.  Our City Council has the opportunity now to take a lead role in turning this vision of sustainable development into reality.