Councilmember Refutes Seattle Times Columnist Over White Center Annexation
Last week (Wed., Feb. 3rd), Seattle Times Columnist Jerry Large wrote an editorial explaining why he thinks White Center would be a “good fit” for Seattle, and vice versa (link here) â€“ an issue that has reared its head ever since new Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn said that he’d like to annex the area.
Of course, numerous folks around these parts think differently from both Large and McGinn (hey, weren’t they in a band together in the 60s?), including Burien City Councilmember Kathy Keene, who read Large’s column, then emailed us her response to him:
“Needless to say I do NOT agree and wrote the following letter to Mr. Large, to which he responded.”
Here’s the email dialogue she had with Mr. Large, which we print below with her permission:
From: Kathleen Keene
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 10:21 AM
To: Jerry Large
Subject: Article on White Center
I want to comment on your article last week on White Center.
Before I go any farther, let me introduce myself: I am a 23 year resident of the area (a veritable newcomer by most standards), and a 19 year Commissioner at Water District 20. We provide water to a very large portion of North Highline, in fact, the remaining unincorporated area east of 509 down to the Seattle city limits in South Park is in our service area. I also am in my first term on the Burien City Council.
As a small local government, Burien offers the residents in North Highline something Seattle will NEVER be able to: POWER TO THEIR VOICES! In Burien they will be 18,000 of 45 000, in Seattle they’ll be 18,000 of what? 600,000? Tell me how much power that gives them. In Burien we hold our Council meetings Monday at 7 PM, Seattle’s are 3:00, how many working folks can make those meetings? As an added bonus we’re a hop, skip and a jump from White Center, two jumps for Blvd Park, and the parking is FREE.
I would love to invite you to Burien and show you around. A Burien annexation of this entire area is a reuniting of a neighborhood that was one neighborhood for many many years. These folks are our brothers and sisters, our moms and dads, our cousins, our best friends. They shop in Burien. Like Burien, they are home owners and shop keepers, many have lived here for generations. I grew up in the little fishing village of Ballard. This area reminds me of my childhood – stable neighborhoods, generational families, extended families, a deep pride of community.
An annexation to Burien also ensures a continuation of the same services they now enjoy:
Libraries-currently the people of NH are part of the KCLS. If they become Seattle residents they lose that. The county may close down the White Center and Blvd Park libraries due to loss of tax revenue. It took Seattle 100 years to build a library in South Park, how long before they will build a replacement library in this area??? There are 8-10,000 people a month that use the White Center Library. I don’t have the figures for Blvd Park, but I do know it is also is the heart of their community. These facilities are a vital part of the human infrastructure of the area.
Speaking of infrastructure, the water distribution system in Water District 20’s boundaries are heads and shoulders above Seattle’s. Our system is almost totally rebuilt. We don’t wait for a pipe to break 3 times before we replace it; we are proactive. We don’t have the accidents like the Ravenna area has had recently. Approx. 35 years ago old WD 61 became a direct service customer of Seattle water; this area includes White Center, North Shorewood, Salmon Creek and the NW corner of Burien. A majority of that systems has not been touched since. The rate payers have no say in their rates and they pay a 10% out of service fee. (You pay, a 14% utility tax on your bill I believe) WD 20 and Burien have no utility taxes. By reuniting the entire area we can hopefully give all these folks back control of their water system and rates.
Another cost savings for the unincorporated area is their sewers. The western area is served by SW Suburban Sewer District (SWSSD), which has its own sewer treatment plants. We do NOT have to pay for Brightwater… look at your sewer bill, there is most likely a charge of $40 + to pay off the county bonds, which, I believe are 40 year bonds. I have been told that will probably go up to around $50/month. If this area becomes part of Seattle, I believe they will have to pay those rates because of the bond covenants, even if they remain in SWSSD.
Fire – Fire District 11 will go away and the entire area will be served by FD 2. The existing fire fighters will become FD 2 personnel. They know the area, which is helpful when every minute counts. When Burien was deciding on the boundaries of Phase 1 we included the fire station on 112th which serves this area now. Seattle was adamant that they needed that station to serve the area and parts of south Seattle. In a spirit of cooperation we honored their request. When the Seattle City Council was getting their briefing they were told this station isn’t adequate and White Center will be covered by the station in West Seattle…. I wonder how that will affect the response time? I wonder why we gave it up.
Police – If the area becomes part of Burien they will have the same police officers they have now, there will be a seamless transition. Our Sheriffs have been very effective dealing with crime in this area. So what happens to these officers if Seattle annexes? I realize they have the option to hire those that currently work there but there are issues of seniority, pay, benefits etc.
Debt-Burien has no debt, Seattle has many levy and bond measures that have to be paid. The new residents will be responsible for helping to pay for this debt since they now “enjoy the benefits”.
The focus of your article was on the social services and how the non profits could “help the people”. As you can see from what I’ve written there are many other aspects to consider. It is true Burien does not have the deep pockets of Seattle, but we do work well with the various support and non profit groups that work in our city. We look forward to working with the non profits you mentioned as well. Since these folks are receiving grant money from private agencies that money can also continue to flow into the area.
We are a small and nimble city, it is in our combined best interests to see that this area thrives. By having a government close by I anticipate the downtown core of White Center begin to fill up with new business run by the residents. As you pointed out there is a vibrancy in the area you don’t often see. That needs to be nurtured. Check into the B&O taxes Seattle charges, as well as space taxes, head tax, business license fees etc. These are a burden to beginning/small businesses. Burien doesn’t charge as much in B&O nor do we have any of those other ancillary taxes. We are a business friendly city and value the leadership and ideas they contribute to our community.
Again, I invite you back to the area, come on down to Burien some Monday evening and see our Council in action, walk around our downtown core and see what we have done – it was not done in a vacuum – the residents of Burien were very actively involved. This is the way we do business here – with the involvementÂ and support of our residents. This is the power we offer to the remainder of the unincorporated area. Doubts? Come watch us as we begin this process with the area that will become part of Burien in April. I admit it will take some time; these folks have been ignored, neglected, abused, and dictated to for too many years. They aren’t quite sure of their voice yet, but given time they will gain confidence and bring a new vibrancy to our city…. we will all be a better place. I look forward to including the remainder of the area – what a great city we will be!
Thank you for your time,
—– Original Message —–
From: Jerry Large
To: Kathleen Keene
Sent: Wednesday, February 10, 2010 1:25 PM
Subject: RE: Article on White Center
Thanks for the note. I’d love to visit with you about White Center and Burien. I’ll be away next week, but I can come down after that. I have deadlines on Wednesdays and Fridays. If you let me know a couple of times that would work with your schedule, we can find one that works.
The Seattle Times
Also, Thursday morning Crosscut published another editorial about why White Center should join Seattle, this one penned by Jordan Royer. And yes, he’s the son of former Seattle Mayor Charlie Royer â€“ read it here.
So…what do YOU think of this issue? Should Seattle be allowed to annex White Center? Or should Burien go for it? Please take our Poll below, or leave a Comment…