North Highline UAC Hears From A Host Of Community Leaders
Story & Photos by Nicholas Johnson
Members of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council held their September meeting Thursday evening, during which councilors heard from Burien City Manager Mike Martin, recently appointed interim North Highline Fire District Chief Steve Marstrom and King County Sheriff’s Office Gang Unit Sgt. Rodney Chinnick, among others.
‘The new kid in town’
Interim Fire Chief Steve Marstrom, of North Highline Fire District 11, did little more than introduce himself to the council and subsequently open himself to questions Thursday evening. He did, however, reiterate the task with which he is charged: to determine the options available to the fire district to consolidate with a partner – whether Seattle, Burien, Tukwila or any other viable option.
Marstrom is a retired fire chief out of Lakewood and Pierce County, where he served for 30 years, 9 of which as fire chief. His temporary position marks the second interim stint he has accepted since he retired ten years ago. Three weeks into the position Marstrom said he feels he has been warmly welcomed.
“I believe the board of fire commissioners have decided to go in the right direction,” he said. “They have realized that a status quo is not going to be acceptable for very long.”
He mentioned the comments he has received so far regarding inconvenient and infrequent commissioner meetings, something he would like to improve by adding a meeting time each month in the evening so working folks may find time to attend.
“Hopefully that can be accomplished,” he said. “Can’t promise anything, but we’ll work on that.”
Sgt. Rodney Chinnick spent his time at the podium addressing long-standing public concern about Club Evolution on 16 Ave. SW in White Center.
“We are taking a no-nonsense, no-tolerance, book-everybody-we-can approach to all the criminal activity that goes on at the club,” he said. “It certainly appears to be an attractive nuisance, a criminal magnet.”
With a handful of attendees voicing frustration over the continued operation of the club and its perceived impact on the surrounding community, Chinnick took a moment to walk through some of his most recent efforts to put the party to rest. He said his unit has begun enforcing statutes traditionally ignored, such as dance hall age requirements. Such enforcement allowed Chinnick to toss the club’s manager in jail for a night for having under age party-goers on his dance floor.
He also mentioned efforts to work with the county’s Department of Development and Environmental Services (DDES) to enforce civil infractions. For example, Chinnick expected a relatively quiet Friday night Aug. 27 because, to his knowledge, Club Evolution had been shut down for the weekend as a result of owner Alfredo Lopez’s failure to pay taxes to the county. To his surprise the music was bumpin’ and the floor was packed. He soon discovered Lopez leased the club to an employee who had a license from the state.
“At least in that part they are legal, and I can’t throw them out,” he said.
Yet he said other civil infractions remain, such as a fire sprinkler system, structural issues and a lack of a business or dance hall license. With the help of DDES Chinnick hopes shut down the club through civil infractions, however he said Lopez is an attorney and is expected to seek out loopholes to any effort to close the club.
“I’d like to have seen it closed yesterday,” Chinnick said. “But if they close it and it’s not done right, it’s just going to get more frustrating.”
At-large councilor Barbara Dobkin expressed concern about the high concentration of police resources being devoted to one “problem business.”
“This club is pulling all the resources into one place and our neighborhood is being held hostage by this one club,” Dobkin said. “If this were in a better neighborhood, this wouldn’t be going on.”
Chinnick responded, “If it were up to me the place would’ve already been closed and we would be having coffee right now.”
‘We’re good to go’
In preparation for a major asphalt resurfacing project on Ambaum Blvd. SW between SW 112 St. and SW 156 St., Burien City Manager Mike Martin met with representatives of bond rating corporation Moody’s, who commented that Burien’s finances were in great shape, unlike most cities they work with.
“Virtually every city and every jurisdiction – the county, the state – all have pretty major problems,” he said. “And we’re good.”
Martin said he plans to begin a city vision project in January 2011, something he originally planned to set in motion this summer had the “thoroughly annoying” Shoreline Master Program not eaten up as much time as it has. The goal of the vision project is to draw up street, drainage, parks and pedestrian master plans in an effort to incorporate ideas from the roughly 15,000 people annexed into the city in March.
“Instead of getting this fluffy vision out there like a we-want-world-peace sort of thing, we’re going to say we want this neighborhood to have this many parks within this many acres, for example,” he said. “We’re going to embed that vision into our [comprehensive] plan and that’s going to be our work plan. I have set money aside in the budget for this.”
With Martin’s dull glow of excitement emanating from behind the podium, he spoke of seemingly endless possibilities for parks and recreation, an area most city governments are forced to define as a discretionary or unnecessary use of funds in a tight economy. For example, he said he wants to establish a senior center and more recreation for teens, as well as an aquatic facility in Burien.
“We need a place to drown-proof our kids. That’s what it amounts to,” he said. “Our kids don’t have a place to swim and I think that’s a basic thing our kids need to grow up with.”
Martin also reviewed results from a recently completed Community Assessment Survey, which largely made comparisons between the newly incorporated folks in the annexed portion of North Highline and the rest of the city. Largely, the survey found people in “new” and “old” Burien are quite similar. Martin said when asked whether the city is headed in the right direction, an extraordinary percentage responded in the affirmative. He also reported that the survey found people like living in Burien because housing is affordable and work is nearby, which is supported by the finding that one in every five respondents live and work in Burien.
“These things are important because I am trying to build a government around the community values we have,” he said. “I’d like to bring the things to this community that I think the community wants.”
For a deeper analysis of this year’s community survey, keep your eyes on The B-Town Blog for a report from Ralph Nichols coming soon.