Burien City Council Candidates Exchange Views At Lively B-Town Blog Forum

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"He's a really nice guy," said Burien City Councilmember Gordon Shaw about his opponent Joey Martinez at the conclusion of Tuesday night's Candidates Forum. Photo by Scott Schaefer.

by Ralph Nichols

Six of the seven candidates for Burien City Council exchanged views in a lively forum presented by The B-Town Blog Tuesday evening (July 26), which you can listen to by clicking the “Play” button below:
Four of the candidates are on the Aug. 16 primary election ballot. The forum was hosted by Mike Heavey, and featured Geoffrey “Mac’ McElroy and this Reporter as panelists.

Position 2 challengers Ed Dacy and Greg Duff fielded questions in the absence of incumbent Lucy Krakowiak, who declined to attend the event.

And Position 4 incumbent Gordon Shaw and challenger Joey Martinez are in the primary because a third candidate who filed for that seat, Bob Edgar, withdrew after the statutory deadline so his name remains on the ballot.

Position 6 candidates, incumbent Gerald Robison, who was appointed in January to fill the unexpired term of Kathy Keene, who resigned earlier, and Debi Wagner, who also applied to fill that vacancy, will appear only on the November general election ballot.

The candidates’ responses to questions asked during the forum appear below. Some of them are partially paraphrased. Although the order of their answers was rotated, these are grouped here by race, in alphabetical order.

If the numbers pencil out, do you favor annexation of the North Highline Unincorporated Area by Burien?

Dacy: There are a lot of red herrings in the anti-annexation debate. But we need a couple of years to see how the first annexation works out. Some city services that Seattle would provide if it annexes the area are not provided by Burien; for example, fire and water services are provided by separate taxing districts. This annexation move is being forced by the King County Library District. The city is not served well by Burien’s representative on the library board.

Duff: Yes – if the final financial report is favorable. Also, once a decision is made, we want someone on the city council who will work for the annexed area, not someone who will say “no” for the sake of saying no.

Shaw: I have publicly said yes a dozen times or more with the caveat if the numbers work out. The question is how to make White Center a better neighbor for Burien. There are several advantages to annexing White Center that remain unanswered. Burien also has to be a better neighbor of White Center.

Martinez: Yes – if the numbers pencil out. We need to work to get more assistance from King County. I know they have pennies hidden. We need to ask for King County deputies to be assigned to Burien for at least the life of their contract, and also get storm and flood control assistance.

Robison: Yes – I am an emphatic supporter of annexing White Center. I studied it before the first annexation, I studied every report, and in fact it is economically viable. There are ways to improve it including working with the King County Housing Authority. It is critical for the city of Burien because of the impact if we don’t annex.

Wagner: I’m the only one opposed. We can’t afford it. I don’t know why Burien can afford it if Seattle can’t. It’s not a stigma issue. I just think that Burien needs to lower its tax rates, which are the highest in King County, instead of increasing taxes to pay for resulting shortfalls from annexation.

How will you balance shoreline management with landowner rights?

Dacy: Property rights are important. The SMP [Shoreline Master Program] the council passed is the best compromise. The state is being unreasonable. The shoreline is low density with single-family homes. The state Department of Ecology is out of line for what they’re trying to do.

Duff: The government shold tread very lightly when it steps on peoples’ property. I’m glad the city of Burien came up with a compromise – I hope they stick to their guns. We need to protect the environment, but even more we need to protect people’s property rights.

Shaw: On the council, I was the most landowners’ rights proponent during the SMP process. The environment needs to be protected, but the program brought to us has little reasonable expectation to benefit the environment.

Martinez: The state Shoreline Management Act is a slippery slope. There is a wide gap – a slippery slope of 45 feet – between what the city council wants and what Ecology wants. If we don’t act there will be a lawsuit, so we need to try to balance property rights and the environment.

Robison: Property rights are important; property rights are human rights. Environmental protection is nice, it is important. But the Founders included just compensation for the taking of property to avoid the tyranny of the state.

Wagner: It’s a tough issue. Protection of the environment benefits everybody. Maybe the state should compensate homeowners for that part of their property that is affected. We need to be environmental stewards. We need to hold back on development at all costs.

Will you vote to renew City Manager Mike Martin’s contract when it expires?

Dacy: I will vote to keep any city manager as long as they do the will of the council. Mike has done a good job of following the will of the council.

Duff: I believe Mike is an excellent city manager. If our city isn’t being run right, it’s not his fault. He’s simply doing what the council instructs him to do.

Shaw: The council sets policy but the council doesn’t run the city from day to day. The greatest thing I’ve done in almost eight years on the council is to seek out and get Mike Martin made city manager. Look around at other cities in the area. They’re laying people off. We’re in good shape vis-à-vis everybody else.

Martinez: This is a tough choice. He seems to be controversial in some circles, but he seems to be doing an OK job by my standards. I can’t say yes or no.

Robison: Mike is doing a fine job as city manager. He’s doing a much better job than any of his predecessors. The city is run much better now, much more efficiently. I’m disgusted by some of the things I hear.

Wagner: I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the city manager.

What is your top priority for Burien?

Dacy: To make North Burien feel like it’s part of Burien. We’ve got to be one city. We’ve got to be more business friendly. The lack of that hurts us. [Note: Dacy added that he’s seen no evidence of corruption in Burien government – this in response to a comment made by Wagner, who spoke just before him (see below).]

Duff: I’d like to see us go after businesses. We need to bring new business in. Paul Allen is going to build buildings in Bothell. Why Bothell? It doesn’t have an airport next door and isn’t near I-5. We need to get Town Square finished.

Shaw: My support for the Northeast Redevelopment Area [NERA} has been both a success and a failure. The only long-term lasting solution is to remove houses under the airport flight path and convert this to some other use. Not a park next to North SeaTac Park. We’re on the cusp of converting it to commercial use and I want to see it happen.

Martinez: We need to invest in the future, in parks and crime prevention. If we invest our money wisely now, we can direct our youth to become productive members of society.

Robison: I have a number of priorities – police, annexation, a good budget, completion of the 1st Avenue Project. But first is North Highline annexation.

Wagner: To listen to the people. To see what the people want. To make decisions based on consensus and not whatever is corrupt about government.

NOTE: The next B-Town Blog Candidates Forum will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2nd, starting at 8 p.m. at the ERAC Building, and will feature candidates for the King County Council, Position #8: incumbent Joe McDermott, and challengers Diana Toledo and Goodspaceguy (more info here).

Here are some photos of Tuesday night’s forum, as shot by Publisher/Editor Scott Schaefer:

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25 Responses to “Burien City Council Candidates Exchange Views At Lively B-Town Blog Forum”
  1. BtownBorn says:

    From everything I’ve read, it sounds like Mr. Martinez doesn’t have a clue about 90% of what this position will entail. All he seems to be interested in is pouring money into Parks and Recreation with the hope of reducing future crime. Any other issue brought to his attention is met with wavering indecisiveness and ambiguous blanket statements. Why does he keep hinting that he has some private “insider’s knowledge” about King County and the City of Seattle? It sounds to me like he is playing up his very common IT job for the city as though he were a high ranking official with access to top secret information.
    He may be a “nice guy”, but I hope that the future of our beautiful city isn’t left in the hands of the uninformed and capricious Mr. Martinez

  2. Get a clue burien city council says:

    To answer your question Greg about why Paul Allen is building a development in bothell and why not burien, the reason is really simple. Bothell doesn’t have white center next to it.

  3. Rob says:

    Thanks Scott for broadcasting and sponsoring this. It definitely help me make up my mind on whom to vote for in the primary!

  4. Lynnette says:

    Dacy, Duff, Shaw, and Robison think Mike Martin is “a fine city manager”?! I can only assume they haven’t visited Burien in a LONG time. Clearly it is time to vote Shaw and Robison OFF the city council and make SURE Dacy and Duff never get on it! One of the most important things for the Burien city council to do is GET RID OF the mixed up, out of touch city “manager” who has caused so many problems for Burien.

  5. Thom Grey says:

    Duh Voter Dudes,
    Don’t know who was dumb enough to put Mike Martin’s contact up as a discussion question in this forum. Any current Council Member that made a negative comment about a specific public employee and the specific renewal of his contact could be flat as*ed sued by Mike Martin. Even if Mike Martin stinks as a city manager, as least Shaw and Robison were smart enough not to fall into that trap. Dudes, a better question might have been around city issues that have shown poor leadership or poor economic decisions. Burien dudes and dudettes, let’s re-live some of those ugly leadership moments and poor City Council guidance moments that have come from our city manager; 1.Animal Control-no leash law, inadequate funding, no planning for or funding for spay and neuter programs, no plan for vicious animals, releasing dangerous animals to other communitites, no adoption programs BUT a possible public fine for leaving bird food in your bird feeders for more that four hours, 2. Law suit over 1st Ave that we do not have adequate funds-$1.75 million- to cover the settlement, 3. $20 sidewalk Vehicle Tax that cost money to put on the ballot but was opposed by over 70% of the population, 4. Running two city halls in an economic down turn, 5. Poor Ecomonic Leadership and a poor economic development policy-making the Economic Development Partnership Members flat as*ed mad, not even attending ½ of their meetings by city staff, 6. Town Square Project that is belly up, 7. Poor communication skills with the public-cutting down 96 trees on Ambaum without getting public opinion and not replacing all of them, 8. Poor communication with the public on the Shoreline Master Plan causing public conflict and anger for over 2 years, 9. Poor communication on the Lake Burien Neighborhood amendment and issues, 10. The give away of public land use- that belonged to Burien Citizens- to the Port of Seattle/Airport in the NERA and nothing gotten for the citizens in return from the Port, 11. An annexation of Area X/part of North Highline without an adequate financial analysis and no plan for how the area will be financed after the sales tax credits run out, 12. Putting the annexation of Area X on the ballot in spite of significant opposition in the Burien population against it, 13.The new parking garage that uses up some of the prime real estate in the city but will generate no taxes and forces the city to take on more low income housing that generates no tax revenues, 14. Drunk driving again after having been forced to leave a couple of other jobs in other agencies before he was hired in Burien-health, safety and liability issues for the City of Burien, 15. Expensive street overlay projects in poor economic times that resulted in new taxes to the citizens, 16. An effort to fast track annexation of Area Y/White Center without an adequate amount of information on Area X done and no analysis of Area Y/White Center, 17. Promised work sessions and presentations on the budget that duh never happen, 18. Rude and unsafe city art projects and,the ugly list could go on for at least 15 more examples. Like Dudes, the real question for the candidates-at this forum- should have been about how leadership in this city and for the city staff could be improved. Historically, Burien has always been conservative about spending and had a good cash reserve. Like that is what saved puttsville Burien in this down turn not Mike Martin. However, Mike Martin has now spent out Burien’s cash reserves and is now dangerously moving on to affect its credit/bond rating status. That’s the elephant in the room that no one asked or answered any questions about. Duh, wake up candidate dudes and the dudes that write the questions for these forums-that’s how the issue of the city manager’s contact should be evaluated for an out of touch city manager.

    • Debi Wagner says:

      Thom: I answered that question. I said Burien needs to lower its tax rate, cut spending, councilmembers need to listen to and represent the people not some hidden agenda, I said that Mike Martin recommended a vote on an issue that was directly opposed to what the citizens had requested. I said if Seattle can’t afford to annex White Center how can Burien do it? Nearly every answer I gave was the opposite of the other candidates and half the people in the audience who may not even be voting in our district were in favor of annexation! Yes, I saw the elephant but where were you? I need your support.

    • Jay says:

      Thank you Mr. Grey for spelling out all the concerns we have as taxpayers in this community. Time for Burien to grow up and start acting like a city. A new mayor, city council and manager would be a good start.

    • Erik Robbins says:

      Thank you Mr. Grey for the well thought out response to the “softball” questions presented at this forum. I truly hope there will be another opportunity in the near future to address these candidates.

  6. Eaton B. Verz says:

    Duhh Dude, Contact???? Really?

  7. Erik Robbins says:

    Is this the one and only B-Town Blog Forum with these particular candidates? Or will there be another in the near future?

  8. mike says:

    Please don’t annex Area Y/White Center. we are just fine without all the mismanagement and tax increases. Don’t need it, don’t want it.

  9. Heidi says:

    Mike Martin has done a great job managing the City and you haters that want to throw Mike under the bus are probably just your typical chronic bitchers who never do anything and nothing is ever done right in your eyes. Get a real life and make change if you don’t like the way things are. Put your actions where your complaints are insteading of playing the blame game and pointing fingers. Pathetic.

  10. Thom Grey says:

    So Dudes and Dudette Heidi,
    Burien is run by the City Manager. So when things don’t run right THE BUCK STOPS AT THE CITY MANAGER-not the mayor or the City Council. Burien’s mayor is not even an elected mayor. Well things haven’t been running right for quite a while now. That buck stops with Mike Martin. So Dudes, you can vote out or change some of the City Council members but the real problem is still letting the City Manager run the city. The City Manager is not elected by the people and so he doesn’t feel in anyway accountable to the voters/we the people- a very big problem. The only way to get rid of him is to fire him or not renew his contract. The other way to end his power grabbing, non-responsive to the public behaviors is to change the form of government. Dudes, maybe it is time that Burien grew up and actually had a democratic form of government-a city run by a mayor that is elected and accountable to the citizens. Then Dudes and Dudette Heidi,when the mayor is not listening to the people, that mayor can be voted out of office. Over 220 cities in Washington State are actually run by mayors and have a democratic form of city government. On the other hand, Burien is run by an autocratic bureaucrat that has no obligation to listen to the people-he views his job as only to please the seven people on the City Council. Dudette Heidi, the only thing you are right about in your blog response is that it is time for change in Burien-get rid of the City Manger form of government in Burien. Like Dudes, if we citizens want a voice in the city, we need an elected mayor who runs the city. It’s time to get a “form of government change”initative on the ballot for Burien so that citizens get a say in this city.

  11. Shari says:

    It’s hard to figure out how we can vote in a new council with new ideas when both the new candidates and the incumbents we’ve heard from, with one exception in Ms. Wagner, all kind of agree on things or at least to give vague enough answers that no real differences were obvious (some variation on “if the numbers are good” seemed to be a popular response; and the basic, predictable question about what their #1 priority for the city would be seemed to catch several of the forum participants by surprise.) I’m most confused by Mr. Robison’s stance and rationale on annexation. His support for it seems to be based on two beliefs: 1. “Low income housing” is bad (always. no exceptions.) and 2. KCHA has a “policy” to concentrate it in the White Center/N. Highline area. It seemed like last week’s council meeting indicated Mr. Block agrees with this as well. Irrespective of the accuracy of either of those assumptions, just assuming for the moment that they’re true, I totally don’t get how 1+2= support for annexation….and what “numbers” exactly are going to be the most important ones that weigh most heavily in the decision?

    • Ian Gunsul says:

      Burien would control the permits needed to build said low cost housing.
      Seattle and King County both want to build as much as they can get away with in Area Y.
      Burien has already said it’s time to limit the amount in this area as we already have way more than our fair share compared to the rest of the county .
      If you annex, you limit it by controlling the permits and management of said properties.

  12. Trish says:

    Your reporter states in the 1st paragraph: “incumbent Lucy Krakowiak, who declined to attend the event.” What a shame that Ms. Krakowiak was not participating to provide some answers on what she has done for the citizens in Burien, besides serve us in NO WAY on the King County Library Board. She seems to have a track record for being the No vote on most issues the council has handled, and already stated she plans to vote No on Annexation, without considering the information she requested be brought to the Council. “Way to go, with an Open Mind !”

    • Doug Piper says:

      Thank you Trish for picking up on that. I thought I was the only one who noticed that. Remember when Sara Palin refused to be in any debate because she was aftraid she would be asked the tough questions? It’s the oldest political trick in the book and Lucy has her book open.
      She dropped the ball in not defending the citizens of White Center and Boulevard Park against the King County Library Board.when they are trying to close the two libraries and consolidate into one further away.
      She prides herself on constantly being the only “no” vote on the council. It sounds to me like she does not know how to compromise and that is exactly what is happening in the other Washington right now. We need people on council who can work together and be able to give and take.
      She needs to go.

  13. Thom Grey says:

    Duh Dudes and Dudette,
    Since 1999, The City of Burien hasn’t turned down one grant opportunity that included more low income housing. This increase in low income housing has happened under two city managers; Gary Long and Mike Martin. Like Dudes, as a result, Burien is the city with the largest amount of low income housing in King County. Burien takes this low income housing for a couple of reasons; 1. to get cheap grant monies to do its projects with as a trade and 2. because Burien is a poor city that doesn’t have a good economic base-few businesses, few jobs, little manufacturing and needs money bad-get the picture. In addition, the current Burien City Manager’s wife works for the King County low income housing division. Burien has in no way fought hard to keep down the amount of low income housing. Dudes, this low income housing and the needs of the folks in it come at a big economic cost to the rest Burien’s population. Yep, Burien got a parking garage but had to take more low income housing as part of the trade. Wake up. Ms. Lucy has been a great council member for us dudes and our neighbors. She voted against the lousy Animal Control-only council member who did. She voted NOT to keep Mike Martin on as city manager after his drunk driving-only council member who did. She asks regularly for budget workshops and updates-other members don’t. Lucy answers phone calls to her on issues-good luck if you even hear back from McGilton, Clark, Block, Shaw and now Robison. She organized and headed up Burien Clean Sweep-pretty successful. Ms. Lucy supposed the shoreline home owners during the Shoreline Master Plan process. Doug Dude, She voted with the Council to state that both libraries should be kept open-to the Library Board. You might want to start watching the City Council meetings and actually read the packets. The Burien Library was a pretty good deal for Burien-from the library board. Duh Remember, the White Center Library and the Blvd. Park Library were in the domain of the North Highline Council not Burien. And the North Highline Council knew those libraries were on the possible chopping block since 2008-3 years ago. The North Highline Council did very little to inform and rally their citizens to complain about closures until just the last couple of months. Duff was the chair of that council when that informing and rallying should have been happening. However Dudes, I don’t think that Ms. Lucy or anyone on that library board can ask for special favors JUST for their neighborhoods-conflict of interest issues. Might want to check with someone in State Ethics. Citizens need to speak up to the whole Board and Bill Ptacek on unsound library practices. By the way dudes and dudette, how many letters did you write to the library board and how many library board meetings have you gone to since 2008-if this was a hot button issue with you? How many City Council meetings have you gone to speak at on hot button issues-don’t recall seeing you on the live steaming of the meetings? Blogger Dudes, democracy only works if you are willing to work for a democracy. Lastly B-Town Blog Dudes, probably any future forums should have an impartial moderator like someone from the League of Women Voters-Debi Wagner was pretty much discounted as a woman candidate-by the old boys- at this last forum.

    • Thom – First off, I heartily disagree with your statement “Debi Wagner was pretty much discounted as a woman candidate-by the old boys- at this last forum” – REALLY? Were you even there? I’m curious to know what you’re basing this opinion on. At what point was she ‘discounted’? And who are these ‘old boys’ you speak of? Was Ms. Wagner upset with how she was treated? She sure didn’t say so – in fact, she seemed quite pleased when I thanked her at the end (and I personally thought she did a good job). Moderator Mike Heavey was very fair throughout. Each candidate got the same amount of time to respond to the same questions. Producer Mark Neuman works hard to be fair, and he is. Perhaps next time you can step up and put one together for us and show us how it’s done? Putting a forum together is a lot of work – coordinating, finding a location, date/time, getting panelists, etc. To criticize our Forum is simple misinformed, especially if you weren’t there…or to put it your elegant way: “Duh, Thom…”

  14. Thom Grey says:

    Opps- correction-“…live streaming of the meetings?”-spelling brain fart

    • Al says:

      If you have all the answers Mr. Grey, why are you not running for a Council seat. It seems to me to sit back and criticize everyone when you are not out there trying to solve any of these problems, that you don’t have much room to talk.

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