Burien City Council Candidates Confront Issues At B-Town Blog Forum
All six candidates for three seats on the Burien Council exchanged views in an Oct. 12 forum presented by the B-Town Blog.
The candidates are:
- Position 2 – Greg Duff and Lucy Krakowiak
- Position 4 – Bob Edgar and Gordon Shaw
- Position 6 – Gerald Robison and Debi Wagner
Krakowiak and Shaw are incumbents seeking re-election. While an incumbent, Robison is seeking election for the first time after being appointed in January to fill the unexpired term of Kathy Keene.
Note: The candidates’ answers to questions asked during the forum appear below. Although the answers posted are primarily direct quotes, they are paraphrased for accuracy.
The candidates’ answers here are grouped by council position, in alphabetical order. For their complete answers, please listen to the B-Town Blog audio stream below (or play it while reading this post):
How will you represent all of Burien, not just any particular area, including North Burien?
Duff: Currently I am a Burien Planning Commissioner. I have made it plain that if elected I would represent all of Burien. I’m tired of a certain council member representing only certain groups of people. That’s what I will do.
Krakowiak: We represent all the citizens of Burien. An example is parks. Look at the east side. It’s underserved compared to the west side. We advocate for transportation and good bus service. Accessibility is critical.
Edgar: My primary goal as a member of the council is to represent the community, to get involved with neighborhoods and develop neighborhood plans.
Shaw: My record on the council stands out in representing all parts of the community. On the Planning Commission, I fought hard for existing, strong property rights in all of Burien.
Robison: I’ve worked with people in all parts of Burien. I hear from everyone all over the city. It’s the city council’s responsibility to represent everyone, not just particular neighborhoods.
Wagner: That’s why I’m running. A large number of people were not listened to by the council regarding a particular issue. Listening to the people will be my number one priority.
Will you support traditional geographic neighborhoods when developing neighborhood plans?
Duff: Neighborhood plans sound like a good idea, but I think Burien is too small right now to divide into neighborhoods. They might work in the future.
Krakowiak: I support traditional neighborhood plans. The council was wise when they set that in motion. It’s a great way to promote cohesiveness and do more with less.
Edgar: The city’s comprehensive plan provides for neighborhood plans. Only one plan is in place – the Shorewood/Salmon Creek plan. Neighborhood plans allow the city to get the pulse of what’s happening in the community.
Shaw: I’m of the opinion that we’re too young a city and too small a city to be divided into neighborhoods at this time. I don’t believe that neighborhood plans serve any one at this time.
Robison: Neighborhood plans can be a great thing if they improve the quality of planning. But they can be detrimental if taken over by a small group of noisy people. The city council cannot abdicate its responsibility.
Wagner: Neighborhood plans are important. They provide a balanced voice in the community. And they contribute to health and safety, like community Block Watches.
Shaw – The only neighborhood plan is the Shorewood plan. If there was a dying need for neighborhood plans, certainly there would have been more since then.
What is your attitude regarding an annexation advisory vote [by Burien residents], and if there is an advisory election will you follow the advice of the voters?
Duff: I don’t favor an advisory vote – 4,000 or so people [who signed an earlier petition for an advisory vote] do not represent all the citizens of Burien. When a lone person votes no all the time, it’s like compromise is a dirty word and we don’t need that in Burien.
Krakowiak: We already had an advisory vote. It actually happened with our primary election in which the citizens voted no for the candidates for annexation, and I am following that advice.
Edgar: I support an advisory vote. It’s a good way for the citizens of Burien to get their voices heard and for the city council to get a feeling of what they want done about annexation.
Shaw: Lucy Krakowiak forgot that four years ago Steven Lamphear and I ran against an anti-annexation candidate and both got more votes. So if you’re going to take that election as a referendum on annexation the verdict is still out.
Robison: I’ve talked to a lot of people in Burien since the city council brought up its interest in annexation, and it looks to me like the city of Burien favors annexation. Do we really want to spend thousands of dollars on an election when money is the main complaint about annexation?
Wagner: I’m opposed to annexation and would vote no. Lucy is right. We’ve already had an advisory vote. The costs of annexation are too high for Burien to afford. We don’t need to annex now. It can wait.
If you say you won’t vote for annexation if it doesn’t pencil out, and the Berk report says it won’t, why would anyone believe what you say?
Duff: There are many ways to look at the Berk report. I plan to bring in new businesses. There is plenty of land in North Highline, and new business means new taxes. The city just said the costs of the first annexation are less than projected.
Krakowiak: I express how I feel and I vote that way. My sincerely has a track record.
Edgar: I am someone who goes to city council meetings and talks about the costs. I’ve read the reports. Even some of the council members say that if operating expenses equal out, there is still $77 million in infrastructure repairs that has to be done [in North Highline] before street repairs.
Shaw: The latest report actually came to the conclusion that annexation is revenue neutral for the city. I’ve analyzed all the reports and they’re pretty conservative. With the first annexation, revenues remained about the same and expenses were less than expected.
Robison: It’s revenue positive. I have a lot of confidence in the Berk report. I agree with that. I don’t know how some people can conclude that it will lose money. Ten years in the life of a city is forever. Ten years ago we didn’t have a new SW 152nd St.
Wagner: My sense is that this time is not the right time. I can’t support annexation until my own house is in order in these uncertain economic times. The state budget is facing a deficit and there is no guarantee that Burien would get the sales tax credit.
Robison – Not annexing will cost the city money. North Highline is inextricably linked to Burien.
Most residents of Burien have bigger concerns than annexation. How would you vote for all?
Duff: One of the most important issues is zoning. If we don’t control zoning in North Highline we give it up to Seattle or King County and that’s a very scary thing. We’ve got to stop the influx of low income housing there. We don’t need that.
Krakowiak: I will represent all citizens of Burien. I embrace all North Highline voters. I voted for the city’s resolution to keep our valuable North Highline libraries.
Edgar: What is really high on my list of those I’ve talked to is business growth for economic development.
Shaw: If I didn’t think annexation was good for Burien, I would have voted no. There are still things to work out with King County and the state and it may still not happen.
Robison: In a recent group, seven out of 10 people favored annexation. More low income housing in North Highline will impact the school district.
Wagner: We don’t know if opponents of annexation represent a majority of people in Burien, but the vocal people for annexation at city council meetings don’t live in Burien.
Duff – Lucy is a paid representative of the citizens of Burien. But she is a volunteer on the King County Library Board. And she abstained on that board from voting on the libraries. The citizens of White Center and Boulevard Park feel betrayed by her.
Krakowiak – I wear two hats and sometimes they overlap. I looked into it and realized that when there is a conflict of interest, I have an ethical obligation not to vote. I abstain from voting when there is a conflict.
There is strong support over a lack of support for the Business Economic Development Partnership. What specific ways will you support business and improve that relationship?
Duff: I feel bad every time I drive past our Town Square. We need to complete Town Square and make a hard push to get a movie theater there. We need to get the vacancies filled. I am very business friendly and would like to see an auto mall.
Krakowiak: We’ve done a lot of things with the Burien Wellness Cluster. There are new businesses coming in, but more work needs to be done. I was the lone vote on the city council to reappoint a long-time member of the BEDP.
Edgar: Business owners are concerned about Burien’s business climate. They don’t feel like they’re listened to. They don’t feel like they’re part of the city. We need to listen to business. The BEPD got involved in the Visioning Process and respond to the city council in 2012.
Shaw: I am quietly working behind the scenes with the Port to get an auto mall, 50-60 acres, in the Northeast Redevelopment Area. This doesn’t get done in public, and we’re very, very close to it. That would open up a lot of space on 1st Ave. S. for new businesses.
Robison: There are too many empty storefronts. I talk with business owners all the time. One of the first things they would like to see worked on is to simplify the Business and Occupancy Tax. I will push hard more business, and work to get offices and jobs here.
Wagner: A Parks Department bus recently took a group of shoppers from the Community Center to Southcenter. What a slap in the face to local businesses. We need to work to make Burien a place that people want to come to.
Which takes precedence – property rights or environmental protection?
Duff: There is a fine balance between property rights and the environment. We have to look at things on a case-by-case basis. But property rights will always win out with me.
Krakowiak: It takes a balance. People invest in their homes but the environment is critical for today and the future. There is a conflict between Burien and the state over the Shoreline Master Program. I hope the city can settle with the Department of Ecology.
Edgar: I think there’s a need for a balance of property rights and the environment. With shoreline protection, the state mandates the environment first. Ecology is willing to negotiate the SMP but the city is reluctant to respond.
Shaw: When I was on the Planning Commission there was no question in my mind it was property rights. But I’ve moderated that position somewhat. I now believe in voting for proper environmental protections, but my litmus test is that they are scientifically sound.
Robison: Not all property rights are equal; not all environmental protections are equal. It’s important not to take homes away unless there is a public value to protecting the environment.
Wagner: I’m an environmentalist and I believe in protecting constitutional property rights. I don’t want anyone to take my property away. If the state makes laws and infringes on property rights, that’s an illegal taking.
How will the city deal with annexation of North Highline if the [10-year] sales tax credit money from the state disappears in two to three years?
Duff: Before annexation ever happens, we have to make certain that it will pay for itself. But I believe we have to go after industry on a large scale. Why did a call center recently go to Redmond and not to Burien? Land means business, and business means a tax base.
Krakowiak: If annexation goes through and the costs are too high, we will have to make lemonade. We will have to come together and figure it out. I am a member of Sustainable Burien and we need to be on the cutting edge of services and technology.
Edgar: That’s a really tough question. With the costs involved, the fact is that we’re losing money and ultimately somebody has to pay for that. There would have to be new city taxes and these would have to be across the board.
Shaw: I pretty much agree with you [Edgar]. I am very concerned about what’s going on with the state budget. But I see the glass as half full. We also have to look at the realities of annexation in 10-15 years. This down cycle may be an opportunity for us to build from a low cost base.
Robison: I think we’ll come out of the downturn in five to eight years. Before proceeding with annexation, there has to be assurances that this funding will not be lost. If we lose it, we probably can find the money.
Wagner: Seattle is very concerned with this [regarding a potential North Highline annexation]. All these things are political realities. Burien should save its money for a rainy day and be very conservative.
Update: Here’s a gallery of photos from BTB photog Michael Brunk. You can click individual thumbnails to view the full-size images.