LETTER/POLL: ‘Citizens Would Like to See Burien Run by an Elected City Mayor’

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To The B-Town Blog Editor:

At the July 2, 2012 Burien City Council meeting, some of the Council members spoke out about the lack of transparency in how the Burien City Manager Mike Martin was operating and his lack of public respect for citizens who oppose his views on annexation. I want to thank those council members for speaking out.

At the June 21, 2012 annexation outreach meeting, Mr. Martin called all Burien citizens who shared his view to annex Area Y/White Center/North Highline good hard working families. He harshly referred to the Burien citizens who opposed the annexation of Area Y as “small minded and mean spirited”. This was a clear attempt to stereotype and vilify any Burien citizen who opposed annexation. He implied in his response that the opponents to annexation were classists. He failed to mentioned that most of the Burien opponents to annexation base their opposition to the annexation because of the finances/money that Burien does not and will not have to provide adequate services and support to both areas-Burien and Area Y and the financial debt Burien will have at the end of 10 years-somewhere between $73 to $91 million dollars. It was a clear attempt to polarize Burien citizens and Area Y residents against each other. It appears that Mr. Martin is acting in a disrespectful and harassing manner to some of the Burien citizens when he makes public statements like this. He should apologize.  Jack Block spoke about this at the Council meeting. Thank you, Jack!

Additionally, there was some discussion at the Council meeting about other meetings Mr. Martin had with other service agencies without informing all of the Council members of those meetings. Those service agencies included the King County Library System and the King County Council staff. All Council members are to be informed and updated at the Council meetings of information meetings that have occurred with other cities, the county or other service agencies. This has not been happening. Mr. Martin has shown a pattern of trying to tell other service agencies how to deliver their services, manage their budgets or manage their staffs-the Highline School District, the Fire Department and the King County Library System. Most service agencies do not feel that this approach is respectful of their agencies.

Other information that was requested by Jack Block related to how much money Burien was spending to promote the annexation of Area Y. This was the second meeting that Mr. Block had requested this information and the City Manager tried to put him off again. The annexation of Area Y campaign has already cost the taxpayers of Burien thousands of dollars in staff time, meeting costs, reports and fees. Mr. Martin has been highly resistant to disclosing how much it has cost so far-in excess of $50,000. These monies are being siphoned away from serving the already tight budget of Burien-animal control services, human services like New Futures, storm water management, parks and recreation, etc.

As a result of these concerns with Mike Martin’s method of management, a request was made by Jack Block to have a report at the next council meeting on how to change the model of government in Burien. Currently Burien is controlled by the City Manager/Mike Martin who cannot be voted out of office. Many citizens would like to see Burien run by an elected City Mayor who has to be responsive to citizen concerns to retain his/her elected position. While Brian Bennett/Burien Mayor and Rose Clark/Deputy Mayor tried to squash this information request by Jack Block, some other council members supported it. Thank you to those City Council members who supported this request to bring a more democratic form of government to Burien! Council person Lucy Krakowiak said Burien is old enough as a city to have an elected mayor and stated that the information on how to make the change should be provided. If an elected mayor can bring more transparency and democracy to the Burien City government, I’m all for it. We need it right now.

-Debi Wagner

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26 Responses to “LETTER/POLL: ‘Citizens Would Like to See Burien Run by an Elected City Mayor’”
  1. Lee Moyer says:

    Burien uses the city manager type of system where the manager is a hired professional who reports to and is hired by the elected city council. Over time this system has been found to work the best for Washington cities the size of Burien. The manager is usually more qualified than the elected local mayor would be to manage the city affairs. An elected mayor form of government sounds more democratic, though, and calls for an elected mayor make good political rhetoric
    If the manager is the demon he is made out to be he can be replaced by the council. It is hard to believe he isn’t doing pretty much what the council wants.
    If the council wants more transparancy, maybe they could lead by example. That would be a welcome change.

    • Eaton B. Verz says:

      The problem with Mr. Martin is that he really isn’t qualified. Look at his record,Lee. The council SHOULD replace him.You are also right when you say the council should lead by example. It seems that the majority of the council and Mr. Martin have an agenda and whenever you have a dishonest person like Mr. Martin involved you must be real careful about what they’re really trying to acomplish…..Eaton

      • Lee Moyer says:

        He could be more open, but how has he been dishonest?

        • Eaton B. Verz says:

          Well, look at his record in the city of Kent. Hit and run with injury. While running Burien He ended up in someone front door and refused the breathalizer. To my way of thinking an honest person would have stood by his actions and accepted the consequences without trying to avoid them.Not to mention the total lack of concern for the injured people. Not the type of person I want running my city. If he does those things in his private life what does he do behind closed doors running our city?

          • Lee Moyer says:

            The council put him on a short leash and it seems to be working. I find this constant repetition of his personal problems tedious. What is relevant are his decisions as city manager. Those I seem to agree with.
            If an honest person “stands by his actions and accepts the consequences” what does that say about anonymous posters on the blog.

          • Eaton B. Verz says:

            Lee, for me it’s really a matter of trust. Ask yourself this. Would you want Mr. Martin as one of your childerns teachers? How about putting him in charge of your elderly mothers finances. Boy scout leader? Well, if you would trust him with those than I guess you get what you deserve in regards to our city. BTW I post anonymously because there are just too many whackos around. Look at all the people on here looking up public records of posters for who knows what reason. Now if YOU want to share your address/phone # I’m sure we can arrange a meeting to discuss Mr.Martin.

          • Lee Moyer says:

            I’d trust him with those duties as much as I’d trust anyone else. You choose to judge him as city manager by previous personal problems with alcohol. I choose to judge him by his actions as manager. I know and have known a number of professionals who are alcoholics but still do their jobs well.
            Paranoia and bravery are both often based on ignorance. I’m not sure which is which in this case but I don’t share your fear. My address is 11917 8th Ave SW, my phone is 206-4884-7618. However, I see no point in meeting to discuss Mr Martin. I still think you “honesty” definition applies very well to this blog.

          • Eaton B. Verz says:

            Geez Lee, I didn’t mean that literally but oh well. Mr. Martins public job makes the issues in his private life public. It really reflects upon his character. We trust him to run our city and represent the people of the city. His track record in California speaks for itself. If I had been fired as many times as he has ……. on and on. Let’s just say he is not whom I would like to have representing me.Maybe when the people tire of his BS and change the current council or they finally get what they want out of him they will toss him to the curb. Either way.

            I give you credit,though. It takes a big set to post your address and # on the blog. I’m sure Joey Martinez and the others are checking you out to make sure you are real! Don’t worry about me, they wont let me on that side of Ambaum and my mom won’t let me use the telephone. Anyway, enjoy your weekend…… Eaton

    • John Poitras says:

      I agree and I think Jack Block’s comments at the last city council meeting is a sign that the council is beginning to wake up.. THANK YOU JACK!

      • Mike says:

        Please elaborate on martins track record in California. I can’t hear it speaking for itself. Thank you.

  2. John Poitras says:

    I basically disagree with about everything the Mike Martin has done.. In fact imo it is what he has not done that it the most egregious. He has certainly NOT run the city in a transparent fashion. The recent high line times article on SEATAC’s animal control contract with King County is a perfect example. WHY was SEATAC able to negotiate such a great deal with King County and Mike Martin was not? He is certainly being paid enough but I don’t think the residents are getting anywhere near the kind of management we should be getting for the money we are paying him. My God the guy won’t even answer where he plans to come up with the millions in CIP money that we will need to contribute to Area Y if we annex. His kids and cops proposal was poorly thought out. His mismanagement has cost the city millions in lawsuits against it.
    He is disingenuous about the shortage of police we now have and which will be even worse if we annex. I totally agree with Jack.. Mike Martin is not accountable to the voters.. The city council has failed in its oversight and fiduciary responsibility. Unfortunately we can’t replace those members that Mr Martin refers to as HIS council until 2013. In the meantime I find it a source of hope that Jack Block can see we have a problem with a city manager run government. Its a matter of trust and Mr Martin has not earned that trust in fact his actions and inactions have earned him exactly the opposite of trust.

  3. Chris says:

    Here are some tidbits from the MRSC about both a mayor-council form of government:

    Arguments For the Mayor-Council Form
    This is the form that is familiar to most Americans because it is patterned after our traditional national and state governments. There is a separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. There are checks and balances.

    Also separation of powers provides healthy independence, debate and creative tension. Separate legislative and executive branches provide the best opportunity for debate and consensus building.

    By electing, rather than appointing a mayor, political leadership is established. The city has a political spokesperson who has a high degree of visibility.

    Some argue that an elected mayor will have a higher standing and greater voice in regional affairs of the city.

    In most cities the mayor is vested with the veto power, and can serve as a check on an unpopular council decision.

    A professional administrator can be hired to assist the mayor in the management of the city’s operations thereby freeing the mayor to concentrate on political leadership or to offset weaknesses in the mayor’s management background or experience, but the mayor is still ultimately responsible.

    Arguments Against the Mayor-Council Form

    The office of the mayor gives too much power and authority to one person. It permits an incumbent to make decisions based largely on political considerations, and to use the office to further personal political objectives.

    The qualities needed to win an election are not the same qualities needed to manage a modern city. A mayor while politically astute may not always possess the necessary management training and experience.

    If an elected mayor proves to be incompetent or worse, he/she cannot be removed until the end of their term, or through an expensive and divisive recall election process.

    A separately elected mayor may resist requests from the council. The mayor may attempt to isolate the council by controlling staff, information, and reports; “turf wars”.

  4. Chris says:

    For our size, it is my opinion that an elected mayor would be not such a good idea. It adds another layer of governmental bureaucracy that we simply don’t need. For all of you who are concerned about absolute transparency in our local government (or all forms of), then adding an executive side could create more problems for citizens to access information and to fully “see” what government is doing.

    Further, having a “professional” city manager–who has higher education in this domain–is better than having someone who was elected for the political abilities rather than their actual “managing” abilities.

    Now, of course many of youare disatisfied with Mike Martin’s performance. I get that, and I’m with you on a few issues, however don’t throw the baby out with–well you know….

    The coucnil-manager form of government IS effective and when it works properly, things get done and the will of the people is respected. This form of government allows the council to terminate the manager “for cause” and replace them with someone else. In a strong mayor form of government, that is not the case. Should the elected mayor fail at their roles and responsibilities, then the only option is a recall election. That is much harder to pull off.

    My point is be careful what you wish for, as there are implications for opting for this type of government.

  5. William Forest says:

    Chis.. I quote: “The council-manager form of government IS effective and when it works properly, things get done and the will of the people is respected. This form of government allows the council to terminate the manager “for cause””

    The problem with this statement is that when you have a city manager that sees the city council as HIS council and does not feel he is accountable it is NOT effective.

    Thats what has happened here in Burien. When a city manager calls the residents opposing annexation “small minded and mean spirited ” in a public comment it is VERY REVEALING of the attitude of this man. If you disagree with him you are bad, if you support his decisions you are good.
    The problem is he is only accountable to the city council and since for whatever reasons the current majority on the council supports him regardless of what the residents feel there is no hope of Martin being terminated for cause. Hiring him in the first place was a questionable decision considering his past record and losing millions in lawsuits should have been cause to show him the door but here he is still the city manager.
    The only recourse the residents currently have is to vote out at least 4 of the council members which is a lot harder than ONE person ie a MAYOR being held accountable.. The current mayor is appointed or should I say “annointed” by the city council and the selection is based on whomever they feel will side with them and Mike Martin versus the other 3 members who are much more objective and much more receptive to the residents needs.
    Thats the reality of what we are experiencing now in Burien.. I think having a mayor that is ELECTED and not “annointed” would be a good thing for the residents of Burien but maybe not so good for Mr Martin and his partners on the current city council.

    • Chris says:

      Ok, I concede that there are issues with MM and there is seemingly full support by at least four concilmembers. With that, I say hold the councilmembers accountable. Governent accountability can work if you put pressure on them. The only way to do that is by hard work and getting people involved in the process. To do that, it takes quite a bit of effort on YOUR part. When I say “your,” than means those who have issues or problems they feel are important and want addressed. That means networking with all of your local friends and neighbors and encouraging them to participate in the process.

      As far as elections go, this takes work too, but if people truly want change, they’ll do whatever it takes to get elected or help someone get elected. How many people have run unapposed in past electtions? Quite a few. This type of civic apathy needs to end and people need to step away from the keyboard and actually get to work campaigning. (not a slam against anyone, just saying that change involves more than discussion on the blogs).

      A strong mayor form of government is not the answer. A PROPERLY ran council-manager form of government is what I think is best for our city.

      • William Forest says:

        Chris.. I concur. with your reasoning.. Thanks for taking the time to spell it out .. You’re right it takes more than just a post on a blog… Consider running for council next year you have my vote… and I would be willing to canvas for you too and fund raise.. One thing we obviously need in Burien, is CHANGE and change requires effort and time. I would love to see a PROPERLY run government here in Burien.

  6. Justin says:

    I think the entire quote was “some of the residents that oppose annexation are small minded and mean spirited”. That is so true as proved by comments on this blog.

    • William Forest says:

      Justin you are a TROLL. All you do is snipe at anyone that criticizes Mike Martin OR annexation. Defending the city managers comments with your warped logic is a perfect example and proof that you are not here to be constructive. Your comments here and and on other threads are all the proof anyone needs to confirm that the term “small minded and mean spirited” in fact is very applicable to your posts.

      • Debi Wagner says:

        Justin: This is not the first time MM has been in area Y calling Burien citizens names. He allowed the audience go away with the impression there are Burien citizens who hate citizens of area Y. He not only made no attempt to correct that unjustifiable impression, he even nodded toward Burien citizens to single them out for an after meeting confrontation. Additionally, those people never comment on the blog.
        William, I so much appreciate the support you give to the issues facing Burien citizens on this blog but just wanted to remind you that in the past Chris has posted negative comments on my letters regarding annexation and the NHUAC.

      • Justin says:

        Look Mr Forest, many of the comments are small minded and mean spirited. Dig through some of the past comments dealing with Annexation, and you will find some of the most nimby, racists, bs possible.

        • Mike says:

          Why don’t you look at the facts justin. Martin’s management skills are very questionable. From mismanaging major road projects and huge cost over runs to the whole CARES fiasco. The people against annexation are the ones willing to speak up and call it like it is. Who would hire a person to manage a city with a record like Martin’s? He wouldn’t have a chance in an election.

          Take a look at your comment justin….Talk about small minded and mean spirited. From the looks of it you must be against annexation.

          Area Y Mike

        • Debi Wagner says:

          Justin: Nimby; really? How is any of this not in my back yard. Area Y will always be next door to Burien whether annexed or not. Additionally and contrary to popular belief annexation has nothing to do with whether area Y children attend Highline schools or area Y citizens shop at Burien stores. And if you apply the term to special districts nobody has a vote so it doesn’t apply to that either. So what are you talking about? Racists; really? Show me one comment, statement or post from anyone living in Burien that is racist? You can’t because it hasn’t happened. BS; REALLY! Didn’t your mother ever tell you not to use foul language in public?

  7. Fred says:

    To Chris-
    280+/-cities in the State of Washington have an elected mayor. Under the current Burien model, the citizens do not get to elect the mayor or select the City Manager. They have almost no voice in their govenment. It take at least two election cycles to change the Council enough to get the manager fired. Then when the Council tries to fire him they face the possibility of him suing or demanding a large severence package. It is a very destructive process on the fabric of the Council. It is far easier and more cost effective to just vote a mayor out of office. Burien is a big enough and an old enough city to allow its citizens to have an elected mayor. Let freedom ring.
    To Chris and Lee Moyer-
    Mike Martin has had a spotty past for a long time and warrants no trust as a City Manager. He worked in Fresno in the 1990s when the FBI had to be brought in because of the pay offs for land use decicions. Then he quickly moved to San Francisco and managed the 911 project that had huge cost over runs. The project started out to cost $61 million dollars and ended up costing $161+millions dollars. There were labor complaints on how he managed staff. Next he went to Kent and we all know what happened there. He applied for a job in Montana and they refused the job to him because he was not completely honest about his past. Now Burien has him and the millions of dollars he has cost us in lawsuits, cost overruns and a 30% turn over in staff-at a time when people are not generally leaving but holding on to their jobs. Still there is no business plan for the city and a questionable model for animal control. There are more problems with this guy than just drinking a little. This information is just not gossip it is part of the public record on the internet news sites. Burien needs to change this form of government control over the city and its citizens.

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