LETTER: ‘I Wanted to Send a Big High-5 to the Staff at the City of Burien’

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I wanted to send a big high-5 to the staff at the city of Burien. There are a myriad of reasons why we can complain about the way things happen (or don’t happen) at home, at work and certainly with our neat little town of Burien. But, it is equally important for us to stand up and shout regularly about the really good things that are happening in our city.

I live, work, play and pray in Burien. I have lived in Burien since I came here as a kid in 1974. I remember attending the planning meetings held in local schools when the city was conceived. I am honored to be a member of the Discover Burien board. I purposefully moved our business to downtown Burien because I really like Burien. I’m a fan!

Right now, the city is split over the discussion of annexing White Center. Our individual opinions on the topic do not matter with regards to what I am going to share. I want to give kudos to our city staff because they deserve it and because they are simply doing a great job. I feel, in my dealings with the city that this extends beyond the people whose names I’ve listed below. We have a great little city staff group that has a great attitude and are really helpful. Sure, there are a couple that are a pain but… Maybe everyone over there is really happy because they have so many great choices for lunch in and around Burien everyday! Maybe it is because of the fancy new digs they get to call “work.” Maybe Mike Martin, the city manager has a deal with Elliott Bay to keep the frig stocked with IPA… Or, maybe like you and I they just love our little town of Burien.

Whatever the reason, let me tell you about an experience that I had recently…

Kevin Gracey is a Burien resident. He owns RMC powder coating which is located in White Center. My kids race go karts and I needed one of the frames powder coated (type of paint) recently. So, I went to RMC as I have for various things in the past. In talking with Kevin, I learned that he lives in Burien and is working on a renovation project at his home. He was literally blown away at the support, attention and friendliness of the building department staff. Specifically Steven Blake, the building inspector, Dan Cruz, the electrical inspector, Kirk Gentile, the plans examiner and the support team at the counter which includes Julie Brown and Sangeyah Badu. Kevin said this team was simply amazing to work with especially in comparison to his experiences with other city/county building/planning departments. He was shocked to admit that he was actually dealing with a government agency because none of these people act like it! I am so thankful for these people and the culture we are building in Burien. Great job City of Burien staff and leadership. Keep it up!

I talked to Kevin about the potential annexation and his comments were filled with anticipation and joy of the opportunity to be a part of Burien. Why? Because of the care that he feels White Center would get as part of the city of Burien. I agree Kevin, I think you and the other residents and business owners in White Center would be welcome and well taken care of. I know several other business owners in White Center that welcome the opportunity to be a part of Burien. I wonder how much of that is because Burien is just a bit more humble and unassuming that some of the larger, wealthier or more prestigious cities around the area. This is “culture building” my friends and fellow citizens. Each of us is responsible for building and effecting culture in our community. Let’s continue to make Burien GREAT!

Jerrod Sessler
CEO, HomeTask Network

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13 Responses to “LETTER: ‘I Wanted to Send a Big High-5 to the Staff at the City of Burien’”
  1. 3TPDude says:

    I’ve owned businesses and properties in this area for the over 30 years and can tell you from experience how much easier it has been dealing with the City of Burien than it has with King County.

  2. SD says:

    WOW, no disrespect for those recognized but Jerrod is quite a marketing machine!

  3. John Poitras says:

    I agree with everything except the last paragraph which is a whole lot of misleading pro-annexation propaganda. Good marketing ploy though…

    Business’s in area Y in general from what I have heard are not looking forward to the increased taxes which annexation will bring and if you really want to find out what the general feeling in the white center business community is about annexation then talk to folks that really have a clue like the chamber of commerce.
    You will get a much different picture. Its not about opportunity its about higher taxes and Burien having shallow pockets that cannot at this time afford annexation because they are currently running a deficit and annexation at this time of an area that does not even come close to supporting itself is fiscal suicide.

  4. It is my hope that most that read this will not get caught up in the minutia of the annexation discussion and miss the point of the letter.

    If I was to make comments officially on my position of the annexation, I would generally be in favor of it but not for the reasons that everyone else is arguing over. I have not even seen the financials for such a transition but I would be happy to review them if given the opportunity.

    There is however a bigger picture that must be considered beyond the financials. It is from this place that I lean towards annexation being a good thing for White Center and for Burien. If you study the support infrastructure within White Center and the call people have to support, love and encourage the people of White Center, you quickly see that it is a community that is poised for positive growth and transition. To understand the picture fully, we must consider the long term future of White Center, not just the short term financial need. In every corner, White Center has a bright and mighty future and would be a wonderful investment for Burien. Support from Burien would in fact accelerate White Center’s ability to grow and prosper not just financially but as a community.

    I do know some of the business owners in White Center personally. I would caution the automatic categorization and marginalization of them, excluding evidently those that serve on the chamber, merely because they operate a business in a tough neighborhood. Bottom line, this letter was to praise the great work of a few in our Burien, not to embroil the annexation discussion. But, since you asked, now you know what I think.

  5. Joey Martinez says:

    Hear, Hear!

  6. wheels says:

    I have no doubt that some people get excellent service from city staff. Staff, including Martin, divide the citizens into two groups, us and them. If you praise and support city staff, you get preferential treatment. Just look at CARES. If any other business did half the bonehead things that CARES has done, they would have been shut down. Because Debra George is in the “Mike Martin is My Hero” camp, she doesn’t need to file her paperwork for the 501 c 3, meet minimum health codes, show where the money has gone, or turn over the paperwork on the dogs she brings in.

    If you are at all critical of city government, if you think they should have done something different, if you disagree with them on some position, see what kind of help you get then. Many, many Burien citizens have been on the other side of this preferential treatment. Once the staff decides you are on their blacklist, watch your back.

    • Coverofnight says:

      Wheels is spot on when he states,

      “If you are at all critical of city government, if you think they should have done something different, if you disagree with them on some position, see what kind of help you get then. Many, many Burien citizens have been on the other side of this preferential treatment. Once the staff decides you are on their blacklist, watch your back.”

      And let me share that they’ll all talk among themselves about you, too. I’ve been there where one individual doesn’t like something about you, then suddenly your name is Obama, I mean, mud.

      The city should cut staff – even in the building department, despite how great a group of guys they are (and I’ve worked with them; they are good people). Is this article enough to sway some people to vote for annexation? Possibly – at least the ones who don’t know what awaits them with ineffective tyrannical local government.

      Shout it from the rooftops – Vote NO on annexation!

  7. WC says:

    Please do NOT vote against your best interests!
    On Nov. 6, please vote “NO” to joining the City of Burien.

  8. Fred says:

    To Jerrod-
    I’m glad that you have a business here in Burien because Burien needs business. And I applaud you for being on the Discover Burien Board. However as you have commented, you have not been involved in this government since its conception-1993. If you had been attending Council meeting, planning meetings or advisory board meetings, you would know that citizens and businesses have very little say in this city. Since the City Manager’s/Martin’s arrival he has worked very hard to remove the control from the Council and make it his own. He has caused the city numerous financial losses/lawsuits and the loss of numerous staff members who dared to even say once that they did not agree with one of his decisions-30% staff turnover rate is not a coincidence during deep recession times. The Planning Dept. has been a nightmare for numerous businesses and citizens to deal with-the Shoreline Master Plan, lengthy delays for businesses and agencies until they just finally left the city, never the same straight answer twice about the same question, numerous days, weeks, months waiting for them to make some kind of decision. While King County is not perfect, at least they finally find their records and make a decision that they stand by. The answers you get in Burien are at the whim of each person you speak with, you have to come back numerous times to even get a answer they all finally agree to, you have to go before the City Council members-many of them who never bother to answer your calls or letters and then play compter games on their computers or doodle while you speak-and always rubber stamp what the Planning Dept. wanted anyway. If your friend Mr. Gracey had a different experience, lucky for him because there are hundreds of citizens and businesses that have been treated poorly by Mr. Martin, some Council members and members of the city staff. Burien’s historical records are disorganized and look like they were kept in your grandmother’s basement. Mr. Martin and the leadership team have not read their own Comprehensive Plan, city plans, city manuals or even their own ordinances. Thank you Councilman Edgar for noticing that Mr. Martin had not been giving quarterly financial reports to the Council and citizens for the last 6 years-this is required by state law-Edgar has mentioned this at the last two council meetings. Perhaps this is why the city has moved into financial difficulty-but Mr. Martin has been denying it for the last 5 years. His pat answer is,”Everything is just fine.” He has no clue about how to create a business plan and like the emperor, he has no clothes on this issue. That is a major part in why Town Square and many business spaces in 152nd are empty. Since the 2010, he has been promising those of us in the business community that he would have a business plan ready by 2012. He has the staff selectively enforce ordinances against some of us and then overlooks them for other businesses-look at the sandwich boards around town and CARES. He has no clue about annexation and I question whether you are a true businessman. Your suggestion to go on with annexation without having studied the financials on the issue makes me question your business acumen. I’m not interested in being caught in the annexation bubble-like the housing bubble-to find my city in foreclosure. The City Manager does not attend the meetings of the other local city mangers to get new ideas or strategies. As he has so clearly demonstrated, he is not interested in what the citizens or businesses have to say but is only interested in pandering to 4 Council members and their personal agendas so that he can continue to get his contract renewed for the next couple of years and then retire. I know many citizens and businesses in White Center who feel they will be royaly screwed, if they join Burien. Based on my many years of reseidency in Burien, I agree. Their taxes will sky rocket if they annex to Burien and they will get no more voice or control than they had with King County. Hear. Hear.

  9. aka Fred…

    I would encourage you to question my business acumen. In fact, I hope you study it. It is much different than the typical. My point for doing business and leading people is much different than the stereotype of what people who do not understand business assume it to be.

    Interestingly enough, our culture heralds mediocrity and your comments are in line with that thinking. You see, you are condemning me without all the facts. You assume that I am terrible at business because my metrics do not line up with what you assume the important points. So, I am, in your eyes a bad business person just as the leadership of this great city are bad leaders. (note that I am not, by virtue of this statement passing judgement on the leadership of the city – merely making a point)

    Our culture supports and lifts up mediocrity by complaining about anyone that steps out of line. If a person runs their business for reasons other than profit, they are picked at and questions – even told they are bad business people. If a person is a stickler for profits and results and enjoys the fat life of such choices then he is picked and prodded for being so greedy and selfish.

    The only safe road is down the middle of mediocrity where you are sure to find the bulk of the poor leadership as well as limited vision, passion and direction. Hopefully you have noticed my excessive use of the word mediocrity. I distain mediocrity.

    Ok, hopefully I have responded in a way that demonstrates my heart and passion while helping you to learn and grow and at the same time not coming across as offensive or dictatorial. If not, please accept my apology as I do not intent to offend you. At the same time I understand that as we question each others thinking, it is common and easy to choose frustration and anger.

    In regards to the question about annexation. I explained without a lot of detail that I know it will work and I understand enough about economics to know that I could make it work. The financial piece is so incredibly simple which is why those responsible for it are not wasting a lot of time arguing about it. Sure, some of the leaders involved may be clueless and not really fully understand it but most do as it is just not that challenging to understand. The bigger issues are social in nature and involve thought and care as we work through the integration process.

    In other words, if the annexation fails, it will likely not be a financial failure but an integration failure. In the end, it will not bankrupt Burien but it may ruin the heritage and culture of our wonderful city. I trust that if we pull together as a community and if our leaders lead well, this will not be the case.


    • mike says:


      You are confident in the council and city manager’s ability. I have a different take.
      Cost overruns on public work projects and lost tax payer dollars spent to pay for lawsuits. That’s mismanagement and Martin’s track record in other cities shows that’s a consistent pattern.
      Increases in taxes for Area Y if annexation is approved. (everyone knows tax increases stifles growth plus who wants higher taxes)
      Area Y takes in much less than it costs to support it.
      Area X could be the reason for the revenue shortfall Burien is now experiencing. I think Area X is too much to bear as is Area Y.
      No one really knows how to calculate the tax credit. Is it $5M or isn’t it?
      We have KC animal control now, why would we want CARES over here in the ‘hood?
      Even the city council is divided on annexation. Do some research and you will see the down side to annexing Area Y. Vote NO on annexation!

      Area Y Mike

  10. Eaton B. Verz says:

    Hear, Hear !!

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