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LETTER: Rose Clark Responds to Nov. 19 City Council Adjournment

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following letter is included as public record in the packet [1] for Monday night’s Burien City Council meeting:]

November 19th Burien City Council Meeting
by Deputy Mayor Rose Clark

The people of Burien rightly have questions about why I terminated the Burien Council Meeting abruptly on November 19th, 2012. I will answer here, but want to put the evening and our normal process into context.

Since 1993 it has never been the practice of Council to vote on extremely important issues, like a change in Burien City government, without research, without discussion at prior meetings, and certainly not with absent members totally in the dark about the issue. Shooting from the hip types of legislation serves no one well.

In addition it has been a long established practice among Burien Council Members to defer taking action on items that the absent members have an interest in. Discussion of items championed by an absent member has also been delayed until the member’s return. This is simple courtesy. Of course if the item was time sensitive, or an emergency, action would be taken.

Since 1993, the beginning of the City of Burien, these has been the practices during the terms of twenty four different individual Council Members, guided by six individual Mayors, working with three permanent and three temporary individual City Managers. We have always protected the right of all Council Members to be involved in a discussion before it is put into the form of a motion for adoption. I have always been very proud of the fact that all of these people working together, working through their differences, with the ebb and flow of majority and minority status, have steadily moved this city ahead with the Vision and the future as their north stat. But through it all we have respected the right of each to be included in the conversation.

Council Member Block, like other Council Members historically, received this courtesy during his recent absence for surgery as well as vacations in the past. Every Council Member has been granted this courtesy and respect until the Aug. 6th, 2012 meeting when Council Member Block put an motion on the floor in my absence. Research would have shown him that that motion, to take Annexation off the ballot, would have needed to be made and passed at least one month earlier in order to allow the process to work through the King County Council, the only body with authority over the ballot.

On Nov. 19th, 2012 two members, Mayor Bennett and Council Member McGilton, were absent. It is true that they were away on personal business. There is not one Burien Council Member ever who has had perfect attendance. As human beings they have a right to personal time, to surgery time, and sometimes to traveling on behalf of the City. Every elected official in the country and beyond faces the need to balance public service with their personal lives.

On the 19th the meeting was going well until we reached the point on the agenda where we talk about City Business. At this point on the agenda normally there is no action to take. It is the time at which our City Manager routinely updates Council and the community of recent developments of note. That would be followed by the individual Council Members summarizing meetings or events he/she had attended.

But Council Member Block interrupted with his first motion to rescind our PAA on North Highline. The annexation issue was dealt with at the ballot box and that is different from the issue of the PAA. Refusing to acknowledge the lack of respect to two absent Council Members, he pressed on in spite of the fact that during his absences he had received that respect.

This was not an emergency issue nor one of time constraints. In fact it can t be done by one simple motion because it involves changing both the Burien Comp Plan as well as the King County Comp Plan. It is not the annexation issue that is codified in these documents, it is the PAA which allows Burien a seat at the table in future discussions concerning the future of this area. The complicated process would be long and could not be handled by a simple motion by one Council Member. A little research on the part of Council Member Block would have shown him that.

This motion was seconded by Council Member Krakowiak in spite of the fact that she, in the interests of transparency, always insists that we refrain from placing a motion on the floor and vote on it at the same meeting. Council Member Edgar was the third Member who voted for this motion.

So without research they voted to withdraw from the PAA as I previously described. At home I am sure the residents thought the motion passed but further action will be needed due to the complexities of the issue.

Council Member Block’s second motion was to place the idea of Burien having an elected mayor on the April ballot. This is a significant change to the City s Charter and has considerable budget implications. Council Member Block had mentioned this item at one previous meeting. Because we have been consumed by budget discussions the Council has not placed the elected mayor item on the agenda for discussion which would be our normal protocol.

Placing a change in our form of government on the agenda would set the table for discussion so that the residents could hear and understand the complexities and budget implications of changing our form of government. After reasoning together and with public input we would be better able to make a wise decision. A decision on a ballot measure would be the end result.

I myself have questions about it, but since it was not on the agenda I knew staff would not be prepared to help us understand the matter. Then there was the issue of two absent Council Members who would have zero input into a discussion to transform Burien s mode of government. I tried very hard to reason with Council Member Block hoping he would table the motion until a future date when all Members would be present. Rather than allow rash action, totally out of order and sequence, I chose to recess the meeting.

I am aware that this is the first time in the history of Burien that any presiding officer has recessed in this manner. Recessing, with a motion on the floor, necessarily means the issue of an elected mayor would be discussed in the future before action is taken.

Council Member Block has inferred that he had a third motion that would cause us to hire two additional police officers. What a surprise since during the budget discussions he wanted to eliminate the School Resource Officer position historically posted to Highline High School. A little research would have shown him that the SRO position has been instrumental in resolving issues and public safety costs at the Burien Library, Transit Oriented Development, Bartells and Burger King as well as the Town Square Condo units. But on a whim he wanted to reduce this position but now he wants to add two positions. And this would be done after the budget for the next two years was adopted only a couple of weeks ago.

If this indeed was his third motion for the evening, he would have been adding in excess of a quarter of a million dollars for new officers to our just adopted budget without discussion by full Council. There is a financial costs to placing an initiative on the ballot. I think that is at least $30,000. Then there would be the undetermined costs of changing our form of government. Clearly it was inappropriate to add these expenditures outside the budget process which just ended a couple of weeks ago not to mention without having the full Council present.

I will also give these comments to our City Clerk for inclusion in the Dec. 3rd packet so that all residents may have the opportunity to understand my reasons for recessing the Nov. 19th meeting.

Thank you for listening. Now we will move to tonight’s published agenda, which staff has been preparing for over a month.

– Rose Clark
Deputy Mayor

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