LETTER: ‘What is Behind Changing Burien Council Positions Into Neighborhood Districts?’
WHAT IS BEHIND CHANGING BURIEN COUNCIL POSITIONS INTO NEIGHBORHOOD DISTRICTS?
At the last three City Council meetings, Council member Robison has stated he wants Burien Council positions divided into districts. This means that council members would be elected by their neighborhoods rather than being elected by and representing all citizens. Why has this issue come up? It came up because Robison was angry over three council members wanting to allow citizens a right to vote on the form of government for Burien-Nov. 2012 meeting. If the citizens voted for the strong mayor form of government, the current City Manager, Mike Martin would lose his job of being in charge of the city and all of his powers would then transfer to an elected mayor.
It seems strange for Robison to support having neighborhood elected council members because he has always opposed neighborhood plans, doesn’t like to listen to citizen comments at council meetings, is opposed to citizen created coalitions and has stated that council members should work for all of the citizens. So why would he be taking a position now that is contrary to his previous statements about citizens and government? Currently anyone from any area of the city has the right and opportunity to run for a position on the council. It is an open field but they must win the majority vote from the entire city to get the seat.
One can only speculate about Mr. Robison’s motives for switching his previous position on neighborhoods and citizen voice in local government but here are some possible reasons for why he may have turned into a switch hitter:
- Currently a council member has to win about 5,000 votes to get a seat on the council. Under Robison’s plan he would need to get only about 900 or less votes to win his neighborhood. This mean less campaigning and depending on the district, less voters than other neighborhoods.
- Now a council candidate has to run against anyone who challenges him in the city. Under Robison’s plan he could only be challenged by his neighbors. If no one in his neighborhood ever challenged him in an election, he would have his seat forever. This would also be the case for Rose Clark too.
- During an election, potential council members have to reach out to 11,300 voters to win a seat. Under the Robison plan he would have to only campaign to approx. 1,600 voters in his neighborhood. And he would not have to even coordinate what he wanted for the city against any of the other council members running in their own neighborhoods. In the end there would be seven council members each with their own agendas and none coordinated for the overall good of the city.
- Pushing for this city wide change so close to the filing date for the election, changes who can run in this next election as candidates. And Mr. Robison would like to knock out some of the potential candidates by creating districts/voting wards/neighborhood wards rule. He clearly has picked behind the scenes people from specific neighborhoods who he wants to get into office in this next election and wants to knock out any opposition. He wants to keep the council composition from changing. He wants to keep the controlling 4 member vote in his favor and he wants to keep Mike Martin as the City Manager.
- Creation of these small voting districts would split the power of Council members on city wide issues because members are all vying for their own neighborhoods to get re-elected rather that working for the whole city. Weak council members like this are much easier for the City Manager to control.
Lastly if Mr. Robison is so concerned with democracy and representation in this city, why is he so opposed to an elected city mayor? In fact, he is opposed to giving the people a chance to vote on whether they want a mayor. Mr. Robison has voted against allowing citizens to vote on what form of government they have in Burien. That would be the first and best step in giving the citizens a voice in their city. His proposal for districts does not even need a vote of the people but can be done by a council majority.
Robison’s reasons for why he wants the city to be districted seems to be driven more by the desire for personal power than about giving the citizens a voice in the city.
- Debi Wagner
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