LETTER: Former Mayor Has ‘Grave Concerns’ & ‘Strongly Opposes’ Districting

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The ward voting system under consideration by the Burien City Council would be a dramatic and serious change in the way we elect our city council members. Dividing the city up into tiny pieces would seriously harm the freedom we have under our present voting system. We have always allowed anyone who is a registered voter to run against anyone who is up for reelection, no matter where they live or where you live. There are 281 cities in the State of Washington and only 20 have a ward system and of those 20, only 3 have a system like the BCC is discussing!!! That should tell you something.

Here is why it’s a very bad idea:

  1. It will ensure much more opportunity for the incumbent to be reelected. Why? Because no one outside his or her ward can run against the council member up for relelection unless that person lives in the same ward. Restrictive? Yes. Favors the chances for the incumbent? Yes. Fair? No.
  2. It has the effect of creating cronyism because it’s tough to run against your neighbor or a friend so it promotes favorites, no matter their qualifications. People are reluctant to run against someone they know personally. So it stifles competition, again favoring the incumbent.
  3. These two big facts would have a chilling effect on who runs and why. This is not a good way to have an open and robust election process.

The smoke screen for promoting this by some who suggest it will give more opportunity for minorities to run for city council is simplistic. Tell me how. How much effort has the city made to reach out to minorities and be inclusive? What strategies have they tried and have they worked? Have they tried to involve them in any aspect of city governance? How? What about our many commissions and committees? And remember, we have had two mayors from minority backgrounds and we have had candidates who represent a minority. Both these facts are good. I agree it would be great to have many more. We need to work harder to involve all the community and be inclusive in every way. Changing the way we vote is not a way to achieve that goal.

I was appointed to serve on the countywide Districting Committee for a year-long process of redistricting King County’s nine districts. We were told by our attorney that we could not use race or minority considerations in any way when we considered changing district boundaries or creating new ones. We had to be color blind.

These are just some of the reasons I have grave concerns and strongly oppose changing the way we are allowed to vote in our fair city. I fear that some of the members of the Burien City Council who are up for reelection in 2014 favor this change in governance because they are worried about their reelection chances. I hope I’m wrong.

What I am hoping is that all the members of the Burien City Council will vote “NO” on the ward system. I hope I’m right.

– Sally Nelson

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10 Responses to “LETTER: Former Mayor Has ‘Grave Concerns’ & ‘Strongly Opposes’ Districting”
  1. May says:

    Then Brian Bennett and his friends have job security and that means $$$$$ for their friends the developers and construction companies. And we will be paying for everything.

    This is an unblievable slick operation and very dirty business. And nobody on this council is saying or standing in their way?

  2. Flashdog says:

    Good letter, Ms. Nelson! Thank you!

  3. Very informative letter. I think your points are valid and you are using excellent critical thinking. Thank you Sally.

  4. Melessa says:

    Sally Nelson laid out the MAJOR issues for why this lame idea that the City Council is trying to force on Burien should be canned. The current system in place is working well. Stop trying to hoodwink us and rigging the system so that you can hold onto your council seat without any serious oppostion. Please City Council focus on issues pertinent to our citizens – safety for all, economic opportunity for our small businesses and perserving our cities’ environment and parks.

  5. Linda says:

    Thank You Sally!

    Your letter adds gravitas to this issue which puts us at a very important crossroads and will have major impact on the future of the city of Burien and what kind of city it will become.
    I see it as a clear choice of “do we want to restrict peoples right to vote or not”.

  6. RJ says:

    Thanks, Mayor Nelson. I adopted your comments verbatim and sent them as my comment to the council by email as my public comment. I also oppose the idea. Others who agree may wish to email the council their comments so they have plenty of input.

    • May says:

      Others who agree may wish to email the council their comments so they have plenty of input.


      It is sad but to address this council is a waste of time. They have their own aganda and it is not the interest of the public. They are working for builders and developers. This situation is very serious.

      • TcB says:

        Are you against any and all development? Could you explain what is acceptable development and what is not?

        Could you explain how people get jobs when you take away the option of looking to your friends and networking with people you know? Is it ever ok to hire “friends”? Or must I always hire strangers for any conceivable job?

        Would it ever be ok to have had previous experience in government in another city before running in another city? Or must we always hire those with zero experience?

        Have you ever taken a look at your statements and tried to find out if the had any logic at all?

  7. Cyndi Upthegrove says:

    Its hard to watch this contentious council most nights. I told the Mayor that I thought the 3-man wrecking crew that took over the council while he was out of town was an example of poor government. I want to be on record that this new plan to gerrymander the city into voting wards is also poor government. Surely the four council members in the majority are not so fearful of their jobs that they cannot just buckle down and do the city’s jobs and go home and quit the bickering! City Council members seem to become big fish in a very small pond. There is nothing going on in Burien that warrants all of this drama. Mayor Nelson is absolutely right. Leave well enough alone.

  8. Fred says:

    To Sally Nelson-
    Thank you. This was an excellent explanation on why wards/districts are a bad idea. The four council members who are pushing this idea are completely out of touch with the citizens they are supposed to represent. And the lame excuses that they have made for why they want this are completely without merit and are not even supported by the history of council position campaigns in the city This is about them trying to make sure that they and their friends get seats and retain control of the Council. I would like to see these four council members get busy and work for the city and citizens. They have not been doing this for months now.

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