LETTER (w/videos): ‘So Why the Push for Districts/Wards?’
At the last city council meeting 02/25, citizens voiced their strong opposition to this plan for wards. Video of your neighbors and their testimony have been compiled and can be viewed below:
Former Burien Mayor Sally Nelson:
Councilmembers Robison, Clark, McGilton and Bennett did their best to pitch creating districts/wards in the City of Burien at this last council meeting? Why?
Currently Burien elects its council members by a city wide election. Anyone in the city can run for any council position and all of the citizens vote across the city for council members. It is an open field to all. At this last council meeting, four council members pushed very hard to change that system. The major spokesperson for that change was Jerry Robison. He claims that the reason no one has run for a council position from the northeast corner of the city is because;
1. They are too poor and can’t raise the campaign funds, 2. they don’t know how to run a campaign, 3. no one mentors them and, 4. new people can’t get elected against an incumbent council member. According to him and the three other council members, the northeast corner of the city does not get heard and is greatly neglected.
However it appears that Mr. Robison’s and the three other council members comments about inequity in council elections are without merit and are just excuses they are using to create wards or seats to get their preferred candidates on the council. Their arguments are full of hot air and here are examples of why I say this.
People from the northeast corner of the city can raise money for a campaign. In the last election, a candidate from the northeast corner of the city raised $15,000, had two campaign managers and had the support and mentorship of five of the council members. These five council members supported and held a barbeque for this candidate, donated money to his campaign, endorsed this candidate in the media and mentored him. In spite of all of their work, he still lost the election because of positions on certain issues and his attitude at public forums. He had the second largest amount of campaign funds of any candidate running. It appears that four of these council members are looking to create a ward in this northeast corner of the city for this specific candidate in the next election. Districting will guarantee him a council seat.
People from the northeast corner of the city do know how to run a campaign. That candidate from the northeast corner of the city hired two campaign managers, someone to set up a very slick web page for donations, put money into signs and mailers and made a very expensive video about himself. He got big money donors to do in-kind work for him and to run phone banks. These people coached him well in the techniques of campaigning.
People from the northeast corner do have mentors. This candidate had the support and mentorship of five council members for his campaign. He also had the support of several unions and the Master Builders Association.
New people can get elected against an incumbent council person. Another man who ran for the council during this same election cycle ran against the best funded and most incumbent candidate on the council. This man spent less than $5,000 on his campaign, was unknown and still won. He won against an incumbent council member who spent close to $15,000 on his campaign. The new guy on the scene won because of his position on the issues of concern for the citizens and he door-belled his feet off. I got 46% of the vote on $113.00. So it is not the money or the area of the city that is the issue in who wins in council seat elections.
The Burien Comprehensive Plan has a provision for Neighborhood Plans so that areas of the city can have their concerns heard without creating wards/districts. However, Mr. Robison has said he is opposed to Neighborhood Plans because he doesn’t want neighbors to create coalitions (his plan for wards/districts will do this) and he doesn’t want them to bring their concerns and desires before the council. He has stated that he doesn’t like to listen to citizen comments. It is no small wonder that citizens from the northeast corner of the city rarely tell the city what they want. They are clearly unwelcome by certain council members. Neighborhood Plans are less costly and politically divisive than creating wards/districts in the city. So why not follow the Comprehensive Plan for Neighborhood Plans? Or the correct city survey questions?
So why the push for districts/wards? Clearly there are four council members who have identified people they want elected to the council and they haven’t been successful at getting them elected by the current means. So they are going to create districts/wards to get their chosen candidates into office. That is what the term gerrymandering is all about and these four council members are bound and determined to do it in Burien without a vote of the citizens. The people of Burien deserve better than this plan. Call and explain your concerns to these council members about their ward/district plan. Burien City council email · City Council Burien <email@example.com> Council phone no. 206-241-4647. Mike Martin said at the last council meeting that this topic will need to be on the agenda every meeting for it to get through. So it is important for everyone concerned about this plan to please attend the next council meetings and voice your opposition to districting.
– Debi Wagner
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