LETTER: ‘City is not fair and consistent in what it allows candidates to do’

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Editor,

The City of Burien needs to make the rules in this political season open and available to all potential candidates for the City Council.

In 2011, at least one candidate for the Burien City Council had a booth at the Strawberry Festival right next to the booth for the Environmental Science Center. That candidate handed out campaign materials and talked constantly about politics. Monday of this week, I contacted the sponsor about a booth at the Strawberry Festival as a political candidate and this is what I was told:

Subject: RE: strawberry festival


We do allow political booths to register as Non-profit booths for $35 to share non campaigning information. (underlining added) But as a political booth, there is no campaigning for a party / person. Yes the booth needs to be manned the whole time and no, a candidate cannot go outside of their booth space to hand out flyers.

I hope that answers your questions. Please let me know if I can provide more help.

So it appears in the past, candidates have been able to campaign from a booth but no longer are allowed to do this at the Strawberry Festival and no flyers can be handed out at all.

In looking into campaigning at the Discover Burien Farmers Market, the rules say that no political activity is allowed unless the market manager approves it. So what does that mean? Some candidates will be able to campaign at the market and others will not be allowed? The Farmers Market is funded by the city.

At the recent event, the B-Town Beat, one candidate was allowed to put up a tent and hand out her campaign materials on city property. Why weren’t other candidates notified of this opportunity to campaign by the event organizer?

The problem here is that the city is not fair and consistent in what it allows candidates to do. The directions for what is allowed are not open and transparent to all of the candidates. Burien citizens should have the opportunity to meet the candidates running for their city council and service provider positions and the city should provide opportunities at events for this to happen. Other communities allow candidate booths at events and festivals. They allow the voters to see, meet and question the candidates they may want to serve them, in advance of the actual election.

I am asking the city to clearly explain when and where candidates can meet and talk to citizens, not just for myself but for all of the potential candidates. Earlier in the year, some members of the City Council voiced concerns that not enough candidates run for office in the city. Part of the city’s claim was that perhaps candidates needed mentorship on what to do in a campaign. The first step toward that mentorship is to make the rules for campaigning in the city perfectly clear to all candidates and provide them with an opportunity to meet the voters.

By the way-if I am elected to the City Council, one of the things I pledge to do is improve transparency on how things work in the city.

– Debi Wagner, candidate for council position #3

If you want to know more about me and what I stand for, please see my video at:

http://youtu.be/-CMl0rRGYGc and website at: friendstoelectdebiwagner.org

[Have an opinion or concern you’d like to share with our ~90,000+ monthly Readers? Please send us your Letter to the Editor via email. Include your full name, please remain civil and, pending our review, we’ll most likely publish it.]

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15 Responses to “LETTER: ‘City is not fair and consistent in what it allows candidates to do’”
  1. Jennifer says:

    I just looked at the strawberry festival vendor line up and it looks like the only political booths are the league of education voters, 33rd & 34th district democrates. I would connect with one of them so they have your infomation available to share. To be honest I have never seen political advertising at the Burien Farmers Market or really at any Farmers Market for that matter. At the summer concert series there has been canidates there speaking with people. Also, there is the 4th of July parade. I think just asking the people running praticular events in Burien is the best way to get out there. This blog does a great job advertising upcoming events in our fine city!

  2. I want to clarify that Discover Burien does not allow political activity of any kind in the Farmers Market or any event. We are contracted by the City of Burien to produce a number of events each year, one being the Burien Farmers Market.

    The complete wording in the Market Rules packet has been updated so that there is no misunderstanding.

    The wording in it’s entirety formerly read: “PRINTED MATERIAL
    Vendors are allowed to display in their booths materials that pertain to their products. Other than the Vendor materials, no petitions, or other printed material, political or otherwise, will be distributed or displayed at the Burien Market, without prior approval by the Market Manager.” Political activity does not receive approval by the market manager.

    For a more transparent description of permeable activities we’ve added the line: “No political activity of any kind will be permitted in the market.”

    Hopefully this helps answer your concern about the Farmers Market practices. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    • Eaton B. Verz says:

      During the last election I spoke to one of the council members who ran for office (unsucessfully) who was drumming up support at the market. If I recall correctly Mr. Robison did the same. Are these new rules this election?

  3. Sleepless in Burien says:

    Any legitimate candidate would follow the rules as stated, find new and creative ways to engage the voters, and not use B-Town Blog as their personal whine bar.

  4. Feisty Brain says:

    There is a potential violation of the State and Federal Constitution when organizations such as Discover Burien do not allow poltical candidates to hand out flyers, or carry political signs, at events open to the public. The City of Burien can NOT prevent citizens from collecting signatures on petitions, nor to exercise their right to free speech — which is what handing out things is all about.

    The State Supreme Court has ruled on this subject innumerable times, and yet nearly every year, there are problems when some bureaucrat denies candidate the right to enfrancise. This often occurs because other citizens are allegedly “offended” by such exercise of free speech.

    The City of Burien, DBA Discover Burien, cannot prohibit one type of activity in a booth if such activity is allowed in another type of booth. That means political v. non-profit.

    The City of Burien, DBA Discover Burien, cannot prohibit candidates from politicing at the Farmer’s Market, manager approval or not. The publicly open Town Square is public “town square” in the constitutional sense, where such political speech was founded nearly 400 years ago in Massachusettes, and upheld more recently with Tim Eyman’s signature collecting activities for his anti-government/anti-tax initiatives.

    While Gina Bourdage insists that Discover Burien will not allow political booths, I would hope that someone will challenge her and Discover Burien/City of Burien, in court.

  5. Coverofnight says:

    My question is, “Why not let the candidates campaign at all events?” It’s part of the fabric of America; business entities, social causes and political campaigns……why should anyone be afraid?

  6. Shelli P. says:

    The B-Town BEAT is not a City of Burien event. It is a public event organized by a private group. The BEAT is an event organized by a dedicated group of private citizens with a mission to increase awareness of Burien businesses through the promotion of music and the arts using the art walk format. We are proud to count as a member of our organization committee Andrea Reay, who is a Burien Arts Commissioner, and a City Council candidate.

    Thursday, June 6th was the first of what we hope will be many B-Town BEAT events. As this is still a new venture, we are ironing out the details. We, as a committee, agree that all campaigning should be separate from promotion of our event. We regret that there was confusion. We were happy to see Debi also taking advantage of the BEAT event to promote her campaign.

    Please join us on July 11th for our next B-Town BEAT which will feature nine (9) new venues!!

  7. Fred says:

    To Jennifer-
    Please carefully re-read the city’s response to Debi, “but as a political booth, there is no campaigning for a party / person.” This means that the 34th and 33rd Dems can only register voters or tell people where the ballot drop box is. They can’t hand out any endorsements lists, etc. The same goes for the League of Education Voters. So if one of these groups wants to take the City of Burien to court on this issue, let them have a GO AT IT.
    What I find interesting is that the City Of Burien News which just came out today failed to list Debi Wagner as a candidate for City Council position #3. Guess that’s how the city gets even with you if you dare to ask any questions. I believe that Debi Wagner is still running at least according to King County Elections.
    To Shelli P.-
    I believe the correct statement is that Andrea Reay took advantage of her membership in this group to promote her own campaign at the event. This event was supposed to be about promoting the arts and business in Burien and not about promoting Andrea Reay. If this private group is going to run an all city event, then it has the obligation to invite all candidates to participate in the event or none at all should be politicing. Please don’t try to fault Debi for raising the question of fairness for all candidates with a snide comment. Meow, Your claws are showing Shelli P.
    The real topic of this blog letter is that the City of Burien and private event organizers should provide clear rules for all the candidates on where and when they can meet the voters at events. We still haven’t heard from the city on what is really allowed.

    • jennifer says:

      Fred, I can appreciate what you are saying but, I am sure you have seen those booths at other fairs and you know as well as I do that they highight canidates that are running for office. I also don’t think farmers markets are the right forum for political campaigning, I feel it is meant to highlight our local farmers…that is just my opinion.

  8. Dianne says:

    I am a citizen of Burien with no policitical experience so forgive me if I sound naive. I for one would love to see the candidates being allowed to campaign at events like the Strawberry Festival. I read the statements in the voters pamphlet when it arrives, but I would really like the opportunity to actually meet them in a setting that would allow me to talk with them. I have had candidates come to my door, but I only get a brief chance to speak with them, and I probably will never meet the other candidates. I know some people will say that events like the Strawberry Festival are not the place for this, but it would give those of us who want to the chance to personally meet with the people we are voting for.

    I keep reading about all of the functions where the candiates cannot campaign, so my question is how does the average Burien resident have a chance to meet and talk to the people who will be representing us.

    • Mark Neuman says:

      Hello Dianne –

      I am with the B-Town Blog.

      We will be sponsoring Town Hall style forums this summer with the candidates running for Burien City Council, incumbents and challengers alike.

      We have not yet formally invited the candidates or publicized this as we are just nailing down dates, time and location.

      Please stay tuned in the next week or so for an announcement right here on the B-Town Blog.

      These candidate forums are open to the public, there is no charge to attend, and we strive to find time in the format to allow the public to ask unedited, unscreened questions of the candidates.

      Mark Neuman

  9. Gina Bourdage says:

    To clarify on behalf of Discover Burien: stall assignments for the Farmers Market are assigned to vendors based on the following:

    Stalls will be assigned to Vendors based on the following:
    1) Commitment / Frequency of space
    2) Farmers
    3) Food Processors
    4) Crafters
    5) Non-profit Groups

    The Farmers Market is set up to provide space for farmers, food processors and crafters to provide their products to the public. Nonprofit groups may request space on a space available basis. Final decisions for nonprofit scheduling are to be handled by the market manager.

    The Discover Burien association is a 501(c)3 organization and cannot engage in political activity and cannot support political initiatives, candidates, etc. The Discover Burien articles of incorporation contain a limitation on political activity and the article state: “The corporation shall not participate or intervene in any political campaign on behalf of any candidate for public office.”

    The Farmers Market is on public property, and as such political candidates can exercise all of their free speech activities as they normally would be able to at events open to the public. Neither Discover Burien, nor the City of Burien prevents citizens’ from collecting signatures on petitions, or exercising their citizens right to free speech.

    For further detail on the Burien Farmers market, please see the 2013 rules and regulations for the Burien Farmers Market.

    Thank you for the opportunity to clarify for you operational details of Discover Burien and the Farmers Market.

    • Feisty Brain says:

      Gina, while Discover Burien is a 501c3 organization, it nevertheless canNOT prevent candidates from engaging in their free speech rights to distribute literature or to walk through a public area holding signs.

      There is a big difference between “supporting” and “allowing”. And in fact, you are incorrect even about that, since 501c3 non profits can engage in lobbying activity up to 20% of their annual budget.

      Renting a booth to a candidate is in no way “supporting” a candidate. Giving one candidate a free booth and denying same to another would be. Numerous nonprofit groups in the state of Washington rent booth space to candidates.

      Please stop hiding behind your 501c3 designation and violating the Constitution.

      Likewise, Debi, please stop complaining and learn how to campaign.

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