Here are Burien residents’ responses to city’s survey on new City Manager


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As we first reported Nov. 13, the City of Burien posted an online survey asking for residents’ comments to assist its executive search firm in finding a new City Manager, and the results are in.

“The search firm is using these comments in the recruitment process, as well as other public input it has received,” reads an announcement on the city’s website.

Two questions were asked in the survey:

  1. What issues/challenges the new city manager will need to address?
  2. What are the characteristics a new city manager should have?

Each bullet point below represents a separate citizen comment.

“We’re delighted at the great response to this survey and plan to utilize more online surveys to gather public input in the future.”

What are the issues/challenges that you think the new city manager will need to address?

• Some people in Burien, especially some residents that live on Lake Burien and Three Tree Point want people to believe that they speak for the entire city – when in actuality they only speak for themselves – they have created a very divided city – and then claim that the problems were created by the former city manager and the individuals on the council that they do not like – this is a big problem for the city.

• Bringing the city back together, the divisiveness has been so detrimental. Town square…will it be a gem or a lump of coal? Will it bring pride to the city? Economic issues facing the city. Police issues, coverage is not that great now and we often share with bigger problems to the north. We need a strong manager that will see that code enforcement means something so that we can take pride in our city. A city manager that would rather stay here and roll up his or her sleeves to get things done than trying to rub elbows to climb to the next bigger city/pay increase Please look at potential candidates carefully. See what the issues faced were, public reaction, council reaction etc. Doing online searches to see how things were presented, received and reacted to by the prior city.

• I believe that the city is in generally good health and that there aren’t any unexpected, pressing or insurmountable problems that the new city manager will need to address. Things aren’t perfect of course and there is room for improvement on a number of fronts but I am not aware of a specific problem that needs unusually urgent attention. I think that the majority of the relatively minor problems that do exist can be addressed, over time, with greater transparency, better communication, and more revenue. With these notions as a foundation I believe the number one priority should be the financial health of the city. This is true of almost any city but I sense that the situation in Burien is a little more precarious than in other suburban cities of a comparable size. This is primarily attributable to demographics of the broader South Seattle region. The city came through the recession in better shape than it might have done and perhaps better than some of its peers, but things are far from steady. In the nearer term we should continue to follow policies that are generally fiscally responsible but over time we have to attract more businesses and protect the residential tax base. Business growth is important for the services they provide, the jobs they create, and the tax revenue they generate. I do not tend to believe that the governments of small cities like Burien can do much to foster growth but I do believe they can do plenty to limit it. Fortunately this seems to me to be a strategy that is revenue efficient. All things being equal it should be cheaper to avoid creating new barriers to business rather than taking the expense of creating new rules and regulations that hurt business growth. If this strategy is successful then the new businesses should generate additional tax revenue. The residential tax base can be protected by providing adequate public safety, working with Highline School District to support schools as much as possible, and assuring the health of local businesses / services. If we can improve the financial health of the city, we will then have more room to debate how many additional police officers are needed, which neighborhoods would benefit from additional side walks, how to improve public transport, etc, etc. I believe this should be bread-and-butter for any city manager in a city that maintains an effective and efficient staff.

• Economic growth strategy (big box, car lots, pawn shop, cheap fast food, industrial or Elliot Bay/Great Harvest-like. – city diversity..old Burien traditionalists vs. the multi-ethnic, multi-income levels. How to help the lower end yet support those paying the majority of city taxes. -safety..police and fire response times. Concerning rumors about timing of police reaction to situations. Several drug trade areas here. Why aren’t they cleaned out?

• Focusing on the CURRENT residents’ questions and concerns about Burien. Include all neighborhoods on all issues moving forward. Revitalizing the downtown core. Help businesses rather than tie their hands with red tape.

• Bringing to the city Planning Commission a plan for improvement of Arbor Lake Park making it a lakefront park for all Burien, along the lines of Steel Lake Park in Federal Way (including baseball diamonds, soccer fields, covered picnic areas, swimming dock, etc.)

• Property crimes, no annexation, better public works project management

• Burien is not seen as an attractive place for businesses or families to locate. We need to attract solid businesses that provide family-wage jobs and provide high-quality products and/or services and we need to attract families interested in buying homes and putting down roots. We are seen as a run-down backwater by the vast majority of businesspeople in the Seattle area and as an unsafe and “trashy” place to live by people seeking someplace to live.

• Run a leaner city, do more with less.

• Trying to reverse the mess Mike Martin left and to be concerned with Burien residents, not White Center residents.

• Crime, lack of strong businesses.(look at all the empty store fronts). Attracting a strong middle class population, where they feel safe with their families.

• Town Square, structural deficit, relationship between council, citizens, groups & boards, recruitment, streamlining process, reducing fees for businesses.

• Dealing with the mess that Mike Martin is leaving behind, plus how to make our city more business friendly, promote the current and bring in the new. Help Burien’s economy to build and be strong! Dealing with fixing our animal control, a very HOT topic. Open for suggestions from the public.

• The new city manager will be dealing with a large segment of the city that is unhappy with the present leaders. They are devisive, arrogant, and do not understand the workings of a municipal government. Some of the comments made at Tuesday night’s (Nov. 12) meeting indicate that some council members are not abiding by the confidentiality guidelines for council members. While asking for openness they do not understand the regulations of the Open Public Meeting Act. It seems that the most vocal citizens are either married to present and future council members or some of the most wealthy citizens of Burien. The new city manager will have to be able to LEAD the council to make decisions for the entire city, not just what a few want.

• Educating four new council members about their duties and responsibilities and instilling a new culture where the council works together and there is respect for all parties, council and staff.

• city manager needs to focus on 1) building our police force for a safer Burien. 2) Finding a way to occupy the new Town Square and keep small business in Burien afloat before we take on anything more or anything new in Burien.

• Getting the city council out doing their job and find new businesses to fill our store fronts, instead of just sitting there pointing their fingers at city staff and expecting them to do all the work. Or get the council to care about the entire city instead of focusing just on the Lake Burien neighborhood.

• Turning the center of Burien into a vital, alive, economically self-sustaining community which is capable of adding to the city’s tax base with additional condos and stores.

• The future of Burien’s economic development….filling up these empty storefronts! Working together with the city council and listening to concerns from citizens.

• A more transparent government 2) Putting an end to possible annexation. 3) Promoting growth of local business

• Stop all attempts to annex White Center. Carefully review all projects and bids on them to make sure they are actually necessary and the amount bid and the process used to carry out the project make sense.

• Allow staff to work professionally by insulating them from the political winds. Work for all of Burien, not just the core/shoreline interests. Work with all neighboring jurisdictions. Get ahead of the curve on environmental policies.

• Lack of a representative council!

• The city is too dependent on the 3 tax sources: revenue property, sales and utility. Yet the city is growing headcount while legislative limits are going to restrict the city’s ability to increase tax rates in the future. The city is not efficient in terms of employee productivity. Although public safety is the biggest line item of expense, Burien is not safer and the trend is negative. The Police Department is poorly run and the managers are overpaid.

• The most important issue is business development. The city has many advantages, available commercial/industrial zoned land, proximity to air and water port facilities, and affordable housing close to downtown Seattle that need to be better sold to the business community. Finishing the plan to revitalize downtown will spill over into all other areas of life in Burien.

• Improve the economic base which should improve tax revenue. Make Burien a business friendly city, ie update sign ordinance, permits, parking, a friendly city Hall.

• Continue the plan to make Burien an Urban Center that will attract strong economic factors. Dealing with the anti annexation crowd; working with the school district to improve our schools; bringing businesses to our downtown.

• Keeping Burien memorable to make a person’s experience here worth coming back. I think there should be storefront rules so there’s no clutter outside on the sidewalk and all the store fronts are the same color or theme . They should be clean and welcoming. Old Burien does a great job with this .I also own a small business here and my heart hurts when other businesses go out of business. The business taxes are horrible here making it almost impossible to make any profit. I think new businesses should be given help to advertise so the word gets out there. B-town Blog does a great job but grand openings with free giveaways are a must .Also grand opening coupons/specials would be wise, espec in the first year . Please get a tagging crew avail for immediate cleanup for a more professional and safe feeling Burien. We need a Burien council that gets things done rather than bicker amongst themselves .It was embarrassing to read in B-Town Blog comments. I’ve lived here all my life and look forward to Burien becoming an even better city with low crime, low unemployment, great schools, friendly businesses and many community building activities.

• Cronyism. Putting the people of Burien back on top of the org chart. Open ears and mind.

• Defining with the city council exactly what his/her areas of control in the city will be. There should be clear understanding of what the manager’s role will be, so that both city council and manager understand. There should also be a clear understanding of where collaboration is a must

• Town Square – filling the empty spaces and building a vibrant downtown. I would like to see something similar to the Kent Station or the Landing in Renton. A theatre would definitely bring in the families. No more condos and no more apartments needed.

• Learning curve with new council members, public approachability, attracting new businesses while keeping old ones

• Building the tax base. Promotion of Burien to neighboring communities. Public safety (increased crime),

• Getting an elected mayor. Moving the economic development departments to become efficient by attracting businesses that are complementary to the city of Burien and small business owners

• Stop driving away businesses in the area with rents and taxes that are too high for the existing economy of Burien.

• Economic development. What to do with the failed town center concept and how the city can avoid letting that turn into a low-rent apartment area which will drive people away from downtown

• Maintaining business and merchants downtown. Too many empty storefronts.

• Animal control-currently $170,000 per year for very few services from an unqualified group, crime, building a bustling downtown core

• Communicating more transparently than his/her predecessor with councilmembers and the residents of Burien. It’s time for a new, fresh, open approach.

• A new city council made up of a majority of Lake Burien and shoreline residents who have an agenda to protect themselves with little concern about the rest of Burien residents. They are truly the 1% of Burien – they have a public lake that they want to make sure never gets public access – they do not like ethnic people – and they believe that all apartment dwellers are inferior to them, and they are vicious in their attacks..

• Public scrutiny

• Parks and Recreation opportunities for all citizens. Not just the picture perfect photo op ones (i.e. little kids, seniors)

• We need to annex the rest of unincorporated King County. Need better bike paths. More inclusive view of city problems and solutions.

• Jobs, law enforcement ethics and youth

• The city manager will need to overcome the reputation of the previous city manager. Burien is poised to fulfill its potential, or miss the boat. The new city manager must listen and enact a solid plan of action, and allow staff to shine in their respective fields, changing staff where necessary to enable the machine of city government to move forward in a dynamic way. There is great divisiveness in the community. The new city manager must be able to respectfully communicate with all.

• The disparity between those who participate (vote, come to meetings) and the real needs of Burien. About 25% of the city residents participate and are vocal. The areas in most need are the areas that least participate in local government. A way to incorporate those peoples voices are what is needed.

What are the characteristics the city should be looking for in a new city manager?

• It is important that the new city manager should listen to ALL the citizens of Burien – not just the few who scream the loudest – and do everything they can to divide and discredit people.

• A manager that continually understands he is to serve the citizens of Burien, not his own political interests. He needs to realize that although he may see the police, fire, contractors etc every day ..they are “employees” of the city and the taxpayers and that their agenda may not be the best for those of us who live here.(yes, they will fight for their jobs, benefits etc) but we are the ones that pay for those. Honesty, openness, someone who truly listens and doesn’t “push aside” the citizens wishes. A city manager that understands if he tries to drive wedges among the council members he will be gone.

• While there are many ways to think about a city, I believe one of the more useful models is to think of it as a business; in our case a relatively modest sized business. I think we should be looking for an effective CEO to run our business. On a day to day basis the CEO should help ensure that the business is aligned with and responsive to the needs of its customers; the customers are the residents, businesses, and visitors to our city. This is most easily done with the CEO who has earned the respect and support of his or her staff and ensured that the staff is clear on the city’s priorities. At the same time a good CEO recognizes that it may not be practical, as a business, to meet the wishes and desires of every customer. Handling this fact requires clear communication, a sense of diplomacy, and a genuine interest in the interests of the customers. The CEO must understand the positive and negative elements of the environment in which the business operates. For a city, and much like a public utility, this means ensuring we have a capable staff who understand the regulatory constraints that are imposed by various agencies as well as the resources that those agencies can sometimes provide. If the customers are taken care of the in short term, then the “investors” will be protected in the long term. Fortunately for this particular business, many/most of the customers are also the investors. The business and property owners within the city have a vested interest in accepting comprommises that will tend to increase property values and quality of life over the long term. While it is natural to assume that we will focus on candidates with current experience in the upper management levels of another city, it is not clear to me that this is essential. I do not believe that the best city manager is necessarily someone with the broadest and deepest technical skills. It seems to me that it is more important that the manager manages i.e. get the most value out of the staff. This certainly requires that the manager should be competent to speak to the challenges being faced by the staff and be able to offer accurate advice and support when necessary, but the best managers multiple their impact by hiring and motivating an effective staff. I have had many managers in my career; most of them were mediocre, and of them were poor, and a few were good to great. The best managers I have had spent more time ensuring that the staff was effective and productive rather than spending time making “tough decisions”. The groups led by good managers were, month in and month out, more productive and effective than those that had the least effective managers.

• Anti Mike Martin..recent votes reinforce. Which means: No more spending on annexation. Willing to accept and change decisions based on sound input. Willing to truly hear opposing input. Make decisions based goodness for city not personal gain or resume.

• Honesty and integrity. Willing to listen to residents instead of blowing them off.

• 1. Inspirational vision caster 2. Listener to citizen groups 3. Act and plan for fiscal common sense 4. Promote and budget for crime reduction and not be bullied by the state into accepting released sex offenders to the Burien community. 5. Seek to provide safety and essentials prior to spending on “extras” that should be postponed or deleted from consideration altogether. 6. Not be money and grant driven as our former city council has been. 7. Be pro-business. Increase economic tax base.

• Honest, approachable

• Substantial urban planning, business and economic development expertise and a strong passion for transforming Burien. I am not interested in someone coming here to die or coming here because no place else would hire them. I want someone who understands current issues in small cities and who is eager to draw on the numerous benchmarks around the country to provide a vision that will rally the council and the residents. We have SO much going for us! We could be the next Columbia city, Ballard or Bothell…but not without getting serious about cleaning up neighborhoods and attracting excellent businesses. It’s time to capitalize on our geographic location and the fantastic new school superintendent to become the next hot place to move businesses and buy houses. Enough low-end trashiness!

• Inclusiveness – keeps ALL council members informed via a cc: or summary report on individual conversations. What is communicated to one council member, should be communicated to all. Clean criminal/driving record. High recommendation from all previous employers (e.g. Not just a few council members, never fired from previous employer). Proven track record. Honesty. Integrity. Respectful.

• A person who cares about the original residents of Burien. White Center is a loss.

• Someone who listens to the citizens. We need more vibrant businesses, and quality schools. Please notice that no houses are selling from Seahurst to Normandy Park, while Seattle home prices continue to rise. Hmm? No one wants to put their kids in the public schools, and crime is a problem.

• Honesty, integrity, transparency, fairness, imaginative, good financial manager, collaborative management style, creative, good business ethics.

• Open-minded, has Burien businesses and its citizens first and foremost ! We need a BETTER Burien NOT Bigger…Not afraid to get their hand dirty helping, instead of just giving out orders. A real people person, someone that the public can approach.

• Most important the city manager must be trustworthy and above reproach to regain the confidence of the citizens. He or she should be a strong leader and have the ability to mediate opposing views to a mutually agreeable resolution. This will avoid the constant complaining about the “majority” always getting they way.

• Friendly, good listener (open to ideas from citizens), knowledgeable, willing to support a transparent city government.

• The city manager should have roots in Burien and be able to remember what made Burien such a special place to raise a family. We’ve tried too hard to be something we’re not and something the people don’t want. Burien wasn’t broken until they tried to fix it. Now we’ve lost our identity and are no longer the place where many of us have been raised and grown. Burien needs to get back to it’s roots and the new city manager needs to emulate that.

• Our new city manager should be able to teach our city council members how to be productive instead of being a pretty face figure head.. Teach our council members how to look beyond the nose on their face and into the future. To have vision instead of the babble they put on paper.

• Someone who does NOT work on special favors with his/her own group of self motivated businesses and personalities. A manager should equally consider input from all groups and people with an eye towards sustaining a healthy economically strong community.

• Integrity, professionalism, experience in city management, working for the good of all Burien citizens, ability to “listen”.

• 1) Honorable character 2) clean and sober 3) Spotless police record 4) Honesty

• Strong public finance background, skilled at reading and understanding complex public works project documents. Respectful demeanor toward coworkers and citizens, rather than dismissive and judgmental. No alcoholics.

• Strong open leadership for the good of all citizens. Good communication skills Experience with updating environmental policies like storm water.

• A Chief Operations Officer!

• We need someone who can reduce expenses and get more results from the Police Department. We need someone who can navigate legal issues so we can avoid lawsuits.

• An outgoing personality that can attract new investment, competence managing budgets, and a pragmatic approach in balancing competing city operations.

• Always put Burien agenda ahead of personal agenda. Would like to see a younger candidate without personal baggage.

• Lots of energy and is willing to go out to the community and get involved with the various groups that are working to make Burien a better place.

Positive person with great reasonable ideas and maybe even experience in putting this city back on its feet.

• Progressive. Forward Thinking. Social Justice & Activism.

• Expertise in his/her field of city management, and a personality imbued the patience to collaborate, a mind open to listening, and a genuine liking for the people he/she encounters.

• Integrity, good moral values, kindness, professionalism (our former council lacked). A genuine interest in OUR city!

• Able to compromise while still leading. Active listener Ability to follow up and follow thru with tasks.

• Integrity, experience, ability to lead inexperienced city council.

• Kind, honest, transparent, strong

• Giving incentives to occupy the existing for-lease buildings in the Burien area.

• Business experience. Not government experience. Business experience.

• Business friendly, innovative and good communication skills.

• Empathy, the ability to listen, a people person, team player.

• Honesty, openness, trustworthiness, credibility, integrity, intelligence, flexibility and less Nixon-like qualities the previous manager had (ie: purposely pushing people off committees, conspiring against residents, etc.). Also, someone media savvy with the ability to embrace 21st century media outlets (B-Town Blog, Facebook, social media, etc.).

• Someone who can move past the noise of a very vocal, yet very small group of people, who make life difficult for anyone who does not agree with them and their narrow minded agenda.

• Confidence

• Honesty. Integrity. Ethical.

• Progressive and forward thinking. Leadership in building local partnerships with school district and other cities. Thinks first about how to engage communities in analyzing and solving problems. See diversity as a strength to build the community around rather than a problem that needs solving.

• Unbiased, experienced, non-vested person in local politics.

• The new city manager will need to be a good listener, and strategist. He/she will need to have an open mind, remaining open to new ideas, and working with citizens, citizen advisory boards, and the city council to continue moving Burien in a successful direction. She/he cannot have a preconceived agenda.

• Experienced executive municipal management skills, fiscal conservation, visionary, best face of Burien representation.

• Someone who is able to see through the hyperbole and see what is really needed in the city.

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