ANALYSIS: Burien has a new, positive approach to government
by Jack Mayne
If you have not attended a Burien City Council meeting or watched the televised sessions for a while, you need to take a new look. The whole meeting atmosphere has changed from rigid and bristling non-information to one of respect for each other at the citizens they are elected to govern.
The difference was brought by four new Councilmembers and a new city manager – so much that you just may think you were in the wrong city.
Four members of the previous Council are gone, three defeated by voters and one who decided not to seek reelection. Of the remaining three, who are not up for reelection until next year, three-term member Lucy Krakowiak was elected Mayor and first term member Bob Edgar was named Deputy Mayor. Councilmember Gerald Robison, who often voted with the former majority, is the sole leftover from that previous “regime.”
The new Council unanimously hired new City Manager Kamuron Gurol, formerly the assistant city manager and community development director for the City of Sammamish.
The change in membership and city manager has altered the atmosphere to a less stiff and more cooperative one.
Where once only comments were permitted at the beginning of meeting, now the public can comment at the outset of consideration of each item in the meeting business agenda. That can mean that some who always have something to say have more opportunities to do so, but it also means people can express views on items before the council members at that time.
But the real change is the atmosphere. These councilmembers seem to really respect each other. Gone are the barely hidden views of contempt and dislike.
That does not mean they will never disagree or even argue a point. That is the point of having seven members on a city council. Members will have to give and take, to debate and try to convince their fellow members, unlike the previous council and even unlike the current dysfunctional United States Congress where often even discussing a viewpoint is considered treason.
One potential conflict will likely be the $15 an hour minimum wage that was just approved the other day by the Seattle City Council and which was narrowly okayed by the voters in SeaTac.
At the Burien Council’s May 19 meeting, City Manager Gurol asked the Council to adjust downward the pay range for a summer relief position. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said she didn’t want to adjust any pay downward and made it clear in her campaign and in that meeting she wanted the city to increase the minimum wage. Other councilmembers seemingly did not fully agree with that view.
What is important is no one tried to discredit Berkowitz, nor she of others who disagreed.
The matter will be a contentious one, but if this council holds to its present polite and respectful manner, the decision will be made by a group of people who take seriously the view the were elected by voters to approve legislation, not ram it down throats of others by threat and force.
What a very positive change has been brought about by Burien voters.