Burien City Council slates Sept. 27 public meeting on city’s economy
by Jack Mayne
For several weeks, the Burien City Council has been meeting almost weekly to hash out a draft of the community’s economic development plan to be presented to and debated at a public meeting on Sept. 27.
The Council managed to agree to a preliminary draft of goals for economic development, but deferred work on actions to produce the goals to a meeting slated for Monday (Aug. 18) and a tentatively slated special meeting for Sept. 8.
The public meeting is billed on the city’s website as “the first-ever Economic Development Dialog will be held to gather residents and business people for a group ‘ideation’ session centered on how we can advance the prosperity and livelihoods of all Burien residents.”
The three-hour meeting Monday (Aug. 11) also received a number of financial and other documents from the contractor running the animal control program, known as CARES.
Defining economic development
The Council spent a couple of hours Monday to again attempt to develop economic goals for the city along with actions to put the goals into effect.
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz told fellow councilors it might be a good idea to work on goals now and wait to work on actions after the slated community meeting in September, but the Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar wondered if waiting so long would make it difficult to use the information in the formation of the next biennial budget which the city’s website says must be adopted in November.
City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the Council should work on a “base budget” so that additions or changes could be added later.
“I think it can work, but we are just going to have to stay in touch with two actions that are proceeding concurrently,” he said.
Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she thinks she didn’t have enough information about the problems the Council is trying to address.
She said the Sept. 27 public meeting means “we will have a profile of the community which I think some of us have been asking for for a while to know what is going on with businesses in the community, what’s going on with employment in our community?
“If we have lost 2,000 jobs, where have those jobs been lost from,” Tosta asked. “It is hard to me to say we should do this or that without having a good picture of what’s going on. Are we losing a lot of businesses? Why are we losing those businesses?
“I feel I’m a bit frustrated at having to set actions without that knowledge and without the community input.”
Tosta said she agreed with Berkowitz that goals could be prepared, but that actions to reach those goals should await the community input expected from the public meeting.
Edgar said that some the actions under consideration would permit the studies and research to find out the answers to Tosta’s questions.
Councilmember Steve Armstrong wasn’t at the meeting, but participated by telephone. He said he would prefer to move ahead and keep the momentum on the issue.
“How much information do you need?”
“Keep going on this process,” said Councilmember Debi Wagner, also attending the meeting by phone. “I think we need to decide on the goals, and maybe prioritize some of our actions so that we can give the staff guidance and move forward.”
Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she would “encourage us to take a leadership position and create a draft so that our citizens can have a foundation to work off of.”
Krakowiak said it appeared a majority wanted to move ahead with goals and actions.
The first up was wording which said, “Attract and retain socially responsible businesses through an active business retention and recruitment.”
Tosta said the words “socially responsible” were difficult to define and “we have to clear on how we measure it – would we turn away somebody because we thought they weren’t socially responsible?”
She said some constituents thought we shouldn’t use that wording in the goal.
Berkowitz countered that Council should have lofty goals and noted the wording says, “attract and retain” and “does not say shut down socially irresponsible businesses.” The community forum can help define what the term means, she noted.
Robison asked if the city was going to chase away anyone who someone finds irresponsible, like a business selling liquor or tobacco.
“I have qualms about putting that in as a goal,” he said.
Councilmember Debi Wagner wanted the term removed from the goal because “it is too subjective.”
Armstrong said the term sounds “high and lofty but it means different things to different people. I have an issue with those words.”
All members but Berkowitz wanted to leave the term “socially responsible” out of the goal proposal, so it was dropped.
Several other goals, discussed at length at previous meetings, and to some extent again at this meeting, were given draft approval.
Economic Development Forum
Dan Trimble, Burien’s economic development manager, introduced facilitator Martha C. Bean who was hired by the city to help the Council with their planned Sept. 27 day-long public economic dialogue.
Bean is a “Seattle mediator, facilitator and graphic facilitator, collaboration specialist, and conflict coach,” her website says. She has over 25 years of “experience mediating complex disputes, conducting visioning and strategic planning processes, guiding leaders as they make collaborative decisions, and enhancing the capabilities of dynamic organizations.”
Bean outlined to the Council many potential ways of organizing the pubic session and how the members could interact with the public and gain the information they are seeking.
City Manager Kamuron Gurol said his staff is already exploring registration processes with Discover Burien and ways to inform the public on the session after getting Council’s direction of what it wants to explore and learn.
Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz did say she want it understood that, “We are trying to recruit and engage all different socio-economic groups, racial groups, and people of different affiliations within the city. We have a really diverse population in this city and I think that is something we all identified as one of our goals … was to engage all different kinds of people and not just more (of the same people).”
She also suggested childcare arrangements.
Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar wanted to know if there would be translation services available at the session.
Councilmember Nancy Tosta suggested looking for ways people working or running a business could provide input “outside that particular day”.
Resident Quinton Thompson commented as CARES came up on the agenda and said King County Animal Control is “not an option because it costs too much money” and because the King County Sheriff’s office can no longer dispatch animal control. CARES is the best option that we have for the City of Burien …”
City Manager Gurol said he is working with other cities at the behest of SeaTac to explore other ways of handling animal control and that another meeting will be held on this subject.
Councilmember Tosta wondered why CARES and Burien couldn’t be affiliated with King County volunteer network of animal agencies.
“Why? Just because we have a different facility or a different service would those volunteers not be willing to help support CARES? Do they only support King County? Can we tap into Puget Sound Working Cats and the Feral Cat Assistance and Trapping Program…?”
Ray Helms, the CARES facility manager, said he has been working with and meeting with several other animal agencies around the county.
Tosta also wanted to know what it would cost for the city to financially support CARES to deal with cats, something now that CARES does to a degree but that Burien does not contract for.
CARES manager Debra George said the organization would have to look into costs of becoming contractually responsible for handling cats and would have to modify some of their facilities.
“We can look at that and come back to you with a proposal,” she said.