Burien City Council approves ordinance controlling ‘disruptive’ public behavior

Print This Post  Email This Post

Click image to see larger version.

by Jack Mayne

The Burien City Council approved by a 6 – 1 vote an ordinance (excerpt above) updating the city statute for dealing with people on publicly-owned property “whose behavior is dangerous, unsafe, illegal or unreasonably disruptive to others.”

The measure voted on Monday night (Aug. 18) will permit police “to issue trespass warnings” rather than arresting persons who are committing criminal violations such as “lewd and lascivious acts/indecent exposure, sale or possession of narcotics or illegal substances, disorderly intoxication or conduct.” Officers could issue the “trespass warning” which would bar that individual from returning to that location for seven days for the first offense, up to 90 days for the second violation and up to a year for a third trespass within a year.

The Council also heard a preliminary outline of the next biennial city budget and heard citizens for and against the Highline School District’s $385 million general obligation bond issue on the November ballot.

Disruptive Behavior
Under the newly passed public behavior ordinance, a person getting such a trespass warning longer than seven days could seek a hearing before the city’s hearing examiner to have the matter dropped or the time banned from the property shortened.

The measure was drafted with support of the King County Library system because the library occupies portions of the first floor of the city hall building. Also participating in the drafting was City Attorney Craig Knutson, Police Chief Scott Kimerer and City Manager Kamuron Gurol.

The lone opponent of the measure was Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz.

“I do not support this motion or this ordinance,” Berkowitz said, adding it was “dangerous and unnecessary,” noting that the United Nations universal declaration of human rights “lists both government and access to government and access to education as human rights, so I think that trespassing people and preventing them from engaging in these human right activities warrants something that is gravely egregious.” She said if a hearing is held, the evidence should be “clear and convincing,” and not simply a “preponderance of evidence, which is “incredibly easy to prove.”

Councilmember Gerald Robison said he agreed with Berkowitz on the standard of proof point being “clear and convincing.” He added he was also concerned about allowing hearsay evidence from “other government employees” into hearings.

“What makes other government employees particularly reliable witnesses that we would ask the hearing officer to rely upon?”

Councilmember Steve Armstrong said the revised ordinance would give the police a needed tool and noted that “lots of people are concerned to come to this facility” – the library and city hall – because there has been some misbehavior in the area.

Berkowitz reiterated that many of the behaviors proscribed in the ordinance can be “incredibly obnoxious and irritating but I would never think they (people) should be removed from the access to the library or accessing their city government” for such things as not wearing shoes or a shirt or playing their music too loud.

Eventually Berkowitz’s motion to remove a part of the proposed ordinance that would restrict behavior that is “unreasonably disruptive to other users” failed on a 5 to 2 vote (Berkowitz and Robison for it).

As the council made it final vote on the ordinance, Robison said the city staff did a good job putting the language together and while he agreed with Berkowitz on several issues, he would vote to approved the measure, making the vote 6 to 1 in favor.

Highline Bond Issue
The Council gave initial approval of a resolution supporting the Highline School District, which is asking voters to approve a $385 million dollar general obligation bond issue to build two now middle schools, rebuild Highline High School, upgrade and modernize two other high schools, repair deteriorating roofs and structures at other district buildings, expand student access to classroom technology at all schools and to make “safety and security improvements.”

The resolution will be on the consent agenda for final approval at the next Council meeting.

Several people told the Council why they should support the issue, while some homeowners expressed opposition to the measure.

Rodha Shiekh, Highline High School student body president, said the upgrades were urgently needed. “The heating system of Highline is awfully unreliable. Three of my six classes had an intermittent heating system and for weeks straight we had no heat working in those three classes.” She said that in some classes with heat, it was too hot, noting the boiler system is “just too old, which jeopardizes student’s health and discourages student from coming to school.” She added that the plumbing system is “hygienically unacceptable” and the ceilings often leak onto the classrooms. She hoped voters would approve the bond issue on the November ballot.

Laura Casanova, Des Moines, opposed the measure, saying she was upset that “we’re being asked to raise our property taxes once again to fund public construction yet again with another public school bond” after approving bonds in 2002 and 2006. “What people have to realize it that those are not paid off yet. Somewhere along the line, Highline School District has lost fiscal responsibility and again are asking the homeowners to come up with this difference. When did it become the responsibility of a homeowner to fund public education.”

Councilmember Debi Wagner asked Highline officials if there were matching funds available to help with the projects covered by the bond issue.

Scott Logan, the chief operations officer for the Highline district, said two sources are available to the district. One would be from the Federal Aviation Agency for sound mitigation due to the closeness of Sea-Tac Airport. The other avenue is the state superintendent of public instruction, which has matching funds available for all of the projects in the bond issue.

“The total was about $70 million,” Logan said.

Wagner said she had heard the cost of replacing Highline would be 50 percent higher than if the structure were repaired and upgraded.

District Superintendent Susan Enfield told Councilmembers that estimated cost of rebuilding Highline High School is $150 million, so perhaps the figures Wagner had heard referred to that number.

The Burien City Council on Monday night approved two proclamations, one to recognize Sept. 14 as Gay Pride Day in South King County and the second to declare Sunday, Sept. 27 as Mayor’s Day of Concern for the Hungry.

Print This Post  Email This Post


33 Responses to “Burien City Council approves ordinance controlling ‘disruptive’ public behavior”
  1. Cyndi Upthegrove says:

    I appreciate that there was testimony last night to the city council that they wish the school district would preserve the facade of the original high school. The school board appears to have overlooked the fact that thousands and thousands of alums live in the district and they love that school and the way it looks. Replacing it with one of these facilities with practically no windows like they have recently been building won’t feel like home. While students absolutely deserve toilets and bathrooms that work, and access to technology, there is something to be said for preserving the essence of the community. You don’t have a community anymore if everything that made it special is removed. That’s a big levy and some sweetening of the project might help it get passed. It would help me decide whether to vote for it – or not.

    • Cary Brown says:

      Isn’t Highline HS a historical marker and the front of the school can’t be changed? That’s what I thought I remembered anyhow, from the last rebuild of it, the front is the same, but the inside was totally gutted, so why weren’t these problems addressed then? Just so they need to do it again ten years later? The other problem with highline is that when I went there for my sons last student led conference, (May or June) it was about 140 degrees in the classroom because the windows don’t open…. They did when I went there, but that was pre-rebuild of course. So if they aren’t allowing windows that open they need air conditioners as well as heating systems. I think high school students are old enough to not jump out the windows, and if they are worried about it have them open from the top down. Anything to get a little fresh air in place.

      • Highline Citizen says:

        Highline High School got some renovations after the 1986 bond. It was not rebuilt or completely redone. There was work done to the outdoor breezeways, and some of the classrooms and the office areas were configured, but major systems such as heating, plumbing, ventilation, and wiring were not replaced. What was done extended the life of the building, but it was not a rebuild.

  2. Linda Gruen says:

    Obviously targets the homeless in a really sneaky way. I understand disruptive behavior is annoying and you’re trying to deal with it but this goes too far. People carrying a gun through the farmers market make me uncomfortable, but of course that’s “protected” whereas bad hygiene because you’re homeless is now a crime in Burien.

  3. Joey Martinez says:

    Extremely dangerous ordinance in my opinion. The “body hygiene or scent” portion alone makes me cringe. One could see an officer banning a sweet old lady who, in the officers opinion, puts on too much perfume because it is “offensive” to the nose.

    Joey Martinez

    • Question Authority says:

      Really? Do you honestly think any law enforcement officer would single out a little old lady who smelled a “little” to pretty? Given the flexability in the application of this ordinance it will specifically deal on a case by case basis with major and repeat offenders who frequently make downtown Burien a craphole. What if someone eats way too many tacos and puts out a noxious stink, I have no problem with them getting trespassed.

      • TbC says:

        Joey has a new friend! +++

        • Question Authority says:

          I have been a huge fan ever since his attempt at a council position, I think it was because he was such a huge supporter of Rat City annexation much like my other favorite current council member Lauren “pipe dream” Berko_itz. I only want what’ s best for Burien and if you can keep a secret – it’s neither of them.

      • Joey Martinez says:

        Therein lies the rub QA. The only way to NOT discriminate would be to apply this ordinance equally to both the smelly homeless person and sweet over perfumed gramma. Both pay taxes (state charges a tax in alcohol).

        Joey Martinez

  4. Jay Burns says:

    who is the state to decide what behavior is “disruptive”? Who are they to gauge what makes a place “inviting”? Who’s really going to vote for these city council members at such a blatant infringement on our individual rights? These qualities are subjective to the individuals in that location at a given time.

    • Concerned says:

      That sounds great in theory until some drunken bum accosts you and you family on their way to the library.. NOTHING in this resolution contradicts individual rights in fact it strengthens them. The vast majority of us don’t appreciate the infringement of our rights by unruly rude intimidating people. This resolution supports MY INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS to be free from harassment on city property.

  5. Chris says:

    Have no problem with this. As someone who is a strong supporter of the constitution and all that it stands for, this is not as slippery of a slope as some think.

    The new city hall/library is a manget for reprobates and other unsavory types. I’m not just talking about people that are just seeingly homeless, but those who are publicly drunk, on drugs or generally failing to thrive (hygienically unclean, e.g. incontinence to urine and/or defication). This is what is being addressed.

    • TbC says:

      ” reprobates and other unsavory types”

      A majority of voters voted them in!

    • Mac says:

      So Chris, what I’m understanding you to say is that those people who are, in your words, “generally failing to thrive” should be basically banned from being around others in public. Have you actually spent any of your time in conversation with any of the homeless population around Burien? There are always some people, in ALL walks of life, who don’t want to conform to what most of us consider normal behavior and/or lifestyle. However, the majority of the homeless population that I have met and spoken to at length WANT to have a home, access to bathing and laundry facilities, etc. They don’t want to live outside, but they have been left with little to no choice. Have you ever tried to live with only SSI and food stamps totaling less than $850/mo.? Did you know that if a person on SSI tries to save money to even get a place and their bank account exceeds $2,000, they will lose that SSI income? Most places won’t rent to you anyway unless you have a monthly income of at least three times the monthly rent.

      There is, of course far more to the story, because it’s a human story and each of us has our own tale that is unique to us. There are good and bad people in every walk of life. Therefore, each person must be judged on their own merits and actions. I’ve seen some people, with little to nothing, give up something they have to another because they see a need and act on it. I’ve also seen some people, who have much, that wouldn’t give up a crust of bread to a starving person. I’ve also seen the poor steal from the poor, and the well-off steal from their peers.

      It basically comes down to this:

      1. Judge not a person by their outward appearance, but by the content of their character, and

      2. Punish only those who have done wrong, not all others who happen to be similar in some way.

      I hope that you and/or your family never have to join me in living outside, but if you do, I’ll try to help now and then with what little I have.

  6. Question Authority says:

    For a second there after reading what Lauren Beserko_tzs statements were I thought maybe we were all living on some hippie commune deep in the forest where hugs pay all the bills and kind words are traded for currency, and the sun shines everyday. The library is not a homeless shelter, it’s a library and one’s rights in any civil society come from being a contributing member, not a consistent drain on the rest of humanity and an unwillingness to follow rules while the rest of us want to enjoy what our taxes brought us.

  7. Question Authority says:

    Last time I checked it said Library “not” homeless shelter and the “flexible living arrangement” population who consider it a home away from no home are about to find out why the tax paying citizens of Burien would actually like to enjoy what they pay for. If you feel that a segment of society will be singled out and have no haven to spend their day you can always open your home up and cook up some hobo stew for those you care so much about. This is Burien people, not some hippie commune where hugs and sunshine pay all the bills. Our own Lauren “Oh the humanity” Beserko_itz has really gone above and beyond this time with her dreams far removed from daily reality the majority of us live.

    • Jay Burns says:

      Your a tax payer if you buy a pop at a store, pay a cell phone bill, ride the bus, or buy a jacket from goodwill. All these martial mindstates making being human a pissing contest.

  8. burien resident says:

    Good, about time Burien started doing something about the state of the town.

    Visitors come here and they think the place is a homeless refuge.

    Burien looks like a dump! seriously, think about it, rarely any sidewalks. Trash everywhere. Scummy, graffiti buildings. signs all over the place.

    People on here whining that we’re not being fair, move to white center. Other cities like Bellevue and the eastside in general is nice for a reason.

    • Chris says:

      I’m with you on the City of Burien cracking down, but you’re way off base calling Burien a “dump.” It’s not. Far from it, in fact.

    • Seahurst Relic says:

      I don’t know if I agree that Burien is a “dump”. But I have lived here for over 50 years, so maybe I’m in denial or just don’t notice the suttle changes over time. I do know this however, when family, or friends who I went to school with in the Burien area but have since moved away, come to visit, the opinion is unanimous that Burien has gone way down hill. It troubles me to hear this, so I have no issues with the City Government taking preventative measures against further decline.

  9. burien resident says:

    And may i further comment, it is no longer safe to use the grass area west of the skatepark. there are crowds of up to 50 homeless people at a time, smoking weed and sleeping.

    if you are comfortable letting your kids play amongst that, thats your matter but dont whine at authorities for trying to keep a level of decency around the place.

  10. Ted says:

    It’s nice to finally see something that might serve to discourage the flood of homeless people flocking here from other states. Unlike the governor and his friends, I don’t believe Washington has some special responsibility to welcome the indigent with open arms and shower them with handouts and services, which apparently is now our well-known reputation.

    • eric says:

      I think the quote you are looking for is, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ “

  11. Loren says:

    Almost 110 million Americans on some kind of welfare. Just in my lifetime we have seen a tidal wave change in how we incentivize people. Wonder how much longer it can last, at the rate we are going and with our enemies growing stronger everyday.

  12. Concerned says:

    Is there any point in asking why the rogue member of our council voted against this very reasonable resolution? Taking into account her off the wall statements in the past this council member proves again she is not ready for prime time. I hope people are taking notice so come election time we can remedy this by sending her packing.

    • Kashama La M Ding Dong says:

      The rogue council member you are referring to is Lauren Berkowitz. I sincerely hope she is not re-elected.

      She ought to be sitting in a tree somewhere! Not on the Burien City Council.

    • Name (required) says:

      We need to demand random drug tests on our city council members.

  13. John says:

    I have a right also to free and unfetter access to the library without being accosted or my family being afraid of unruly drunk rude threatening people. Hopefully this ordinance will protect my rights to be free from this kind of harassment on city property.

    • Linda says:

      Inst public drunkeness slready a crime in Burien? It is in most cities and the police should be able to act on it if you call them…..just sayin’

Share Your Opinion

By participating in our online comment system, you are agreeing to abide by the terms of our comment policy.

...and oh, if you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!