New City Manager Kamuron Gurol is bullish on Burien’s future
Kamuron Gurol has been on the job as Burien’s new city manager for only four months, yet this has afforded him more than enough time to become bullish on the city’s future.
“I feel lucky to be in Burien now. We’re turning a corner,” Gurol told The B-Town Blog in a recent interview. “But we still have work to do.
“With energetic leadership from our city council and support from our citizens and businesses we will take Burien to the next level.”
Top challenges to realizing this goal, as identified by the city council, include economic development and community engagement, he continued, with a key component of economic development being “the opportunity to better diversify our businesses and jobs.”
Gurol noted that before he came to Burien – replacing former City Manager Mike Martin, who resigned last year to become city administrator for Lynden – progress already was being accomplished in laying the foundation for local economic advancement.
Improvements to the city’s Northeast Redevelopment Area (NERA) under the north flight path for Sea-Tac International Airport’s third runway have been made, including installation of “an innovative stormwater management system that mimics as best we can the natural hydrology of the area.”
This system, which “utilizes soils with natural infiltration,” will help restore Miller Creek – and make land available for “new businesses and jobs” in the redevelopment area.
Elsewhere in the city, both downtown and in neighborhood commercial areas, the city has an opportunity to help business development through signage and parking revisions, he added.
Attract Customers to Burien
Gurol also hopes the council will fund as part of next year’s budget a branding and marketing initiative “to bring more customers to Burien,” which would “help us make progress” in private sector development.
“We’ve been doing a lot of foundational work” for local economic growth, he said. “Now we can start doing more building. When you build a house you can’t build the upper floors until you’ve built the foundation and the first floor, and we’ve done that.”
As for the city’s next steps forward, he thinks there is council “interest in exploring and taking advantage of our proximity to Sea-Tac. We’re a stone’s throw from the airport but we’re not tapping that.”
SeaTac has 5,000 hotel rooms and, Gurol suggested, the city could capitalize on its unique location through the formation of a restaurant district or association that would encourage guests there to eat at Burien restaurants, which are only a couple miles away, and then visit local shops.
Zoning and permitting changes and marketing campaigns could help attract new businesses and other new customers to Burien – as well as facilitate cooperative efforts with the Port of Seattle to develop air logistics support services in NERA.
Beyond local restaurants, “there is a whole array of businesses that are food related in Burien, including both food processing and wholesale, Gurol said.
And “major car dealers are wonderfully valued members of the community,” responsible for bringing to city coffers annually a significant amount of local sales tax revenue.
But on the flip side, Burien still is without a hotel despite the proximity of airport travelers, and there is almost no private office space in the city.
Burien is “an unproven market” for these developments, “so we need to figure out a way to get the first few developers in here,” Gurol observed.
Public Safety Challenges
Turning his attention to the ever-present issue of public safety, Gurol noted that while half of the city budget is spent annually on law enforcement, jail and court services, “we still have some serious challenges although these are not unique to Burien.”
Most of them are drug-related burglaries, car prowls and other property crimes. “We are fortunate in that Burien does not have a high rate of violent crime,” he said.
Property crimes “are tough to deal with,” Gurol added. “We are working with the King County Library System,” which occupies the first two floors of the library/city hall complex, “to increase the level of security here.”
And Burien Police have initiated a bike patrol to increase the visible presence of uniformed officers downtown.
In addition, “we have asked the police to work with the Public Works and Parks departments to address problems such as graffiti, property damage, and misuse of public property such as camping out overnight in city parks.
“Dealing with public safety is really an economic development issue,” Gurol emphasized, because “it is important for us to have a really safe community – and to be perceived as safe – if new businesses and customers are to come to Burien.”
But the city can’t do this alone and partnerships, including those with churches and the Highline School District and youth recreation programs, are essential to improving public safety.
As are regional partnerships with neighboring cities. “We should be thinking about services we can provide and get from other entities” to improve quality and reduce costs.
Local Ethnic Diversity a Benefit
Burien’s ethnic diversity, which presents challenges for the Highline School District, “provides tremendous benefits” for the community, Gurol also observed.
“Most successful cities are not monochrome but polychrome,” he said. And “within a quarter mile in any direction from city hall are four to six, even 10 choices for different ethnic cuisine” – an example of the strong local ethnic diversity.
And another reason why Gurol is “delighted, humbled and excited” to be Burien’s new city manager. “I love this job,” he said.