LETTER: Resident wants to put Initiative to add 18 cops on Nov. 2017 ballot

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Council Members,

Burien Public Safety is going to be decided by the Voters in 2017. The City Clerk signed the attached Notice of Initiative Petition (download PDF here) for hiring 18 more Police Officers in Burien.

My attorney is a former Mayor of another City. He believes Burien should be proactive on Public Safety using the Referendum process. The Council could use BMC 1.10.010 to address Public Safety issues prior to my announcing the Initiative on November 14th. This ordinance grants Referendum Rights to the Council and Initiative Rights to the Residents on matters such as these.

Adding 18 Officers in Burien requires either a Referendum or an Initiative to place it on the Ballot. A Referendum requires a super majority (5 members) support of the Council or 4200 registered Voter signatures for an Initiative.

Since the days of Babylon
Ancient Cities arose to provide protection for their Residents in exchange for taxes. 4300 years later, that is still true and is Burien’s primary responsibility.

The lowest Police presence in our region is found in Burien. Consequently, we have a crime problem. There are 20K Police dispatches annually for Burien’s 48K Residents. And, dispatches are climbing 1000 per year while our population expands at 148 per year. This is pushing the City backwards and leaving social chaos in its wake.

Every City has a need for Police to insure Public Safety and commerce. Rising crime stats indicate Burien’s Police force is understaffed.

Below are local examples of Police per 1000 Residents:

City Officers per 1000 Residents:

  • Tukwila 3.94
  • Algona 2.25
  • Seattle 2.07
  • SeaTac 1.58
  • Normandy Park 1.56
  • Puyallup 1.46
  • Federal Way 1.44
  • Auburn 1.43
  • Renton 1.22
  • Kent 1.20
  • Des Moines 1.20
  • Burien 1.03

Criminals are opportunists. They prefer the joy of a low Police presence: less risk of being caught. Are we damned to live with rampant crime? No.

A Referendum is a way of funding 18 more Officers. Recent polls conducted by the City shows high interest in both crime prevention and adding more Police. I believe the Council should listen to the Community and address this issue.

Adding 18 Police changes the Officers per 1000 as follows:

City Officers per 1000 Residents:

  • Tukwila 3.94
  • Algona 2.25
  • Seattle 2.07
  • SeaTac 1.58
  • Normandy Park 1.56
  • Puyallup 1.46
  • Federal Way 1.44
  • Auburn 1.43
  • Burien 1.40
  • Renton 1.22
  • Kent 1.20
  • Des Moines 1.20

At 1.4 Officers per 1000 Residents: Burien is at par with surrounding Cities. 18 Officers equals 4 more Officers on patrol every hour 24/7/365. This would allow for:

  • Resumption of the Gang Unit
  • Expansion of Emphasis Patrols to squeeze out Burglars, Gangs, and Speeders
  • Resumption of bike and foot patrols in the Business District

Criminals will feel the heat and leave; or have their day in Court.

What will 18 Officers cost? A house that has an assessed value of $250K would pay $3 per week: less than the cost of feeding a small dog.

The Silk Road
Throughout history, Cities have dotted trade routes. They provide lodging, food, goods and services for Travelers. Cities located at major intersections on trade routes tend to flourish. Today’s trade routes are freeways or found miles above the ground.

Tukwila is at a major freeway intersection. The Southcenter area is prosperous and Tukwila has benefited enormously from sales tax collection.

SeaTac Airport is located on a major aviation intersection, and is the gateway to Asia and beyond. All but one of the Cities surrounding Sea-Tac Airport have benefited from Travelers.

Land for Hotel development in Sea-Tac is scarce. Hotels catering to Travelers are expanding into Tukwila, Des Moines and even as faraway as Kent. Economic prosperity is passing Burien by. Why? Crime.

Burien could offer far more than the drab expanse found at many Airport Cities with Hotels. Hotel developers want the same thing as Burien Residents: Public Safety. Bringing Police protection to par with our neighboring Cities would encourage Hotel and business development, thus increasing Sales Tax revenue.

Prosperity isn’t something that just happens. It takes leadership and focus to make it happen.

3 Step Solution
Step #1 is pushing Criminals out of Burien with a Referendum. This high profile action will be noticed. People that want safe neighborhoods will move here. Vacant homes will be sold. Land will be developed. The population will grow. Business expansion will occur. Burien’s threadbare budget will have more money as the tax base broadens. This will bring financial stability to the City.

Step #2 is reining in Police overtime. More Officers on patrol spreads the workload and reduces costly overtime: Burien’s Police budget will be less onerous. Overtime savings will allow funding for other projects and services to go forward.

Step #3 is providing bike and foot Patrols to insure a safe business environment for business expansion. We have plenty of storefronts awaiting new tenants. New stores opening will offer us more shopping choices, drawing Locals and Visitors. Sales tax collection will rise, allowing for more expansive projects to be undertaken, further enhancing Burien.

Dreams, Visions, and Anger

Stark choices face the Council:

  • Stay reactive and hope Criminals go away.
  • Become proactive on Public Safety and grow the City.

Proactive choices encourage Public Safety and prosperity; reactive choices embolden Criminals and create anarchy.

Every Council Member ran for a reason: a dream or vision of a better Burien. I want you to reconnect with your dream. I want you to get behind choices furthering that dream. I want you to collaborate with each other to further all of your dreams. And, I want you to grow Burien into those dreams.

Without a change in policing, Burien will arrive at the Cassandra Crossing in 2020. 2020 will see your Capital budget slashed. Disappointment and anger is likely to grow as your Dreams and Visions for a better Burien wither and die without money to fund them.

An alternative to anger and despair is leadership. Leadership is about getting out in front on an issue. The Community is looking to you to solve this problem. The time has come for action.

City Manager Search
Collaborating with the Community to solve a major problem will lay the foundation for the new City Manager to build upon. And just as important, you are recommitting your Self to why you ran for office: a better Burien.

Ideas; not ideology
I am committed to Burien being safe and successful. A Referendum will cost money. I will put $15K more into my PAC to support a Council Referendum or an Initiative for 18 more Officers in Burien.

I am respectfully requesting that the Council pass a Resolution ordering King County Elections to put this Referendum before Voters on November 7, 2017.

– Dick West

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7 Responses to “LETTER: Resident wants to put Initiative to add 18 cops on Nov. 2017 ballot”
  1. Maenad says:

    I don’t disagree that we need more officers, but using Tukwila in your stats is misleading. They have 5 times or more the population during the day than they do at night, and number of residents for Tukwila is calculated by who sleeps there. Dropping Tukwila, which has a huge influx during the day for Southcenter, will help the validity of your argument.

  2. I like it says:

    This is a thoughtful and well-reasoned argument for more police. I would add that crime is not the only reason to have more cops on the beat. I can personally attest to regional law enforcement being stretched way too thin after a relative with mental illness went missing and for several terrifying hours no one was available to help, not only in Burien, but also in Tukwila and Renton. Thankfully nothing bad happened, but it was incredibly frustrating at the time. I can’t fault the KCSO or other city PDs. I understand they’re understaffed and underfunded. The dispatchers were kind and empathetic, but kindness and empathy alone cannot keep the public safe.

  3. Concerned Burien resident says:

    Wow! I had no idea we had so few cops here. No wonder there is so much crime. More police officers walking/driving/biking would be a welcome sight!

  4. Peter says:

    This is a very well reasoned, logical proposition which we can all get behind. I particularly appreciate the historical angle. Regarding hotels: I agree that we need hotels in Burien that can serve Sea-tac travelers. This makes absolute sense and should be a part of any plan for Burien. However, I do not necessarily think crime itself is preventing the constructions of hotels. I could be wrong here – but Sea-Tac and Tukwila have higher crime rates, but obviously more hotels than Burien. (does Burien have any hotels?). Adding hotels that serve the airport would bring much needed traffic to the local businesses here in Burien which rely on traffic – all the restaurants and bars, etc. Ideally there would be a light rail link from the Sea-tac (Tukwila) station to Burien, with hotels nearby. This would be a boon to the local businesses.

    I appreciate Mr. West’s forward thinking vision and positive plan. We need additional police to get a handle on the crime here. We also need a pro-business and growth oriented leadership among the city council to make this happen.

  5. PatHToLogic says:

    For a number of reasons logic might dictate an incremental increase, say about half that number and increase from there as results and needs indicate. Costs for 18 new officers could be somewhat or even considerable more when considering supervision, vehicles/maintenance and other support requirements.
    It also reopens the whole conversation about a City Police force or continued contract services from the County.
    Not quite as cut and dried as just keeping up with population and percentage numbers. Civic input is always valuable and welcome but unlike the ‘Seattle Process’ let’s think this through with a very clear vision and sound numbers.

  6. John says:

    And we will pay for this how????

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