B-TOWN BLOG VOTERS’ GUIDE: Q&As with City Council Pos. #5 Candidates

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On July 6, 2017, we emailed out a list of 11 Questions to all candidates running for Burien City Council in the Primary election, which has an Aug. 1 voting deadline.

We will be posting additional responses from candidates who answered our inquiry, grouped by position numbers.

Of the four candidates for Position #5, two responded (Jill Esau and Mary Russell did not), and here are their answers – published exactly as they sent them – and listed in alphabetical order using their photos from the King County Elections website:


1. How long have you had full-time residence in the city of Burien?
Born in 1970, at then Burien General Hospital. I have lived in Burien most of my life, my parents and grandparents on both sides spent the majority of their life in Burien as well (then unincorporated King County). I spent 10 years in Seattle from 1991 to 2001. As well has owning my home, my children did and do attend school in Burien. I have been a Burien businesses owner since 2005.

2. Why are you interested in representing the citizens and what do you expect to gain from serving in a Council position?
Community service and good citizenship have always been goals for my life. I don’t believe that people should run for or serve on the Council for personal gain, fame, as part of a school course requirement or to promote the goals of outside interests (big business, corporations, other outside of the city political entities or big Unions). Being a member on the Council should be done to improve the City and serve the residents of the City. I believe it should be done as a job of Servant Leadership to the community. That is why I currently serve or have served and have or continue to be part of several organizations in and outside of the City such as; serving on the Southside Chamber of Commerce as a Board Member, the Normandy Park Zombie Festival Committee, school volunteer, run food drives for our local food banks & animal shelters, neighborhood Block Watch captain, volunteer with the American Cancer Society.

3. What city ordinances would you want changed or removed from the books and why?
Many citizens don’t understand that City Ordinances are really City laws. Ordinances should only be created to; protect the health, safety, orderly operation of the City, ensure a balanced budget and financial stability for the City, support the Burien Comprehensive Plan, the Shoreline Master Plan, the Burien Critical Areas Ordinance and any other master plans or mandates as required by State and Federal Law. They should never be written and adopted to benefit or harm a very specific individual or a very specific individual business or political interest. City ordinances should not be redundant, promise or give the illusion of giving protections that are not within the domain of the City to offer. I am not aware of all of the ordinances that should be revised or changed in the City. Council members should use the City Attorney, the City Manager and other City staff to assist them on these issues.

Some of the current City Council members have forgotten what their role is as Council members and have tried to take over the roles of the City Attorney and the City Manager. Some of them have refused to follow the Council meeting process, have tried to end run and constantly change agendas and have tried to write their own personal pet ordinances. That is why this current Council appears to be in dysfunctional and not getting the business of the City done. If I am elected to the Council, I will work to only change or remove ordinances that; are redundant, can’t be enforced, don’t follow the purpose for why cities should adopt ordinances or ordinances that don’t comply with County, State or Federal Law.

The current ordinance that implies that Burien is a Sanctuary City is troubling to me and many Burien residents. It is redundant to a law/code that governs the King County Police that we contract with in our city. It suggests to some of our residents that there are protections offered by it that the City can’t really guarantee. It was put on the agenda outside of the typical Council process by some Council members, was driven by political hysteria and a lack of knowledge and understanding. The 20 years old King County Police law/code and policy have addressed the issue. This ordinance was openly written only as a “feel good” ordinance that offered nothing new to what was already being done in the City (this was a determination by the City Attorney). I am opposed to ordinances that are politicized for and by some Council members for personal political gain and are adopted because of mob hysteria of the moment or just because it “feels good”. Some Council members, residents and outside business interests have tried to spin that anyone who opposes this ordinance is a racist. I’m not a racist. I have concerns about this ordinance because it is redundant, was written and adopted for the wrong reasons and gives some of our residents the illusion that they will have protections that the City can’t guarantee.

4. What changes or additions to city government staff would you support and how would you pay for these changes?
Under the Burien form of government (City Manager/Council), the Council has authority over hiring and/or terminating only one staff member, the City Manager. The City Manager hires, manages, creates new positions, evaluates and terminates all of the Burien staff. It is the responsibility of the City Manager to come up with a way to finance new staff out of the existing budget.

Some members of this current Council have forgotten what their role with staff and the City Manager is. They have attempted to supplant the authority of the City Manager by trying to create their own new pet staff positions and have tried to tell the City Manager who should be added or gotten rid of. This is again another reason for way this current Council has been dysfunctional and unable to get the business of the City done in a timely member. If I am elected to the Council, I pledge to work with the City Manager and not attempt to micro-manage the City staff or filibuster the Council meetings with non-stop questions, talking or threatening to organize protests if I can’t get my way about staffing.

Currently, citizens have raised some concerns about enforcement of City ordinances in a timely manner. Perhaps this is an area for further job analysis and rearrangement of staff time in the city. However, this is something that the City Manager will determine whether it needs to be done.

5. Would your regular private employer control or require how you vote on city matters in a specific way, regardless of your personal observations and understanding of the facts?

6. Do you believe homelessness is a problem that Burien can alleviate or reduce, and how should the city handle the problems of homelessness?
Homelessness is a problem everywhere in the U.S.A. and it has been an historical problem for the human race for thousands of years. Under Washington State Law, cities have no obligation to provide Human Services. In American history, the majority of Human Services have been provided by private non-profits and faith based groups that work in collaboration with local, County, State and the Federal government. The Federal and State governments have long supported this kind of model.

Currently, Burien acts as a compassionate City and gives in excess of $350,000 toward Human Services including the homeless. This is more than many of our neighboring cities provide. And Burien has used the model of community collaboration for the delivery of these services. If elected, I would support this model of collaboration with providers inside and outside of the City. Right now as a business owner and citizen, I work with some of these providers, however, I am not willing to support and adopt the failed policies of Seattle and the County on this issue in Burien.

Like the Eastside King County communities, Burien needs to work to develop a collaborative network of cities, developers, financial institutions, businesses and non-profit groups to enhance existing Human Service providers in the City and the South King County region for the delivery of service to the homeless.

Some of the current Council members have opposed this kind of collaborative model and this has contributed to the problem. These Council members have been mean spirited, engaged in name calling and even refused to go out and visit the Human Service providers in the City. To make progress on this issue, collaboration is the key. Some candidates running is this election have given glib one phrase answers to how to solve the homeless problem like Housing First or Affordable Housing or rent control. Homelessness is far too complex of a problem to be answered with just a one glib answer or solution and it is the challenge of all our communities, surrounding cities and should be addressed at a STATE level and not just the City of Burien’s to solve alone.

7. Is Burien’s police force doing a good job handling criminal activity and would you vote tax increases to add police, or what would you cut to hire more police?
I am a strong supporter of the Burien Police. In fact, I received the King County Police Officers Guild Endorsement!

As a citizen, I supported adding two more police to the city for the 2017-2018 budget cycles. These new officers have just gotten to working in the City this summer. Before immediately jumping in and adding more new police, I would like to see what kind of impact these new officers have in the City.

They do a fantastic job in a city that has some tough problems with crime. Some current sitting Council members and at least three current candidates running for Council in this election are anti-police. I believe this creates a problem as the Council and the City Manager have to be supportive of their staff. It just doesn’t work to bad mouth your police employees, if your goal is a safe city. It is inappropriate to call hard working officers with a good record, “rats” or “racists” or to judge them based on the color of their skin. In the next budget cycle, the City wouldn’t need to cut anything to add more police if it could get its economic development moving again. If elected, I pledge to work to get that economic development moving again. Also, I support using grant opportunities that are available to help defer the cost of adding new police.

In the last two election cycles, at least three of the current Council members pledged to really get Block Watch going in the city. Those three Council members have done nothing on this issue. And crime has increased during their terms on the Council. I am a member of a Block Watch and support this effective crime deterrent/crime reporting model for communities to use. I am also Crime Stoppers Certified.

8. Do you favor or oppose the city’s sanctuary ordinance?
Oppose – I have addressed this topic in my answer to question #3 above. However, I would like to add these three points:
*Sanctuary City policies defy the Federal laws to which state and local governments are legally bound. Choosing which Federal Laws a city will enforce or ignore is a very slippery slope and can cost Burien needed revenues for our police department, to say nothing of added risk to our citizenry. 
*Burien becoming a “Sanctuary City” changes nothing in the way our Burien Police Department is directed to do its job. It may in fact create an influx of illegal immigration and may also create a false sense of security of these illegal immigrants who may feel they are “safe” in Burien. The reality is ICE works mostly autonomous and relies on local Police to assist only when they need back-up. This policy is nothing more than political grandstanding and is NOT in Burien’s best interests. 

*8 U.S. Code § 1373 states that “a Federal, State, or local government entity or official may not prohibit, or in any way restrict, any government entity or official from sending to, or receiving from, the Immigration and Naturalization Service information regarding the citizenship or immigration status, lawful or unlawful, of any individual.” [5] The Department of Justice requires that most recipients of federal grant money certify their compliance with all federal laws. [4] [6] Sanctuary cities, by not asking about, recording, and submitting to the federal government the immigration statuses of residents, are violating federal law and the rules for getting federal grant money.

9. Do you support the city of Burien using tax dollars to pay for legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration because it has ordered some smaller planes to turn over Burien, creating added noise and pollution?
As a citizen, yes I supported the action the City has taken on this issue so far. However, I would have to know and have access to the information that has gone on (during executive sessions), before I could decide on what the city should further do or support.

10. Do you support CARES for animal control, or would you prefer to have the Regional Animal Services of King County operate this service?
I support Burien CARES and value this community based service.

As a private citizen, I support all local businesses in Burien. As a Council member, I have a different role and obligation to the City and citizens. As a Council member, I have an obligation to support contractors based on the competitive bid process, quality of service, financial reports and history of their ethics and delivery of services. And I will follow that process when selecting contractors for the City.

*However, I find this to be a very strange question to ask a candidate because the discussion of what contractors a candidate is committed to use in the city before being elected to office or before reviewing all of the data on the contractor and a contract bid seems to be in violation of the fair bid process the City and Council are supposed to use.

11. Do you understand that Washington state law provides that a Councilmember can’t give any direct “orders to any subordinate of the city manager, either publicly or privately,” but expect the manager to follow Council mandated policy?


1. How long have you had full-time residence in the city of Burien?
21 years.

2. Why are you interested in representing the citizens and what do you expect to gain from serving in a Council position?
I ran for City Council 4 years ago after having served on the Burien Planning Commission for 4 years. My career has been dedicated to public service (working for state, federal, and regional government for 24 years) and running a small consulting business to government agencies and foundations for 18 years. I believed back then I had a solid background to address the challenges and opportunities facing Burien. I’m not a professional politician, but many community members asked me to run again. They see me as a trusted, independent voice, interested in and committed to the future of the city. We are at a crossroads and need experienced leaders with knowledge of how to manage the growth we are experiencing – what kind of economy we build, where we build, how we ensure safety, quality of life, and culture. I can do this. What I’ve gained is a deep appreciation of how many people love this place and all that they do to make it work. It takes a community to make a community. I am grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given and look forward to serving another four years.

3. What city ordinances would you want changed or removed from the books and why?
We have nearly 700 ordinances on the books, many, if not most of them adopted by reference to county or state codes. As a Council, we generally consider changes when issues are raised by residents (examples include addressing junk vehicles, noise, raising animals, promoting health and safety, protecting the environment, traffic and zoning, etc.). We don’t have the staff resources to pro-actively go through all them and figure out what needs changing. But staff bring needed changes to Council for public debate and potential adoption as issues or needs are identified. I have been interested in changing our downtown parking code to be more favorable to small businesses. The ongoing economic development we’d like to encourage may require zoning changes. I’ve advocated for a 20-year vision that will give us a direction and lay the foundation for code or Comprehensive Plan changes we may need to implement to achieve that vision.

4. What changes or additions to city government staff would you support and how would you pay for these changes? We are a very lean staff for a city our size.
Our staff/per capita is lower than many other cities. In the past year, we’ve added two new police officers (under contract with King County), additional staff to address public records requests and information technology support. We are discussing potential staff additions for code enforcement, which can be very helpful in addressing public safety (clean up neighborhoods). I’ve suggested, and our police have indicated the need as well, that having more social services expertise either on staff or under contract could be helpful in addressing issues, partnering with other cities, finding services, interacting with our population in need, and applying for external funding. Current staffing is less than a quarter-time person. Paying for additional staff is a challenge. We can take from existing social services funding, continue to focus on economic development (to enhance city revenue overall), and seek external grants.

5. Would your regular private employer control or require how you vote on city matters in a specific way, regardless of your personal observations and understanding of the facts?
No, I am retired, but even if I did work, my “bosses” are the residents of Burien.

6. Do you believe homelessness is a problem that Burien can alleviate or reduce, and how should the city handle the problems of homelessness?
Homelessness is a growing problem nearly everywhere. If it was easy to solve, cities with a lot more resources would have figured it out by now. Our rapid population growth and increased housing prices, decreased federal/ state funding for mental health, inadequate educational training, regressive tax structures, and a growing opioid epidemic are contributing factors. These are all big problems over which Burien has little to no control. We recently found out that we may be experiencing more than other communities because emergency services personnel in other cities bring mental health patients to Burien. My strong interest in all the time we’ve been discussing this issue is that we get a better handle on why we are experiencing these issues (are these folks on the street because of drugs, mental health, or short-term economic issues?) and then identify possible solutions. If we don’t know what’s contributing to the problem, it is very challenging to figure out a sustainable, long-term solution. I am interested in prevention approaches, not bandaids. That said, our budget is extremely limited and we have to seek partners and funding wherever we can find it – other cities, county, foundations.

7. Is Burien’s police force doing a good job handling criminal activity and would you vote tax increases to add police, or what would you cut to hire more police?
The community is concerned about increasing crime. The police are stretched thin. We just added two new officers and last night at our Block Watch Captain’s meeting I heard the Detective Sargent in charge of the new Proactive Unit describe the approach they are taking. He noted that crime is down significantly over the last few months, which is unusual in summertime. We know that our police services’ contract with King County Sheriff’s Office is the single largest expense in our general fund budget, comprising more than half and that it annually increases (faster than our revenues). This is not sustainable for the city. Given costs and on-going complaints I hear in the community about police responsiveness, I believe we need to better understand what we are getting in our contract, whether it is serving our needs, whether there are other approaches our police could use to respond to community concerns. I also think it is time to re-examine whether having our own force or perhaps a shared force with other cities (Normandy Park and Des Moines have their own forces) might provide more public safety benefits. We know from past studies it is not likely to cost less, but we may be able to create other benefits in terms of responsiveness and the public’s sense of public safety. I am not interested in imposing additional taxes for police on the residents of Burien, at this time. I would explore the options just outlined first.

8. Do you favor or oppose the city’s sanctuary ordinance?
We do not have a “sanctuary ordinance.” We passed an ordinance in January, that I voted for, that prohibits unwarranted immigration inquiries by Burien police and city staff (see BMC 2.26). The language for the ordinance came from existing King County Sheriff’s Office policies that have been in place since 1992. I favor the ordinance because it allows our police to focus on crime (and arrest anyone committing a crime), without having to enforce specific federal laws for which they are not equipped or trained and for which we have no funding (this would be an unfunded mandate). And it works to foster cooperation and trust between city personnel, law enforcement, and the immigrant community for crime prevention and public safety. Residents of Burien asked the Council to consider this ordinance and a majority of the Council voted for it. It does not prevent the police from doing their jobs. If someone is committing a crime, they will be arrested, taken to SCORE, and their fingerprints sent to the FBI and ICE. If they are not legally in this country, ICE can request that local law enforcement hold them for 48 hours. Much misinformation has been spread about this ordinance. For the past several weeks, signature gatherers funded by outside interests have aggressively asked Burien voters to sign a petition to repeal Ordinance 651. Their petition was submitted to the city last week. How this will be resolved remains to be seen.

9. Do you support the city of Burien using tax dollars to pay for legal action against the Federal Aviation Administration because it has ordered some smaller planes to turn over Burien, creating added noise and pollution?
Yes. I made the motion to authorize the City Manager to expend ~$65,000 to petition the FAA to follow their own procedures to engage the community, conduct an environmental impact assessment, and make changes in these flight paths. This was based on background information gathered by the Quiet Skies Coalition, indicating that the FAA was violating its own policies. If we don’t stand up for our rights as a City, we lose our rights. Many residents came to Council and spoke in favor of this action. We do not have the resources to expend millions as was done in the 3rd runway fight, but we are working to find new ways to be strategic to hold the FAA and Port accountable.

10. Do you support CARES for animal control, or would you prefer to have the Regional Animal Services of King County operate this service?
I am a strong supporter of CARES. We heard overwhelming testimony from members of the community that this is a service they strongly support for many reasons – responsiveness, cost-effectiveness, opportunities to volunteer, and local control. I made the motion to extend our contract with CARES and have voted in support of it every time it has come before the Council. It saves the city money as well.

11. Do you understand that Washington state law provides that a Councilmember can’t give any direct “orders to any subordinate of the city manager, either publicly or privately,” but expect the manager to follow Council mandated policy?
Yes. This is required under RCW 35A.13.120. The Council hires the City Manager and sets policy. The City Manager hires, fires, manages staff and carries out the policies set by Council. Our Council has a policy that if 3 Councilmembers request information, the City Manager will direct staff to develop it for us.

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16 Responses to “B-TOWN BLOG VOTERS’ GUIDE: Q&As with City Council Pos. #5 Candidates”
  1. Question Authority says:

    Tosta has done enough damage to this City already, thanks for serving.

    Rate: Thumb up 33 Thumb down 24

  2. Douglas Sykes says:

    Question Authority: Council member Tosta has provided you, and every resident of Burien, multiple open forums / coffee meet and greets where you could present your ideas and directly ask her questions. Her personal accessibility has, in my opinion, been far more open than any other Burien council member. If you disagree so firmly with her direction, I hope you had the ability and made the effort to meet with her and your fellow concerned Burien citizens to lay out alternative plans. I, for one, find Nancy’s ability to listen to diverse views and to try to move our community forward a strength that we should encourage in all city leaders. Small Town politics are often tense as we are immediately impacted by local decisions.

    Rate: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 31

  3. Susan Woltz says:

    Ms. Tosta answered the questions with honesty and intelligence and has done an extraordinary job of serving the city of Burien.
    We are extremely lucky to have her and I am so profoundly appreciative that she is willing to run again. We not only need her expertise but also her grace and elegant demeanor in representing Burien.

    Rate: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 25

  4. Lisa Parks says:

    I attended her last coffee chat on October 10, 2015. A citizen asked her which candidates she would be supporting in the upcoming election. She stated that she wouldn’t be endorsing anyone because she needed to be able to work with whomever was elected. I was impressed with that answer! Fast forward to October 15 and a Meet Burien’s Future candidate fundraiser and Ms. Tosta endorsed the three candidates represented there. I was very disheartened from that moment on.

    Rate: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 6

  5. Tom Taaffe says:

    Darla and Nancy: I believe that one of you supported and may have actively campaigned for our peerless leader Mr. Trump. This is not an irrelevant issue. It is a truism that all politics is local and the mindset of a Trump supporter speaks volumes.
    Speak up oh Trump supporter.
    And Question Authotity, good to hear from you. I figured that you were working overtime questioning the most authoritarian figure on the American political scene ever. You must be overwhelmed with questions. Tom

    Rate: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 22

    • Question Authority says:

      News flash – I didn’t vote for Trump and my political views and stances are about supporting public safety, prosperity and my desire for Burien to stop in downward decline to due Council inaction.

      Rate: Thumb up 21 Thumb down 7

      • Tom Taaffe says:

        Good for you Question. I didn’t vote for Trump either. We both have clear consciences.

        Rate: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 13

        • Captain obvious says:

          Well I didn’t vote for Trump ether. But I am left handed and remember a time when some religious groups thought that meant that I am evil.

          So who knows if leaning to the left is bad or not.

          As for the president the media and lobbyists seems to like controlling what people really think of him.

          From what I can tell you are never going to agree 100% of the time with any political person or party.

          Rate: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 13

  6. megan says:

    question for the candidates….at 15675 ambaum blvd sw( high line administrative bldg) there is a homeless person sleeping or camping out in the bushes. In 4/5 days , twice, there have been cops, fired trucks, and an ambulances showed up, and twice the ambulance took the person to wherever. However about 3/4 hours later that same person is in that same bushes…what could and will the city council do for the citizens who live nearby with families with small children. He sleep/camp out like its his home and liter in the bushes (also a few time cross the fence into our property) we have private property signs but they still cross over to walk to wherever they need to go or do. We find empty bottles, empty cans, and other garbage in our front yard all the time (not saying the homeless is guilty). Im worry for his safety and my family safety. Is something going to be done or do i have to wait for something to happen to myself or one of my family member. suggestion?

    Rate: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

    • Question Authority says:

      First thing, don’t cast your vote for any Leftist, Liberal, Socialist leaning candidate as they support homeless encampments. Second, immediately call the Police when anyone trespasses on your private property. That starts the legal warning process which if violated ends up with arrest. If they threaten you while on your property defend your family and your rights.

      Rate: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 11

      • Tom Taaffe says:

        Wow! And all along I thought you were a snowflake lefty liberal.
        What a poor judge of character I am.
        I’m sure that the leftist, liberal , socialist leaners will sorely miss your vote.

        Rate: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 14

        • michaelJ says:

          I’m sure they will not miss those votes. Especially if your main criteria is your incorrect assumptions about them.

          Rate: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

    • Captain obvious says:

      It’s a high line building like I have told you in the past call highline school district security. It’s up to them and the police to remove the person.

      Cut and pasted below is the contact information from highline security website
      Report an Emergency
      If there is an emergency at one of our sites, please call 911, then call our main office at 206-631-7600 to report the emergency.
      To report a concern, suspicious activity, or possible hazard on district property, please call the main office at 206-631-7600, which is answered 24 hours a day, 365 days per year

      Rate: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 4

  7. Nancy Charpentier says:

    Thank you for the clear explanation on Ordinance 651, Nancy, although I fear people who need to understand it won’t pay attention. I supported the ordinance as a protection for members of our community, not due to an hysterical meltdown as Darla suggests. This weekend a fellow showed up at our door asking us to sign to enable the police to question gang members about criminal activity. Which of course they can do and has nothing to do with the ordinance which they clearly don’t understand. I don’t know if he was paid to read a script, ignorant of the facts, or just not very bright. But preying on fears with lies is disgusting, and sacrificing members of our community to those fears is what is criminal in this scenario.

    Rate: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7

  8. Janos says:

    my comment is still awaiting moderation but the comments posted AFTER mine are already moderated . So my comment will damage Tosta . Good , i know how i will vote

    Rate: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

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