LETTER: Voting responsibly

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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:]

If we want responsible representative government, we need to be responsible informed voters. With 65+ years of voting experience behind me, I would like to share some ideas on what has helped me in the past, to learn more about the candidates and things to consider in deciding who to vote for. Please remember this is an opinion letter by one very seasoned voter.

  1. The Voters Pamphlet is an invaluable tool. But remember it provides very limited information since the candidates are allowed to write only 150 words about who they are and what they stand for in their platforms. Read and use it.
  2. Look at the person’s length of residency in the City to get an idea of how much they really know about the City; its operation, condition of the City.Have they served on City boards, committees, commissions?  From these kinds of city government experiences do they understand the type of government their city has?  Have they volunteered or worked on City events (Clean Sweep, Strawberry Festival, Arts Aglow, The Boo, Winter Festival, Block Watch, neighborhood community clubs, etc.), or with any of the 34+ City supported non-profits like Discover Burien, Transform Burien, etc.  Are they a property owner, city business owner or a renter?  Property and business owners tend to have a greater vested interest in the responsible operation of the City because they have invested their monetary future in the City.  While renters and especially apartment renters pay taxes in the City, their tax contributions do not cover the amount of services they require from the City.  Renters, like I was before I became married and responsible for more than just myself, typically move around more.  There is a lot of freedom in not having a mortgage to pay off.  For the first time in the City’s history, there are five renters running for Council in this election.  Although a renter may be highly qualified to hold a council position, I would like to see more of a commitment to City residency.
  3. Education and Work Experience is a critical item to consider.  A Council position requires about 20 hours or more of work per week and a willingness to serve on groups outside of the City.  There is an extensive amount of materials that require reading and comprehension skills.  Council members frequently have to read, research and analyze up to 600-1000 pages of Council packet materials in 3 days to be prepared for a meeting.  They have to be able to understand the issue’s historical context, budgets and the requirement to balance them.  What special skill does this candidate bring to the Council; formal business budgeting experience, successful public and private grant writing experience, successful (more than 5 years) business running experience, a solid continuous work and physical attendance record on the job, land use and/or land development experience, public or private agency management or policy development experience (5 years or more), experience in law enforcement or military sector, extended experience in real estate and contracts, storm water and critical areas management, experience and ability to meet timelines for a job and a successful record of working and collaborating with others to get long term projects done.  A minimum of a high school diploma or greater is needed to successfully do this job along with a strong understanding of the form of government Burien has and a strong understanding of basic U.S.A. Civics, local government and Washington State law.  A willingness to swear an oath and follow it. The City Manager runs the City.  Council meetings are for getting the required work of City done and there are specific rules, guidelines and timelines that Council is required to followThe role of a Council member is to be a policy maker and not a protester.  Does the  candidate under consideration have the skills and educational experience and training to handle the task.  Consider the candidate’s skills before voting for him/her.
  4. Look for the candidates’ platform for why they are running for Council.  Is this person promising things that can’t be accomplished by a small, poor City like Burien or that Burien taxpayers are not willing to or can’t afford to pay for like sidewalks for everyone?  A single city block of new sidewalks costs over $1 million dollars per block.  Are they saying that they are just going to spend council meeting time listening to constant streams of citizens and protestors?  This is not the purpose for Council meetings.  Are they claiming that they are going to give over the entire City budget to Human Services (homelessness) which is not even a required service for the City to provide?  Are they claiming that they going to violate their oath by not following State or Federal Law?  Are they unwilling to work with the City Manager and other Council members and just demand to do their own thing?  Are they going to push the agenda of some outside the City agency, corporation, political group or Union?  Council positions are supposed to be non-partisan.  So does this candidate keep talking about political parties and their affiliations-Socialist, Communist, Libertarian, Labor, Democratic, Republican and why?  Are they making racist comments about citizens, the police and existing Council members?  Are they promising more affordable housing in a city that already has more than enough affordable housing?  Are they telling you they are going to mandate or take over parts of the local school system’s job which is not legal for the Council to do?  Have they told you why they are running for Council; what things they hope to support that improves the economic development and tax revenues of the City of Burien and improves or at least maintains services and the infrastructure for citizens?  Does it seem that they even understand the broad role of a Council member rather than just narrow topic personal pet issues?  Do they understand the financial short-fall the City will face in two years and possible ways to handle it?  Do they understand the issues with Port and the FAA and how to balance that with NERA development?  Do they understand what environmental protections are required in the City to manage critical areas and the shorelines?  Do they know what master plans the city and Council have to follow?  Remember these candidates are asking for your valuable vote. Check their knowledge on City issues and their platform before voting for them.
  5. Use the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) website to learn who is giving money to these candidates.  Type in PDC and when the page comes up: hit Browse, Search data base, Candidates, Local and go to pages 13 and 14 for the Burien Candidates.  Look at how much Contributions have been taken in and their Expenditures.  Is the candidate getting a lot of money from outside of the City and what are these contributors hoping to get back from this candidate for their contributions?  Particularly watch the IND SP column and the Independent Expenditures for a candidate in the last 2-3 weeks of the election race.  This is where typically outside PAC (Political Action Committees) start dumping outside money into a City’s election race to control who they want in office.  This is where you can see who is really trying to buy and put candidates on your Council for their outside purposes.  In the last Burien election, there was one outside the City PAC that dumped in $14,600 in the last two weeks of the campaign to try to get 3 candidates elected.  In Sea-Tac in 2011, two outside the city Union PACs put in $64,000 in the last three weeks to get control of two Council positions.  Those two Council members ended up causing the city of Sea-Tac significant financial problems.  Look at who and which PACs, Unions and big corporations are trying to buy seats on the Burien City Council and ask why?  Candidates that show $0 Contributions have elected to file a Mini Report and promise to spend $5000 or less on their campaigns until November.  These are candidates who typically are depending on Burien residents and business for their financial support and are not supported by PACs or big money.  Do candidates have campaign violations against them for not following State fair campaigning rules?  This information is also available on the PDC website and the candidates to watch are those who have elected Full Reporting. The PDC website is one of the least used sites by voters to find out about who the candidates really are and who is financing them.  To be a smart voter, learn to use it.
  6. Use your computer to do internet searches on the candidates’ names.  For example, see the Teamster 117 endorsement video link.  It is long but gives a good picture of three of the candidates. Teamsters 117 Burien Candidate 2017 Forum – Mat… Visit their campaign sites.  Read your local media sites for information.  Don’t just depend on local gossip or snarky comments on blogs; go to forums and meet them.  Check the voting record of incumbent Council member candidates.  Have these candidates even bothered to regularly attend Council meetings, write or present on issues to the Council?  Ask questions to check their knowledge of City government.When I know little about the candidates, I save voting until the end of the election campaign because I want to learn as much as I can about the candidates who are going to get my valuable vote.

    – Robert Howell

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21 Responses to “LETTER: Voting responsibly”
  1. Maureen says:

    Thank you, Robert, for a very thoughtful and thorough letter about gauging our City Council Candidates.

  2. michaelJ says:

    It is not wise to base a decsion upon being a renter. The 2016 American Community survey shows that 46.8 percent of Burien residents are renters. This includes both apartments and single family homes.

    Yes many renters are transient, Younger, (and do not vote), but many are also long term (and do vote). I was a renter in 3 different places in the same neighboorhood for 26 years before I bought my house in Burien. In the last five years, many former homeowners have become renters due for various reasons, not the least of which is the lingering aftermath of the last bubble. And more are now because of the combination of low inventory and unaffordable prices.

    The only thing that matters is being a legal resident of Burien with a committment to stay a resident for a candidate. The length of residence is certainly a factor, not whether or not they own their residence. Using their homeownership status against them is not a sound basis for judgement of a candidate.

    • Jack says:

      Such good advice! I wondered about educational levels of the candidates and their knowledge about business and city management. Time to capitalize on Burien’s central location to it’s best advantage and make it a welcoming place for small business!

    • Robert Howell says:

      Thank you Michael for your comment.
      I can see that my comment didn’t come across as plain as I had hoped. My comment about being a renter was based on my own experience. When I was a renter, I had no commitment to the building or city in which I lived, my commitment was to my employment at that time. Once I invested in a home, I found myself committed not only to a house, but a community and city as well. This said, what I really want to see is a candidate who is committed to the city and its future and one way of measuring that commitment is the size of his/her investment in the city.

      This works for me and I am sure you have a method that works for you.
      Thanks again,

      • michaelJ says:

        I did not mean to imply that the other criteria mentioned were more or less important. However, an “investment” can also be non-financial as well. And actually more valuable in cases of serving on boards, volunteering, and level of participation in community activities. Limiting ones assessment of “investment” to monetary ones is short-sighted.

        And many homeowners also don’t particpate in civic activites until they have a beef about something. And unless they are retired, and/or independantly wealthy, they may not have the time to put in to planning issues and are more reactive than proactive.

        In the end, each renter and homeowner resident still have one vote.

      • Elizabeth says:

        I wonder Robbie, how many renters are like I was once upon a time. Grew up here and rented here for qutie some time post college until I could afford to buy my first house.

  3. Question Authority says:

    Thank you as well for providing such important information about the process. It’s very important to realize both Unions and Political parties want their own piece of the pie to advance their pet causes and the following candidates are beholden to them in this race.


    None of those outside for profit “causes” organizations have any business in the election.

    • John Burson says:

      I told Olguin to get off my property when he came to my door.

      He acted as if he had a right to be there.

      • Question Authority says:

        Did he have a Red book in his hand from back in the day? The greatest sales pitch of all time. “Everyone will have two copies, or else”

        • Captain obvious says:

          Interesting since all the ones you mentioned are back by MLK JR. COUNTY LABOR COUNCIL

          They are in support of king country sheriff John Urquhart

          QofA you always complain about council members not liking police but here is another set back by a union that supports the police or law enforcement.

          Your trying to get people not to vote for them interesting very very interesting game your playing QofA.

          • Question Authority says:

            Your picking and choosing snippits of positions held by various labor organizations, just because they support the Police it doesn’t mean the candidate who has their endorsement fully does. I’m absolutely pro law enforcement but some candidates drag too much social justice warrior baggage into the election.

            • Captain obvious says:

              I have not seen that much social justice warrior type stuff so far other than from one candidate’s letter to the editor mention something about helping some social justice group.

              Do you have any links or where I kind the information you found. I noticed that all the ones you mentioned except for tosta have the same Teamster local 117 behind him to.

              That’s odd two union supporting law enforcement would back people not wanting or liking law enforcement. Maybe you should give them a call and let them know that these are so against law enforcement. They might want to get donations back.

    • Burien voter says:

      “Question Authority” says:

      “None of those outside for profit “causes” organizations have any business in the election.”

      I see you are a stranger to the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Maybe you should read it.

      • Question Authority says:

        First off this is a non partisan election so political party backing and that support for their causes should not be happening. Second the union support “BTW I’m union” is also backing those four for labor organising reasons which is also inappropriate. This only indicates who is supported by outside entities who want a mouthpiece on the Council and it has nothing to do with the Constitution, which I have read.

  4. Seahurst resident says:

    Thanks Robert. Very thoughtful analysis. Some would hope that the voters have learned from the Berkowitz ordeal and take a deeper look at the candidate before voting them in. Burien can’t afford another Berkowitz like council member.

    • Question Authority says:

      Bezerkoitz was totally backed and funded by both political and union organizations and that alone explains her voting record. The hatred of police was on top of that.

      • Captain obvious says:

        Oh wow your right QofA a local union did give her $1,800 (biggest donation she got) That local union was TEAMSTERS LOCAL 117
        Here is a link below

        I guess she must have a real hatred for police or law enforcement right QofA.

        Then their another one that’s part of the highline school districts employees oh no that one sounds real bad right QofA.

  5. Ernestine says:

    This city is growing and changing and we need leadership that reflects that. This obsession with homeownership and length of residency holds us back. I’m all for getting some fresh perspectives on the council.

  6. Captain obvious says:

    Good letter lots of good information.

    I have done some research on a few of the candidates and found that yes a lot of them have moved to burien in the past 2 to 3 years. A few of them are from the 425 area code there is even one all the way from Kentucky. Most are still using there old phone numbers as contact numbers. Seems as if your planing on staying here you would work on getting a 206 area code for your contact information. A simple call to a phone company to get a new number or change your old number should not be to difficult. If you can’t figure it out how are you go figure out city issues and how to vote on them.

    Also if a candidate does run a business small or big look at how that business is ran. Look at reviews of the business (I know yelp and some sites can be a little fishy) so take some reviews with a grain of salt. Look at the candidates LinkedIn page if they have one. See if the information they state on one page matches with what the say on there campaign page and there business website other websites.

    Also look at the type of business they run and if you feel comfortable with that type of bushiness and if that business helps burien. We have one candidate that runs a Botox day spa (tends to makes women look like a sci fi film contestant sorry it’s just the truth) and another that runs a career counseling service (which basically mean he knows how to make sack of potatoes look like new BMW on paper sorry again just the truth). We have one that’s a medical cannabis expert (for myself I am fine with that part) but some people are not. Just name a few of the candidates other careers.

    • Andrew McNair says:

      I take issue with the notion that one should change one’s phone number. Thanks to local number portability (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Local_number_portability for a refresher), when you move, changing your phone number isn’t necessary. I still have a 253 number from when I used to be on my parents’ family plan (they live in Steilacoom) and my wife’s phone number is an Ohio number even though she’s lived in Washington for a decade. Despite this, we’re residents of Burien whose commitment to the city is every bit as strong as those with 206 numbers. (Fun fact: growing up in Lakewood in the 1980s, I had a 206 number. Changed to 253 in 1997.)

      Changing one’s phone number to a 206 number is a silly demand for a host of reasons:

      1) You would need to contact every friend, family member, and other contact and have them update their address books and cell phones with the new number.

      2) 206 (and 360 and 425) numbers are running out. Thus the new 564 area code (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Area_code_564). It may not be possible to just “get” a 206 number at some point. It would be specious to claim that somebody unable to get a number in a specific area code is somehow less committed to a community than somebody who has one.

      3) Nobody cares. Apart from a handful of phone numbers (spouse/partner, parents, children) who even thinks about phone numbers anymore? The only time most of us see them is when we punch them into our phones and save them as new contacts. After that, we all just select names to call people.

      This is an arbitrary criterion for selecting a candidate and has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a person will be a good council member. Let’s stop pretending that factors like area codes, length of residency, and whether one rents or owns are in any way correlative to fitness to govern, and recognize this as hyperlocalized nativism. Vote for whomever you feel will represent your vision for where you’d like to see Burien go, whether that be progressive, conservative, libertarian or centrist. Just stop trying to deligitimize candidates with these arbitrary purity tests.

      • Captain obvious says:

        ok sorry let clarify this. What I meant was for someone who is running for a local political office or position like city council or mayor etc. Should have a local number as in that area code of where they serve or are planing on serving. I did not mean a personal number. This would also be a phone number you most likely not call very often unless you want to complain about things or leave a message for a council member or other political person.

        You may vote one way but some of the things mention do matter in the long run. Here in burien we have so many people in office over the years that have been ether complete idiots or some what ok. So some of us have found ways to get a better idea of these candidates. So we have better idea of who to vote for. Now these are not final ruling on these people. It’s just a way to gather a little more information. Before deciding on who to vote for.

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