Chaos, squabbling and indecision made for weird, conflicted Council session


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EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was revised on Aug. 2, 2017 to correct a quote:

By Jack Mayne

Monday night’s Burien City Council special meeting to decide whether or not to repeal the city’s sanctuary law or place it on a public ballot failed, and no decision was reached, apparently violating state law.

The meeting deteriorated into a nearly four-hour battle of animosity between Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz and other Councilmembers, especially Debi Wagner.

City Attorney Lisa Marshall attempted to instruct councilmembers that state law required the Council to either repeal the so-called Sanctuary ordinance or to ask King County Elections to place the proposal on the Nov. 7 general election ballot.

The Council did neither.

Paid signature gatherers
The sanctuary ordinance (#651) was targeted by a petition circulated by apparently paid signature gatherers, many of who came from outside the city.

That ordinance was approved by a 4–3 vote on Jan. 9. It said city officials, police and contractors could not seek information about the immigration status of residents.

Enough signatures were collected in July for King County Elections to certify it and turn the matter over to the Council to decide to either repeal the sanctuary ordinance or put it on the general election ballot. There was no provision in the Elections Department referral for placing it on the ballot on any other date but Nov. 7, said Burien City Attorney Lisa Marshall.

To add to the rush, King County Elections’ deadline for measures on the Nov. 7 election ballot is today – Aug. 1.

Since the Council did not ask the matter to be placed on the ballot, the city is technically barred from asking voters to decide.

Manager, attorney seek answers
However, City Manager Brian Wilson said City Attorney Lisa Marshall is researching the issue with King County elections.

Marshall told the Council Monday night that it had two options for dealing with the certified initiative petition asking for repeal or a public vote on so-called sanctuary ordinance. The Council did neither after a filibuster and verbal onslaught by outgoing Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz.

Many people testifying at the special session suggested it could be delayed until a February special election, which City Attorney Lisa Marshall said could increase the cost to the city of the election from an estimated $25,000 to “even six figures.”

The ordinance – passed earlier this year – prohibits inquiries about immigration status in the city. That action is known as a sanctuary ordinance. The same policy has been in force with the King County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years, and that policy guides Burien Police officers, who are members of the Sheriff’s department.

After nearly two hours, several members of the Council indicated they would favor placing the issue on the November election ballot.

Then Lauren Berkowitz entered the discussion.

She asked City Attorney Marshall if the Council had the ability to push the matter to a February election date.

“You do not, the law is very unequivocal,” Marshall said, adding that the action should be passed immediately to meet the deadline for items on the November ballot. If the Council did not do anything, then “a taxpayer lawsuit is available to compel it be placed on the ballot which would cost you more money and gets to the same results.”

Based on hatred
Berkowitz then said it was fortunate and unfortunate the meeting was held “for, I believe, the fourth time we’ve teen discussing this topic. – those of you who have said we have not discussed it, you are incorrect.”

She said thousands of people signed “knowingly or not knowingly, a petition based on hatred, fear and racism.” It was fortunate that the city came together “in solidarity with undocumented residents and their communities, which is all of us, and with people who practice minority religions.”

The Burien ordinance is not the same as the King County ordinance, Berkowitz maintained.

“It is stronger than the King County Sheriff’s, or even Seattle’s, because it also protects people in religious minorities.”

Berkowitz said she originally sponsored the Burien ordinance “fully expecting it would be voted down by this conservative Council. It is only because of your activism and organizing that we were able to pass this ordinance at all,” referring to the many people in the Council chamber and the 41 people who spoke in support of it.

She “respectfully disagreed” with those who thought putting he matter on the ballot would galvanize those who oppose it, but Berkowitz said she agreed with those who wanted an even stronger ordinance.”

No stronger ordinance
“We will not get a stronger ordinance from this Council,” said Berkowitz, who is leaving the Council at the end of the year because she decided not to run for reelection.

She endorsed having the Council meet at varied times, serving food and providing child care and language interpreters for non-English speakers.

“This would encourage more activism and also the inclusion of different kinds of people from the same five or ten people we normally see at a typical Council meeting….”

Berkowitz criticized the “outside, paid signature gathers who often lied or misled to get the required number of signatures by five – five. I challenge you, don’t let the few who are intolerant win.”

She said she would work with the opponents of the ordinance.

Since there is not an option to push the issue back to February, she said she would abstain from voting on putting the issue on this November’s election ballot.

Then she criticized Councilmember Debi Wagner for saying the fairest way to get a decision is with an election.

“She is wrong. We all know that. We know that elections don’t tell the truth, the whole truth because we know not everybody votes,” Berkowitz said.

Berkowitz also wondered if Wagner and other Councilmembers had signed the petition seeing the public election.

Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta asked if a person who feels the petition signature gatherers misled people to get them to sign the petition, and is there a way to remove the signature. City Attorney Marshall said there was, but a matter of time before a decision must be made. Tosta said she got “many calls” asking about the petition and saying it was “hate-filled.”

Berkowitz: ‘Do nothing’
Berkowitz said the Council should go the difficult path and do nothing about referring the sanctuary ordinance to the ballot and “support the original ordinance as we passed it.”

Marshall said state law permitted any taxpayer to sue the city and “procure a decree ordering an election to be held.”

She said it is the Council’s choice, but told Tosta there was some risk in delaying a Council decision.

A few minutes later, she chastised the mayor for telling people they had to wait to talk, or applaud or make other noise, and that the mayor was violating the U.S. Constitution. City Attorney Marshall said the mayor could enforce decorum rules and could hold up the meeting until parties came to order.

Krakowiak said, “As I understand it the city attorney says if the meeting becomes disruptive – the meeting is not possible to go forward – then a recess can be taken.”

Despite her requests that the audience “please hold” their displays, there was applause and some shouting.

Krakowiak recessed the meeting for about 15 minutes while many in the audience applauded, shouted and chanted their displeasure.

Chaos, police clear crowd
When the meeting was restarted, things became weird.

Berkowitz immediately moved to adjourn the meeting.

“I think we owe the public the ability to discuss this when we are awake and everybody can be here,” she said. “It is 10:30 p.m. and I don’t think we should be continuing to meet.”

There was no second, so the meeting continued to sustained loud audience clapping and whistles.

Krakowiak said she needed to be sure there was a supermajority of members who would vote on the adjournment but the clapping and chanting grew louder.

Krakowiak declared a half hour recess.

“This is not way to have city business and you are responsible,” shouted Councilmember Debi Wagner the length of the Council table to Berkowitz.

“I’m not responsible for a petition I didn’t sign,” Berkowitz shouted back, with noise growing in the room.

Forty-five minutes later, the Council reconvened and parliamentary chaos reigned.

Councilmember Stephen Armstrong said the subject was “obviously important.” He wondered if they city attorney would have other important comments and Marshall said she had given the Council all of the relevant information.

Krakowiak tried to get the chamber to order as there was still loud laughter and comments from the audience.

Berkowitz kept demanding that her motion to adjourn took precedence.

The mayor called in waiting police officers to clear the room, and later it was known that they warned that order had to be returned. A while later, the public was readmitted and visitors were orderly and quiet.

“They listened to the police and were supportive,” City Manager Brian Wilson told The B-Town Blog Tuesday morning.

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Comments

25 Responses to “Chaos, squabbling and indecision made for weird, conflicted Council session”
  1. Elizabeth says:

    Politically I’m more aligned with that woman than not, but boy does she annoy me.

  2. Al Hartman says:

    I am counting on the election to help aleviate this problem.

    We need a city council that is devoted to Burien, not some ideoligal utopia.

  3. Aaron Hayden says:

    Thank you, @BurienBerkowitz for you skill with managing the conclusion of this meeting. I am one of many who were subject to the awful tactics of the signature gathers of this petition who, and I was not able to attend Monday’s Council meeting. I did view the video stream of the meeting, and your message matches mine exactly.

    The petition to repeal Burien’s inclusive ordinance is racist and deceptive. This petition questions the competence of our elected officials by challenging their decisions; it embarrasses our city and is not worth any further consideration.

  4. Joey Martinez says:

    Why hasn’t this reporter or the blog posted that Mayor Krakowiak, CM Bob/Chestine Edgar, and CM Debi Wagner all signed the hate-fill petition at the last minute to barely get over the threshold?

    • Joey Martinez says:

      Furthermore, the quote ““I’m not responsible … everything I did is fine,” Berkowitz shouted back, noise growing in the room.” is factually incorrect.

      “I’m not responsible for a petition I didn’t sign” is what was said, alluding to the fact that Edgar, Krakowiak, and Wagner all signed.
      It’s on the recording.

      • Question Authority says:

        Look what the cat dug out of the litter box, haven’t missed you at all.

        • Aaron Hayden says:

          Please use your real name when commenting. Until you choose do so, your opinions and snipes mean absolutely nothing, coward.

      • Thanks Joey for the info – I have corrected that quote.

        -scott

      • John says:

        Joey you have been a support of lame duck unfit for public office Berkowitz since she lied her way onto the council. You have no credibility on the subject of Berkowitz.
        This woman has been bad for the city since day one. Her crazy antics and personal agendas are out of sync with the majority of Burien residents. We just need to limit the damage she does before she fades into the night and someone hopefully someone more competent and less arrogant fills her seat on the council!

  5. Kyle Edmund says:

    Repeal or let the CIIZENS vote!

    Stop try to circumvent our due process.

    Build the WALL!

    • Kathy says:

      Maybe you should start it around your house.

      • Burinal Dumas says:

        The progressives have pushed their agenda over the line.

        Now they’ve woken up conservatives who are starting to realize what has happened to their community.

        Take back Burien from illegals before it’s too late.

        Fight the POWER.

        VOTE!

    • Captain obvious says:

      Will you explain how a wall will stop a tunnel dug under the wall. Also are you willing to pay for a wall that will if anything only slow down one or two country’s citizens from crossing in to the u.s. .

  6. Bob Stewart says:

    Notice how the narrative of this report accepts the little bit of street theatre that was staged to deflect the council from doing its business as just another day at the office. Social Justice in action, so to speak. The video showing the anti-petition forces chanting “No Sanctuary, No Peace” tells us what we really need to understand, but it wasn’t even mentioned above. Politics as practiced in Burien is nothing more than cheap tricks … journeymen magicians getting us to focus on trivialities while pushing their agenda forward unobserved. The Council had a job to do, as the City Attorney told them, but they didn’t do it. Over three thousand Burien voters signed the petition, acting in the open as concerned citizens. It is likely that Debi Wagner will be the only incumbent who is running for reelection who will receive as many as votes as that block represents in the primary held yesterday. To dismiss these petitioners with baseless charges of racism and bigotry is ugly and obviously intended to mislead. The gutter tactics and chanted threats of violence used by the opponents of the petition, and the mismanagement of the council in responding to the petition, are the real stories. The primary results are beginning to roll in, and the voters appear to know that the present majority of the council doesn’t represent them. Beneficial changes are coming.

    • Terri says:

      Consider the history of our country. If it were not for patriots standing up against the tyranny of England – we would not be a country today.

      It is through protesting, boycotting, and civil disobedience that we have the freedoms we all enjoy today.

      This petition is ripe with flaws. The first petitions turned in had over 24% fraudulent signatures causing the petition to be found lacking. They were given 10 days to get the required signatures. They met that mark with only 5 signatures to spare. 3 people at the meeting alone indicated they wanted to rescind their signatures. Is it difficult to imagine there are many more who would as well?

      Based on that alone the validity of this petition is in question.

      That’s not all. Burien’s own law is confusing and in error on the subject. There still exists on our books a law that is wrong. It says petitions will go to the city clerk to verify signatures. Not possible. That is the job of King County Elections – who will never release our voting files to our clerk.

      Also – Burien’s law in this area is termed “antiquated” by the head of King County Elections. Why? We refer to an inaccurate RCW that is not used by any other municipality in King County – most likely the entire state.

      These issues are significant and bear review and correction. Our city should not be bullied and rushed into a decision on a very flawed process and whilst errors in our own law remain.

      In a healthy society there are going to be differences. Sometimes you will be on the prevailing side and sometimes you won’t.

      The overwhelming majority spoke in favor of the law that is currently on the books and did not want to see a change. Only 5 spoke against it… and there is that pesky problem of the council members who signed the bill. As citizens they are entitled to do so as is right. However should they not exclude themselves from the discussion and voting?

      We need to fix the “antiquated” laws, question the validity of this petition and make sure we don’t allow these errors in the future.

      And vote in a reasonable City Council.

      Vote for Krystal Marx, Jimmy Matta, Nancy Tosta, Pedro Olguin

  7. David Silver says:

    Berkowitz is just trying to do what she can to make Venezuela more understandable to the masses. Get on the Berkowitz train you unwashed heathens!

  8. Sir JoJo says:

    Is their a way around all this hatred and vitriol?
    Check out this piece: https://nyti.ms/2k9FGuA

    Especially these excerpts:
    “Victimhood culture generally seeks to restrict expression in order to protect the sensibilities of its advocates. Victimhood claims the right to say who is and is not allowed to speak.”
    “…look at a movement’s leadership. The fight for victims is led by aspirational leaders who challenge us to cultivate higher values. They insist that everyone is capable of — and has a right to — earned success. They articulate visions of human dignity. But the organizations and people who ascend in a victimhood culture are very different. Some set themselves up as saviors; others focus on a common enemy. In all cases, they treat people less as individuals and more as aggrieved masses.”

  9. David Silver says:

    City Council needs to prepare to stay in session all night for several days until any filibuster is over and then vote to allow the citizens to vote.

  10. Tom Taaffe says:

    Even the United States Senate, that amassment of world class gasbags , has a cloture rule to cut off filibusters. And our council can’t stop someone from ” talking all night”?
    Please! Tom

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