Teen girls’ shooting deaths made focal point of Burien City Council meeting


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By Jack Mayne

Councilmember Krystal Marx pushed to have the recent deaths of two teenage girls made the focus of the Burien City Council meeting Monday night (April 2). The girls – ages 13 and 19 – were tragically killed on March 28 in a gang-related shooting near the Alturas Apartments in the 13700 block of Ambaum Blvd. SW.

Councilmember Pedro Oleguin said “any death is one too many for our community to sustain” and that Burien citizens are looking to the Council for guidance. The Council also unanimously supported a move by Olguin for a wide ranging community taskforce to address youth and family programs.

‘Critical we work together’
“This past week, two youth in our community were the victims of gun violence,” City Manager Brian Wilson said. “I want to state on behalf of the staff, on behalf of the Council and all of us at the city that our thoughts and prayers go out to the families and all those who are affected by this tragedy that has occurred.”

The King County Medical Examiner’s Office on Friday identified one of the two victims of the fatal shooting as Eveona Cortez, 19. The other murdered girl was 13 and a student at Sylvester Middle School.

Eveona died from multiple gunshot wounds in what police say was a gang-related shooting near the Alturas apartment complex on Ambaum Blvd. SW at SW 137th Street on Wednesday night, March 28.

Fear, concerns impact
Wilson, who for many years was a member of the Federal Way Police Department, becoming its chief, said crimes like the one in Burien “have significant impacts on our community. People have fear, they have concerns about their safety, their perception of their safety, the reality of safety, and to combat this, it is critical we work together to find solutions to these concerns.”

He said many people are working on the situation and have been since the event including the major crimes unit of the King County Sheriff’s office and the Burien Police Department.

“They are relentless in their efforts to find those responsible for these crimes and bring them to justice,” said Wilson. “I have had conversations, ongoing with Dr. Susan Enfield and her staff with the Highline School District talking about ways the city and the school district can enhance the working relationship that we have on our focus and commitment on youth in our community.”

Wilson said various agencies and groups are focused on how to work together “to make a difference.”

“These are challenging time for our country, these are challenging times for our youth. The solutions for these types of problems is just coming together and I firmly believe they are local,” he said. “We are going to make a difference locally and we are committed to making a difference for our city moving forward.

‘We will solve this’
Interim Burien Police Chief Marcus Williams said “without going into exact detail … it is my hope that we will solve this crime, that we will send a message to the individuals who engage in this kind of conduct.”

He said violent crimes, including aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, and robbery have not passed the 2017 Burien trend line although the latest murders understandably do not make people think violent crime is down. He did say that the team involved in this murder investigation is working around the clock on the case.

In addition to having officers on the streets, Williams said he is asking uniformed officers to be visible to the community outside their cars and on Burien streets because people have said they know the police are on streets but are often not visible.

Lighting, blocking passage
Colleen Brandt-Schluter, the Burien Human Services Manager since Jan. 1 when she moved from the same position in SeaTac, said she is working with Highline Public Schools to make certain the city’s response team were in place at three school where the two girls and a sibling attended to ensure they and other youth were getting the support they needed.

Brandt-Schluter said she also met with the California owners of the Alturas apartment complex to discuss what could be done to obviate this type of tragedy in the future. One thought was one that has been suggested before, to close the walkway from the nearby market where police have said youths congregate and where drugs are often passed and sold. Some have called the alley area a place where gangs display their colors and to war with opposing gangs.

Another suggestion was more security and adding more lighting to the alley area of the apartment complex, also a suggestion made after earlier shootings in the area.

Mayor Matta said he has spent hours talking with youth and parents, hearing of dreams and dreams shattered by tragic events. The mayor, only in office since Jan. 1, said he actually met the younger victim, who told him that she would like to go to the store for candy without being afraid.

“If this doesn’t move us as a community, I don’t know what will,” Matta said.

Grafitti goes down
“If we see graffiti, its got to go down,” the mayor said. “We need to come together as a community – when we see something, we’ve got to say something. We are not going to let any criminal to take over our streets. We want to make sure our kids feel free to go to the store and buy milk, buy food and candies and, city manager, on graffiti, what can we do?”

“We have a graffiti programs in the city and we have a contract with Recology and they can respond immediately … we also have our parks and public works staff who provide those services as well so … let us know where the problems are,” Wilson said. “We will be on it and take care of it.”

Councilmember Olguin proposed an “inclusive community based” multi-membership taskforce “for at-risk youth and gang taskforce” to include a wide number of city, school and county service agencies to focus on community youth problems.

“I don’t want to leave tonight feeling I did not do enough,” Olguin said. “I don’t want to leave this room without some level of hope in the eyes of our youth and in the eyes of our community … that we are not doing enough.” He said there is not enough community programming now and one thing “we know works is to have positive role models.” Olguin said that it is impossible to think parents who have to work two or three jobs to get enough to pay the rent will have the energy to “really raise their kids.”

Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak said she was concerned that a wide-ranging taskforce with many members might take too long to get operating so she proposed letting the city staff create the body, and add more people and agencies later. She wanted a taskforce created “sooner and more expeditiously.”

City Manager Wilson said he and city staff would create such a taskforce.

Legislature report
State Sen. Karen Keiser said the recent session of the Legislature passed a balanced budget and “finally addressed the issue of teacher salaries” adding that lawmakers did cut state property taxes that will take effect in 2019 after the earlier raise that came when the Legislature moved to address school financing.

She said the Legislature approved $500,000 for the redevelopment of Moshier Memorial Park which offers 15.2 acres of developed athletic fields and parking. It will take another $1.5 million that the Legislature then considers at the regular full session in January.

Of interest to Burien, Keiser said the Legislature passed an equal pay law that will reduce the wage gap between men and women.

Burien and the FAA
City Attorney Lisa Marshall briefed the Council on regional activities concerning Seattle Tacoma International Airport and the Federal Aviation Administration.

There are several groups involved, she said, with the oldest being the Highline Forum, a coalition of agencies including the cities of Burien, SeaTac, Des Moines and Normandy Park, the Port of Seattle and the Highline School District. She said its members are selected from those agencies. The Forum was convened first in 2007 and was structured to be “airport-centric,” focused on topics relevant to operation of the airport, including noise, pollution, land-use and construction of the Third Runway. Meetings held four times a year. The City’s representative to the Highline Forum is Councilmember Olguin.

As far as the FAA is concerned, Marshall said Burien filed a petition in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2017 that challenged a decision it made to place turboprop jets on an automated 250 degree heading over Burien. The city says the FAA made its decision without conducting the required environmental review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), a federal environmental law that promotes the enhancement of the environment.

Burien has its own Burien Airport Committee which only represents the city to provide information on the aviation issues, Marshall told the Council.

Then there is the Sea-Tac Airport Stakeholder Advisory Round Table, called StART, which was formed by the Port of Seattle and Lance Lyttle, Port of Seattle aviation managing director. It was created to bring together the cities of Burien, Des Moines, Federal Way, Normandy Park, SeaTac and Tukwila with the Port staff, and aviation industry representatives to discuss community concerns regarding the airport’s construction projects, programs and operations. Burien’s StART representatives are Terry Plumb, John Parnass, and City Manager Brian Wilson.

Marshall also outlined various studies on aviation passenger and cargo issues on the local, state and national levels.

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