Each candidate running for the Burien City Council Nov. 7, 2023 General Election was asked ten questions by The B-Town Blog (read previous Q&As here), covering topics like their reasons for wanting to serve on the council, what they think about current issues in the city, and what kind of solutions they have.
The following responses to our questionnaire in our series is from Position No. 4 candidate, incumbent Kevin Schilling, who is facing off against challenger Patricia Hudson.
Ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 18, and are due by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
NOTE: Photos, links and the order of how candidates are presented are identical to the King County Elections website.
1. Why are you running for city council? Please explain what inspired you to run and why you are qualified.
“It has been a privilege serving you on Burien City Council. In my first four years, I’ve worked hard to deliver for the city I grew up in.
“As a third-generation Burien resident, graduate of St. Francis of Assisi School and Aviation High School in the Highline School District, I have a deep care for the future of the city. My parents worked hard all my life, my dad as a Navy veteran and lifelong Boeing SPEEA engineer, and my mom as an accountant in a school. They instilled in me values of hard work, responsibility, and compassion.
“I’ve brought those values to my work on City Council. I’ve built relationships with our representatives in D.C. and Olympia, and I take advantage of every opportunity to push for Burien’s interests. From utility tax relief for seniors and workers, to expanding low-income broadband access to students and families, to coordinating meals during the COVID pandemic, I’ve always looked for ways to make a positive impact for the betterment of my hometown.
“Today, Burien needs experienced, no-nonsense leadership more than ever.
“I’m running for re-election because, honestly, I’m concerned about Burien’s future. We live in an incredible city. However, Burien is increasingly struggling with homelessness and public safety. Dealing with these problems are City Council’s core mission. I believe we must ensure our neighborhoods are safe, clean, and vibrant.
“Here’s my plan to address our challenges:
“Make Burien the best place to do business and to be a worker. Strong neighborhoods start with strong neighborhood businesses. They provide jobs, amenities, and ‘eyes on the ground’. I’ll work to make Burien the best place in Washington to do business. That includes reducing permitting time, plus allowing offices and light manufacturing in Burien’s commercial zones. Additionally, I will work to make Burien a great place to work. I will continue to champion our service sector union workers at grocery stores, hospitals, and schools, and I’m proud to be endorsed by grocery store workers with UFCW 3000, teachers with the Highline Education Association, the Laborers Union, Carpenters Union, Ironworkers Union, Seattle Building Trades, the Bus Drivers Union, the Sailors Union, and Teamsters that represent City of Burien employees.
“Fully fund first responders. Burien first responders are responding to more calls than ever. Our neighbors, especially immigrants, people of color, and working families, are struggling with increased crime. We need to ensure Police, Fire, and other emergency support units have the staffing necessary to respond and protect those most at risk.
“Continue to invest in community policing. In my first term, I implemented the Downtown Core Police Co-Responder model, to tackle the linked issues of public safety, mental illness, and substance use. There’s more work to be done. I will work to expand this model, in the Downtown Core and beyond to ensure Burien is safe for all who live, work, and play here.
“Address gun violence. I’m proud to be a Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense Candidate with Distinction. Unfortunately, Burien has experienced an increase in crimes involving firearms. Lives have been lost, and it has forever changed many more. As someone who has witnessed gun violence in Burien firsthand, I know how traumatizing it can be. Gun crime needs to be addressed on multiple levels, from state-level policies, to increased enforcement and gang reduction initiatives. I will work to find common-sense solutions and curb rising rates of gun violence in our city.
“Address homelessness. Addressing homelessness is mostly the responsibility of regional government – but that is not an excuse for local leaders to do nothing. I’ll continue to pressure county and state governments to aid cities like Burien in this fight. I’ll also work to improve Burien’s shelter bed coordination. The court case Martin v. Boise makes Burien’s responsibility clear. We need to get people the housing and services they need to reduce outdoor camping. I believe we must do both.
“Do more for veterans. As the proud son and grandson of veterans, I understand the sacrifice made for our country and communities. I want to create a Burien Veterans’ Committee to better inform veterans policy, coordinate with the VA, and bring more resources to folks who need help navigating services.
“Work with the Port of Seattle, especially around air quality. As chair of the Airport Committee, I have worked hard to keep Burien’s seat at the table at the Port of Seattle, as they make major decisions that impact the health of our community. I’ll keep ensuring Burien’s voice is heard as we keep pushing for regulations that minimize negative environmental and health impacts.
“Finally: Never stop listening. I want to understand what’s happening in every neighborhood. f you have questions or concerns about Burien, you can reach out directly to my personal cell phone, 206-948-0381.
“Over the last few years, I’m proud that my work has earned support from community leaders, in Burien and beyond. I’m proud to be endorsed by Congressman Adam Smith, King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove, King County Assessor John Wilson, Port Commissioner Sam Cho, State Senator Joe Nguyen, State Senator Karen Keiser, State Rep. Tina Orwall, Former Governor Christine Gregoire, and tons of Burienites, as well as multiple unions and organizations. I’m truly energized by the support.
“Working together to tackle challenges is in Burien’s character. Together, we can build a better Burien that’s safe, prosperous, and vibrant. It has been an honor to do this work, and to have the trust of my hometown.”
2. What is the biggest issue facing Burien residents, and how can that be solved?
“I’m often asked whether Burien’s biggest issue is public safety or homelessness. I’m not sure that’s the right question. The Seattle region is facing an intersectional crisis between public safety, homelessness, and addiction.
“Here’s what I think we should address that complex problem:
• “We should fully fund our first responders. I understand that some folks are strongly opposed to increased funding for police, or for enforcement of laws in tent camps. I don’t agree. I think funding first responders helps protect the vulnerable.
• “Despite that, I don’t believe every problem requires an armed response. On my ride-alongs with our Burien Police, I’ve witnessed how our law enforcement responds to criminal behavior in our community. Some responses require police; others don’t. I want to make sure that both police and non-police responders have the tools they need to address situations they encounter. While on Council, I led the charge for a co-responder model in our downtown core, matching a police officer with a social service worker to address concerns in the commercial district of Burien.
• “Burien is a community that needs more investment in our justice system. I will continue to advocate, at the county and state level, to fund our local courts. Burien deserves a fully-funded justice system – especially for our most vulnerable.
“Addressing public safety means bringing together people who disagree. I’m supported by local law enforcement, and I’m also a Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense Candidate of Distinction. It’s because of my record. People – even people who disagree with each other on a lot – know I’m serious about Burien’s big challenges.”
3. What are your thoughts on conducting sweeps of homeless encampments? How would you balance the rights and needs of people experiencing homelessness and those of other residents and businesses in Burien?
“Sweeps” is one term for the practice of removing folks from public property who have set up long-lasting, unauthorized tent encampments. I don’t think these should be joyful occasions. I’ve worked hard to increase the availability of services for Burien’s unhoused populations.
“However, unlike my opponents, I believe it’s sometimes necessary to coordinate removal of illegal tent encampments, while encouraging acceptance of shelter and services.”
4. What are the best practices and models that Burien can learn from or adopt to address homelessness?
“I believe in social services. Whether it’s services in Burien, or services in a neighboring community, I believe Burien’s law enforcement and human services departments should connect people with opportunities to turn their lives around.
“When it comes to social services, I walk the talk. I have spent time coordinating services with St. Vincent de Paul, Union Gospel Mission, Chief Seattle Club, Mary’s Place, and Transform Burien. During the pandemic, I joined AmeriCorps to respond to the housing and hunger crisis in our community among-low income seniors and families by coordinating federal resources to many in our public housing communities.
“Here’s a few other ways I’ve fought for social services and housing justice:
• “I’ve worked for more housing for all income levels. I am proud to have voted in favor of affordable housing programs in Burien, as well as pushed Burien to streamline permitting for construction and development of new housing of all kinds. Burien shouldn’t become unaffordable just because it’s next door to Seattle.
• “I’ve fought for more emergency housing. I was proud to lead the charge to pass emergency shelter permitting on Council. We need to reduce costs and timeframes for more construction of housing at all levels, including shelter, rapid re-housing, long term, supportive, affordable, and market-rate housing. I have a record of partnering with behavioral and mental health care providers, including St. Anne’s Hospital, NAVOS, and SeaMar.
• “I’ve fought hard to get Burien its “fair share” in social service funding. That’s part of why I have so much support from South Sound leaders. They know I’m an effective voice, from Burien to the federal level.”
5. How would you measure and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of Burien’s homelessness policies and programs?
“I believe there’s only one way to understand our homelessness crisis: at the ground level. Here’s how I believe that should work:
• “We should collect extensive data on social service programs, and stop investing in programs that can’t prove they’re effective. I believe we should make sure city services are effectively connecting Burien’s unhoused population with life-changing services. That means accurately measuring the impact of the crisis. I have been criticized for being too “tough” on service providers and officials. In this crisis, I believe it’s reasonable to be “tough” in making sure we’re effectively spending resources and getting results for the folks who need help.
• “We should build on our successes. We should listen closest to those who have broken the cycles of homelessness, mental health, and addiction. I will make sure those voices are central to the conversation. It’s time to provide services that truly help ‘break the cycle’.
• “We should demand ground-level results. Local programs should operate with the goal of changing lives and restoring public spaces. Simply showing referrals to available programs isn’t enough. We should demand that programs successfully encourage folks to pursue available resources. Again, measurable results should be the goal.”
6. What are your thoughts on the job that Burien Police/King County Sheriff’s Office are doing?
“Due to our shared service model, King County needs to fill empty positions in Burien’s police force. I’m in favor of exploring the independent city model, which would establish a Burien Police Department. A dedicated Burien Police Department would allow Burienites to determine what is best for its own form of public safety and policing.
“I am the only candidate in this race who supports increased support for the Burien Police/King County Sheriff’s Office. I support non-police responses, and investments in mental health services. But, I believe Burien also needs more police officers.”
7. Do you have any plans to help Burien businesses that are struggling from recent issues, like COVID or increasing crime?
“I grew up in Burien working jobs at local businesses. My first job at 13 was at the Highline Performing Arts Center as a student employee. I am proud to have spent my teenage years bussing tables at Mick Kelley’s Irish Pub and 909 Coffee and Wine restaurants. I know how hard our restaurant workers and owners work to keep Burien a thriving community for all to come to. That’s why I’ve worked to support Burien businesses by directing pandemic recovery dollars to businesses as grants to invest in property damage, repair, and investment funds.
“Burien city government needs to focus on the future of business, too. I have a plan to expand commercial zones and office spaces in Burien. Burien is already a city with a diverse array of residential and business districts. We should allow office buildings in strategic areas to grow our business sector and bring in additional revenue. Burien has had to deal with increased property values – we should also benefit from Seattle’s economic growth and ensure we are attracting more investments to grow our workforce and revenues.”
8. How would you balance the needs and interests of different neighborhoods and communities in Burien?
“Burien has a beautiful array of neighborhoods that need connection to the core, as well as to their own spaces. We all have strolling paths, parks, and viewpoints that we love. I’ve worked to build on these Burien strengths, plus work to fill in gaps.
“To build on our strengths, I’ve looked to the places that make Buien what it is. I led the effort to permit neighborhood grocery stores, as we’ve seen with the Three Tree Point Store, and I’d love to see more of them pop up. I supported transit investments that expand public transportation offerings in and around the community, even in Burien neighborhoods that have been traditionally car-dependent.
“I also believe some Burien neighborhoods are struggling. I believe neighborhoods with working families, like Boulevard Park and around Highline High School, have some especially urgent needs. They need more support from local government on saving small businesses, decreasing airport noise, and even ground-level issues like flood prevention and reducing gun violence. I’ll never lose sight of Burien’s working families and neighborhoods.”
9. How would you engage with Burien’s youth and seniors?
“Just the other day, I spoke to a 93-year-old man who built his house in Burien (then unincorporated King County) in 1958, after he got back from the Korean War and finished his education. He’s lived there ever since. He spent many years in a good union job, and has lived off his pension in retirement. We spoke for a while about how Burien has changed over the years, and what he thinks he needs. His response: “just do your best to solve problems and make it easier for people like me.” He reminded me of my own grandfathers, who were both veterans. I want more grandparents to be able to stay in Burien long-term.
“Here’s a few ways I’ve fought for working seniors:
• “I was the only councilmember that voted against the utility tax increase on low-income seniors and families.
• “I worked to spearhead the Burien Tax Relief Assistance Program.
• “I’ve voted against council directed property tax increases that did not have a carve-out for senior citizens.
• “I joined AmeriCorps during the pandemic to bring emergency food to low-income seniors in Burien’s assisted living and public housing facilities.”
“Another thing I love about Burien: we’re a place for families to call home. I grew up here, and I remember when kids were able to walk to school on their own, go to the park and enjoy the beach. As a former Youth Minister and Middle School Educator at St. Francis of Assisi, I’ve thought a lot about keeping Burien a great place to be a kid. Here’s a few things I’ve done to help:
• “I led the charge on doing something about expanding childcare opportunities in Burien. Believe it or not, a lot of parents are now millennials.
• “I continue to be involved with my high school alma mater, Aviation High School, by showing up whenever they need alumni involvement.
• :I partnered with the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce to develop a youth entrepreneurship program that is still operating.
• “I’ve worked to keep Burien welcoming to a wide range of families. I welcomed the Muslim American Youth Foundation to Burien, and went to speak on interfaith dialogue with their young folks.
• “I’ve supported funding for the Parks Department late night program for teens and kids in partnership with our local public high schools.”
10. How would you enhance Burien’s environmental sustainability and resilience?
“Burien is known for our beautiful parks and accessible shoreline. I will continue to be an advocate for supporting and growing both in our community. That’s why during my first term on City Council, I voted in favor of budgets that fully funded our parks department, invested in green space and landslide prevention dollars. Additionally, on City Council, I was one of the few councilmembers that voted against tree removal without a plan to ensure that we replace each tree that we remove.
“Directing city operations to be cleaner and renewable is also important. That’s why I voted in favor of our city’s climate action plan, as well as worked with the Highline School District solar project team to learn best practices of getting solar in as many communities as we can. We can work to expand opportunities for homeowners and businesses to choose cleaner energy options with investments from the state and federal government, like solar panels.
“I’m also an advocate for expanding public transportation. I’ve pushed the state legislature for more funding to expand public transportation options in Burien. Alongside this, I’ve been an advocate for growing the availability of electric vehicle charging stations, to give electric vehicle drivers more options for charging in their community. Common-sense investments in Burien’s energy future help our resiliency as a city.
“A resilient community requires a safe, prosperous, and equitable community. In my first term, I’ve shown I can build that strong foundation for Burien. With your support, I’d be honored to continue this important work.”