Parks could become too dangerous for kids; homeless funds approved 1by Jack Mayne Some Burien parks may become too dangerous for kids to use, the City Council was told Monday night. At the same meeting (Aug. 3), the Council talked a long while but finally appropriated $55,000 in additional money to assist the city’s homeless population Drugs endangering kids Resident Chris Hemp told the Council about an “incident” last week at Dottie Harper Park with his daughter, who attends Camp CRAZ Youth Summer Day Camp Program classes. “Apparently a counselor deemed a group of people doing drugs in the park (on July 31) too dangerous a situation to walk the kids past so they took an alternate route back to the community center with these kids,” Hemp told the Council. “This path was inappropriate for the younger kids and my daughter fell and hurt her leg rather badly. The camp never called us to pick her up, nor did they report the incident to the police.” He said he then sat down with a recreation manager and counselor and was told their “daily procedure was to count the homeless in the park. If there is more than 10, they don’t bring the kids into the park,” adding there is apparently a consideration for “not letting the kids use the park at all.” ‘Unacceptable!’ “This is the park where we just invested money to spruce it up, new playground equipment – everything there is new. I am here to inform the Council what is happening in our city parks and our city camps. “This is unacceptable, it concerns me as a parent, as a taxpayer – it makes me irate,” Hemp told the Council. “We need to clean up these parks and make them safe for our kids. Unacceptable!” Patty Jensen showed photos of “syringes, a homemade bong, a bottle of Hennessey which sells for about $70 retail, a backpack, lots and lots of glass beer bottles, cans and a Bible, a Bible that was thrown away …” She said she would send pictures she took to the Council members. “We don’t have enough cops for all of the crime and all of the stuff that goes on in Burien,” Jensen said. “It is going to be up to the community, the people who live in the city to put together a proposal for more dollars – we’re going to be taxed, I don’t care, I’ll pay it, whatever it is, there is going to be a need for more money for more law enforcement.” Charles Schaefer said the drug deals and broken bottles are rife in the park. “What’s the point of having a nice new play structure if people don’t want to take their kids there to play on so if we need more cops, let’s pay for more cops.” Money for homeless The problem that ended with no decision after a lengthy dispute July 20 with members calling points of order and general disharmony returned Monday night. It was the potential of allocating the additional $55,000 for 2015 to address homelessness. During comment period, Darla Green, a local business owner and candidate for the Council in the November election, said the money should be saved for next year, and should not be “used in a knee-jerk reaction to the recent bad publicity over the crisis Burien is experiencing” concerning homelessness. Councilmember Bob Edgar said he had a problem with gift cards, which several have said can be sold or used to buy alcohol or tobacco products, and the city manager said that could be pursued if the Council wanted to restrict the cards so they could not be used for those products. Councilmember Nancy Tosta repeated her unhappiness at not knowing more about the homelessness problems before allocating money. “We need to better understand the population we are trying to serve and what their needs are because I want to see outcomes and be able to measure results,” she said. Tosta wanted the city to consider hiring a fulltime person to do that but was told by City Manager Kamuron Gurol that it would cost in the range of $100,000 a year for a fulltime city staffer. Gurol said there are discussions about area-wide people to specialize on the various issues of homelessness. He recommended a $2,000 a year, for three years, commitment for a housing specialist working for all south county communities. The Council approved $2,000 for that for the first year, leaving the remainder up for discussion next year. Concerns about gift cards Burien resident Peggy Maze Johnson told the Council she “brings a little bit of unique experience to this” as the first Executive Director of Neighbors in Need, the first system of food banks in the Country in 1970. “I have a problem with money being given out, gift cards, because food stamps are sold all the time on the black market,” she said. “I believe people need to have help, I am not one of those people who are screaming and yelling about homeless people in Burien. “I would take a very close look at this budget. I would sit down and talk with people that have been doing it … I would not err on the side of caution and I would not make any decision based on this budget. I think it would be a major, major mistake.” After that, Edgar moved that the supplemental amount be spent with a prohibition against any gift cards being used for tobacco or alcohol. Tosta again said she wanted to spend more time looking at understanding the problem, not do a study, but “I am proposing that someone whose job it is think truly on how we address the concern that has become the major problem in our community.” She said she didn’t like the “small expenditures with little rationality.” Robison said the money is intended to do something “right now. It is not perfect but it is better than nothing at all.” The Council voted 4 to 1 to approve the use of the money, with Tosta voting no. New procedures The Council also considered and then unanimously approved a city staff proposal to “add more structure” for items on its regular business agenda for Council action. “It is intended to retain the ability for each Councilmember to get questions answered, to be easier for the presiding officer to implement, and to ensure a fair and thorough Council process that leads to an informed decision,” the staff proposal said. Part of the new process would be to get Councilmembers to submit questions to the staff in advance and for the Mayor to “recognize Councilmembers by moving down the dais one-by-one for both Q&A and for decision-making.” The new procedure includes adding estimates of time allowed for each item and that all motions should be written to prevent inadvertent changes during discussions. The approval was approved 5 to 0 as Councilmembers Lauren Berkowitz and Steve Armstrong were absent. City land sold The Council approved a sales agreement to sell 12 and 1/2 acres of property on South 146th Street in the North East Redevelopment Area, to Latitude Development, an Auburn owned developer of “institutional grade projects throughout the Puget Sound.” The sales price is $4.85 million for the two properties that had been purchased individually for “just over $3.050 million,” said Economic Development Manager Dan Trimble. The plot includes what was once Sunny Terrace Elementary School property and an adjoining four acres. Latitude Development is proposing a medium sized industrial building to be used as cold storage and food processing, Trimble said, “a little more workforce intensive that a warehouse.”]]>