By Jack Mayne The Burien City Council spent a lot of time Monday night on a what became a confused and dissembled discussion on wording of an update to the city’s strategic plan, which was largely made more confusing by trying to figure out changes offered by telephone and what the changes meant. After nearly three hours the Council approved the strategic plan with changes, largely pushed by Councilmember Nancy Tosta. The vote was 5 to 2, with Tosta and Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz voting ‘no’ mainly because they had more changes they wanted considered. The Council has had the plan update before it many times, working with its hired consultant, Berk Consulting of Seattle. It was Tosta who drove the majority of the changes in wording, indicating it was a very important document that would drive the way the city budgets itself for the next year. The meeting (June 20) also included presentation of a new way to electronically file field reports, thus saving money, and a reminder that with the 4th of July is coming soon, that fireworks in Burien are outlawed. Several concerns Discussion of the consultant-written update changes to the city’s strategic plan began with Tosta telling of a list of changes she had because of “several concerns, significant concerns” about the proposal. The first item she said she was worried about is the way the document made it sound as if the city was now planning for a new recreation center. It reads, “evaluate community needs and develop a plan for the new community recreation center and other park and recreation facilities to best meet those needs.” She said the wording makes a strong statement that a recreation center would be built, not just planning for a potential center. Agreement with Tosta’s view that the language is too strong was Councilmember Austin Bell. Councilmember Debi Wagner said she supported the way it was written and rec center was “important to our community, especially our youth,” adding a parks and recreation plan has been stalled due to the economy and other problems but the economy has improved. Does ‘at risk’ mean homeless? “Most of the Council does not agree with me on my positions on the issue, but I think most of us agree that there is an issue and I would like to see that spelled out …,” Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said, attending the meeting from home via telephone. She said the move should include at-risk residents, but then she said the term “at risk” was difficult to understand. Giving more to the “have’s” should not be done without helping the “have not’s.” “I think it should mean all people who work at the state or federal minimum wage,” adding she thinks the minimum wage should be raised in Burien, perhaps as SeaTac increased some minimum wages to $15 an hour. Councilmember Steve Armstrong said he supported a community center but perhaps the wording was too strong, that it should be “a potential” of a center or that “it may include” a new community center. Deputy Mayor Bob Edgar said the current center is aging and needs to be replaced, “it is costing us money just to try to keep it running.” Parks and Recreation Director Steve Roemer said the current structure is an elementary school built in the 1960s and thousands of dollars and hours have been spent keeping the building up. He said he keeps “dumping tens of thousands of dollars into it every year” and wonders if would be better to demolish the recreation center and build a new one. “The money for building a new facility doesn’t exist,” said Tosta. Group editing woes The Council got into a confusing attempt to “edit through parliamentary procedure,” in the words of a consultant. Members tried to wordsmith the documents and to deal with amendments and changes from Berkowitz over the phone – conversation which often was garbled. One concern she had was over broadening the definition of the term “at risk.” As the meeting went back to deciding what the city’s strategic plan would be edited to say, including what the community plan Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said was a four-year plan where specificity was better. Finally, the Council voted 5 to 2 to change the wording to say a new community center “may” be needed and Tosta added that the requirement of “all community members” be considered. Wagner and Edgar voted no. All that haggling and editing brought the Council to near its late evening break after which Mayor Krakowiak decided it was time to figure out what the Council had to finish Monday night and what could be delayed to its next meeting, which is not until July 18 because of the July 4 Monday holiday. Better way Stormwater Inspector Brian Tornow presented a newly devised Stormwater Inspection technology to the Council. The system he developed with city information technology staff replaced the boxes of cumbersome paper files with electronic records often done during the required inspections in the field using computer tablets. Tornow said reports are now instantly generated using a “simple checklist.” “It cuts down drastically on the administration site; as soon as I am done with my inspections I have almost a finished product,” he told Councilmembers. The new system cut costs 41 percent and time spent about one-third, he said. Tornow said the system he and the tech staff developed is “getting a lot of phone calls” from other cities interested in replicating the Burien system. “We are kind of on the cutting edge of it,” he said. The Council also granted City Manager Kamuron Gurol authority to sign two multifamily housing limited property tax exemptions for both the Merrill Gardens and Merrill/Legacy development that will be completed this fall near City Hall. Gurol will sign the agreements. Mayor Krakowiak said the exemptions would help the downtown core to become more fully developed. Fireworks and Bears Russ Pritchard reminded the Council that it banned fireworks and noted that some residents do not understand that means fireworks of any kind are illegal in the city. Pritchard is the retired chief of the North Highline Fire District. City Manager Kamuron Gurol also reiterated the fireworks ban in the city, and added that sprinklers in some parks could be used to douse any use of them, “and you can get a little wet if you try.” Then it was Todd Coughlin, former manager of the Highline Bears, who came to tell the Council of the current season at Steve Cox field in White Center (you can follow our coverage of the Bears here).]]>