Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 1

Protestors held signs in the packed council chambers during Monday night’s meeting. Photo by Scott Schaefer.

By Jack Mayne

Burgeoning crime in Burien and the need for additional police officers spurred a large group of residents to spend over two hours at the City Council’s public comment session at the Monday (March 6) regular meeting.

The inside session followed a ‘Rally Against Crime’ outside council chambers, with dozens of upset citizens all wanting more and better police protection. Here’s a highlight video from the demonstration as shot by Scott Schaefer and originally broadcast live on our Facebook page (even B-Town’s infamous ‘Segway Guy’ was there; also of note, around 6:09 one citizen claimed that protestors were unfairly targeting the homeless):

Later, inside the packed Council chambers, citizens held up signs such as “Enough” behind speakers in the two hour-plus comment period where speakers get two minutes to express their views.

City staff said 38 people were calling for more police out of the 40 people who commented Monday night to Councilmembers.

Need to enforce laws
Former city council candidate Darla Green said “we don’t need more laws, we just need them enforced” and that youth need “safe pathways” to and from their schools and especially at the King County Library that shares the Burien City Hall building.

The “store director” of the Fred Meyer on 1st Avenue South said he was urged to attend and speak at the Council session by Darla Green.

“I can resolutely stand here today with no apprehension whatsoever that the Burien market is by far the most criminally active market I’ve experienced in my years of managing Fred Meyer stores,” said “Pete,” the store director.

He listed a number of ways the store tries to stop shoplifters, including an electronic device that locks up the shopping cart’s wheels if it does not pass through a checkout lane.

Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 2

Burien storeowner Robin Desimone (pictured above), of the Iris and Peony business across from Town Square, said she has issues about crime every day on SW 152nd Street. She recently had someone try to take trash from her hands when she was with her daughter behind her store. “I don’t want any more confrontations like this. I have gone through all the proper channels. I am not safe.”

“I need things to change and things to happen,” Desimone said. “I am not sure what more we can be doing; I believe it is something you need to be doing,” she said to Councilmembers.

Two teenaged schoolgirls told the Council they come to the library to check out and find books and “we don’t feel safe doing this. It is a real problem and it needs to be changed.” She said she gave the Council a petition she had school students and teachers sign asking for more safety at the library.

The girls said they have been yelled and screamed at by people at the library.

“It needs to stop, it is really bad,” an 8th grader told the Burien Council.

Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 3

Shootout at bus center
Trish Keaton (pictured above), who lives in Seattle, said her father – who has lived in Burien for 60 years – wanted to stay in Burien. In mid-February he moved into the recently completed Merrill Garden retirement complex a block from city hall and she told of planning a dinner with her father on move in day.

“What should have been a night of fun and celebration on my father’s first night at the new Merrill Gardens turned into a “gangland style” of gunfire and violence with “two groups firing hand guns at one another” near them, and “we are very lucky that stray bullets did not hit us although the window of the building to our right was shattered.

“The sound of the rapid gunfire and the sight of muzzle blasts were frightening.”

Choking up, she said, “I want this to be safe for all of you,” gesturing to the packed chamber.

“What efforts are underway by this city of Burien to clean up these gangs loitering and bad behavior engulfing the city center, what plans are in place to communicate with Merrill Gardens the advent of such violence?”

“Wow, Trish, what a story” said the next speaker, Sylvester Road resident Jill Esau.

Esau said although she has had six burglaries in “about two years,” she was at the Council on behalf of a friend who has had a car broken into nine times in the last year on Maplewild Avenue SW, and a friend walking with his two young sons on a late morning in Olde Burien who stumbled over a “passed out person late morning with two open beer cans next to him,” adding that another neighbor had his car alarm go off on a sunny afternoon and “he caught the guy on camera,” but the person “just wandered off with no sense of urgency.”

Seeing “all you regular folks at the meeting, all with your intense desire just to live you life in peace and safety … we can’t do that, can we?” asked Esau

Esau said she urged people “to keep this in mind in November and when we vote and we allocate funds … I want to remind folks we still have a Second Amendment and I, for one, hold a concealed weapons permit.”

Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 4

Parents ban the library
Lily Conner, holding her infant son, Asher, said she brought him to the area outside the library to eat lunch one day, but her son picked up a razor blade and now he has to be tested for infectious diseases “which is horrifying.”

People are asking why she would bring a child to “the most dangerous place in town – it is horrifying to be told that I am a bad parent for bringing my child to the library.”

Conner said others have told her that they ban their children from the library because they have seen people doing drugs in the bathrooms “or they have been assaulted physically or verbally.”

The library should be available to people “in a safe way,” said Conner.

“We are in need of more law enforcement officers,” resident Patty Janssen said, adding that the plan to have two more officers by mid-year “is not enough.” She mentioned the shooting in the city on Monday and “I can bet you that every officer was over there at that shooting; who is here to take care of what’s going on here, right?”

Janssen said the city’s gang unit was disbanded in 2014 and city does not have less gang activity, but less police working on the issue because the unit is gone.

She added the Burien Police are shy of the recommended number of officers per number of citizens.

Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 5

Berkowitz challenged
Chris Hemp (pictured above) said Dottie Harper Park might not be used for kids’ activities because of homeless and others harassing them.

As for the library at City Hall, “people sleeping in the library, watching porn, this is not a library’s intended usage, it has become unsafe for the kids.”

Upset Burien citizens 'Rally Against Crime' at lengthy City Council session 6“The one Councilmember who does not come to these meetings, ironically it’s because of safety reasons,” Hemp said to scattered audience applause.

The Councilmember he referred to is Lauren Berkowitz, who has attended only three Council sessions in person since January 2016.

“That is completely incorrect and inflammatory,” said Berkowitz over the telephone speaker as usual.

Mayor Krakowiak noted freedom of speech allowed Hemp’s remark.

Library defended
Key Dellaveccia said she is an employee of King County Library and “if you ever feel unsafe, we are always there and we do not discriminate. We are there if you have a problem – all you have to do is to come up and tell us. If you have suspicion you come up and you tell us. We have patrons call up and tell us and we have addressed it. I think we have done a remarkable job.

“Again, we will not discriminate” against the homeless and the issue is a national one, not just in Burien, Dellaveccia said. “The law has to change.”

People who have been arrested for drug use are put in jail, then freed to return to the community, she said, “that’s called insanity, doing the same thing over and over.”

City’s taxing limit
Resident John Upthegrove reminded the Council that serial ballot initiative purveyor Tim Eyman, proposed and the citizens of the state approved, that limits property tax increases to 1 percent per year.

“You may not agree with (the Council’s) spending priorities but cities, counties, the state – everyone is limited to 1 percent increase in revenue by their taxes.”

“If we want to have more police officers, and I do, I have a sign in front of my house that says ‘Beware of blind guy with shotgun’ – I haven’t had any problems.

“You are blaming the wrong people, we are the ones kind of to blame. We want more police officers; we have to figure out how to pay for them. They (the Council) can’t, they are limited to 1 percent per year.”

Upthegrove did not mention that the city could put a ballot measure on the next election ballot asking if people wanted to raise taxes higher than 1 percent, as several fire districts and some cities routinely do.