EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was revised on Aug. 2, 2017 to correct a quote: Chaos, squabbling and indecision made for weird, conflicted Council session 1 By Jack Mayne Monday night’s Burien City Council special meeting to decide whether or not to repeal the city’s sanctuary law or place it on a public ballot failed, and no decision was reached, apparently violating state law. The meeting deteriorated into a nearly four-hour battle of animosity between Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz and other Councilmembers, especially Debi Wagner. City Attorney Lisa Marshall attempted to instruct councilmembers that state law required the Council to either repeal the so-called Sanctuary ordinance or to ask King County Elections to place the proposal on the Nov. 7 general election ballot. The Council did neither. Paid signature gatherers The sanctuary ordinance (#651) was targeted by a petition circulated by apparently paid signature gatherers, many of who came from outside the city. That ordinance was approved by a 4–3 vote on Jan. 9. It said city officials, police and contractors could not seek information about the immigration status of residents. Enough signatures were collected in July for King County Elections to certify it and turn the matter over to the Council to decide to either repeal the sanctuary ordinance or put it on the general election ballot. There was no provision in the Elections Department referral for placing it on the ballot on any other date but Nov. 7, said Burien City Attorney Lisa Marshall. To add to the rush, King County Elections’ deadline for measures on the Nov. 7 election ballot is today – Aug. 1. Since the Council did not ask the matter to be placed on the ballot, the city is technically barred from asking voters to decide. Manager, attorney seek answers However, City Manager Brian Wilson said City Attorney Lisa Marshall is researching the issue with King County elections. Marshall told the Council Monday night that it had two options for dealing with the certified initiative petition asking for repeal or a public vote on so-called sanctuary ordinance. The Council did neither after a filibuster and verbal onslaught by outgoing Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz. Many people testifying at the special session suggested it could be delayed until a February special election, which City Attorney Lisa Marshall said could increase the cost to the city of the election from an estimated $25,000 to “even six figures.” The ordinance – passed earlier this year – prohibits inquiries about immigration status in the city. That action is known as a sanctuary ordinance. The same policy has been in force with the King County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years, and that policy guides Burien Police officers, who are members of the Sheriff’s department. After nearly two hours, several members of the Council indicated they would favor placing the issue on the November election ballot. Then Lauren Berkowitz entered the discussion. She asked City Attorney Marshall if the Council had the ability to push the matter to a February election date. “You do not, the law is very unequivocal,” Marshall said, adding that the action should be passed immediately to meet the deadline for items on the November ballot. If the Council did not do anything, then “a taxpayer lawsuit is available to compel it be placed on the ballot which would cost you more money and gets to the same results.” Based on hatred Berkowitz then said it was fortunate and unfortunate the meeting was held “for, I believe, the fourth time we’ve teen discussing this topic. – those of you who have said we have not discussed it, you are incorrect.” She said thousands of people signed “knowingly or not knowingly, a petition based on hatred, fear and racism.” It was fortunate that the city came together “in solidarity with undocumented residents and their communities, which is all of us, and with people who practice minority religions.” The Burien ordinance is not the same as the King County ordinance, Berkowitz maintained. “It is stronger than the King County Sheriff’s, or even Seattle’s, because it also protects people in religious minorities.” Berkowitz said she originally sponsored the Burien ordinance “fully expecting it would be voted down by this conservative Council. It is only because of your activism and organizing that we were able to pass this ordinance at all,” referring to the many people in the Council chamber and the 41 people who spoke in support of it. She “respectfully disagreed” with those who thought putting he matter on the ballot would galvanize those who oppose it, but Berkowitz said she agreed with those who wanted an even stronger ordinance.” No stronger ordinance “We will not get a stronger ordinance from this Council,” said Berkowitz, who is leaving the Council at the end of the year because she decided not to run for reelection. She endorsed having the Council meet at varied times, serving food and providing child care and language interpreters for non-English speakers. “This would encourage more activism and also the inclusion of different kinds of people from the same five or ten people we normally see at a typical Council meeting….” Berkowitz criticized the “outside, paid signature gathers who often lied or misled to get the required number of signatures by five – five. I challenge you, don’t let the few who are intolerant win.” She said she would work with the opponents of the ordinance. Since there is not an option to push the issue back to February, she said she would abstain from voting on putting the issue on this November’s election ballot. Then she criticized Councilmember Debi Wagner for saying the fairest way to get a decision is with an election. “She is wrong. We all know that. We know that elections don’t tell the truth, the whole truth because we know not everybody votes,” Berkowitz said. Berkowitz also wondered if Wagner and other Councilmembers had signed the petition seeing the public election. Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta asked if a person who feels the petition signature gatherers misled people to get them to sign the petition, and is there a way to remove the signature. City Attorney Marshall said there was, but a matter of time before a decision must be made. Tosta said she got “many calls” asking about the petition and saying it was “hate-filled.” Chaos, squabbling and indecision made for weird, conflicted Council session 2 Berkowitz: ‘Do nothing’ Berkowitz said the Council should go the difficult path and do nothing about referring the sanctuary ordinance to the ballot and “support the original ordinance as we passed it.” Marshall said state law permitted any taxpayer to sue the city and “procure a decree ordering an election to be held.” She said it is the Council’s choice, but told Tosta there was some risk in delaying a Council decision. A few minutes later, she chastised the mayor for telling people they had to wait to talk, or applaud or make other noise, and that the mayor was violating the U.S. Constitution. City Attorney Marshall said the mayor could enforce decorum rules and could hold up the meeting until parties came to order. Krakowiak said, “As I understand it the city attorney says if the meeting becomes disruptive – the meeting is not possible to go forward – then a recess can be taken.” Despite her requests that the audience “please hold” their displays, there was applause and some shouting. Krakowiak recessed the meeting for about 15 minutes while many in the audience applauded, shouted and chanted their displeasure. Chaos, squabbling and indecision made for weird, conflicted Council session 3 Chaos, police clear crowd When the meeting was restarted, things became weird. Berkowitz immediately moved to adjourn the meeting. “I think we owe the public the ability to discuss this when we are awake and everybody can be here,” she said. “It is 10:30 p.m. and I don’t think we should be continuing to meet.” There was no second, so the meeting continued to sustained loud audience clapping and whistles. Krakowiak said she needed to be sure there was a supermajority of members who would vote on the adjournment but the clapping and chanting grew louder. Krakowiak declared a half hour recess. “This is not way to have city business and you are responsible,” shouted Councilmember Debi Wagner the length of the Council table to Berkowitz. “I’m not responsible for a petition I didn’t sign,” Berkowitz shouted back, with noise growing in the room. Forty-five minutes later, the Council reconvened and parliamentary chaos reigned. Councilmember Stephen Armstrong said the subject was “obviously important.” He wondered if they city attorney would have other important comments and Marshall said she had given the Council all of the relevant information. Krakowiak tried to get the chamber to order as there was still loud laughter and comments from the audience. Berkowitz kept demanding that her motion to adjourn took precedence. The mayor called in waiting police officers to clear the room, and later it was known that they warned that order had to be returned. A while later, the public was readmitted and visitors were orderly and quiet. “They listened to the police and were supportive,” City Manager Brian Wilson told The B-Town Blog Tuesday morning.]]>