By Jack Mayne

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, City Manager Brian Wilson told the Burien City Council on Monday night (Mar. 16) about the city’s efforts to protect the health of the community.

He talked that the outbreak’s effects, and suggests people not attend public meetings if they are feeling symptoms that include fever, cough, or difficulty breathing. In addition, health officials recommend that people at “higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible, including public places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others.”

Eviction moratorium passed
Wilson said the Council was asking landlords to offer flexibility on household and commercial rental payments and urged them to work with renters to avoid evictions at this time.

The Council passed a 30-day moratorium on residential evictions and late fees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Many are just one financial emergency from not being able to pay rent, which is why we support them NOW, not weeks from now,” Councilmember Krystal Marx said.

Wilson lauds city staff
“I want to acknowledge the staff of our city who have just done a tremendous job over the last week and a half making preparations regarding providing service but also making adjustments in how we do business in order to keep city hall open, but, at the same time, protecting ourselves and the public from this pandemic.

He said King County health office are involved, but that a number of “private and public agencies that are coming together to respond to this crisis.”

“We understand that the community is concerned and that there is a lot of fear and stress in the community,” Wilson said. “This event will be transformational for our community and also for the region. That is why we are working hard to provide the support of first responders’ needs and to keep city operations going for as possible. They are working for as long as possible in partnership with schools, human service agencies and economic developer partners.”

The city manager said the city website is being kept up to date and keeping communication channels open.

Working together
Wilson said there were two items he wanted Council to support, with one being the Council support on an emergency resolution. The second item he sought Council support was a statement that all in Burien should be working together to get through the current virus crisis.

“None of us can go it alone. We must come together to make it through,” Wilson said the proposed statement reads. He noted that some would lose paychecks and “potentially their jobs.”

“We need you, our community, to help. By community, we do not just mean the residents of Burien, we also need our business community, housing providers, utility providers, local media and more.”

Utilities, landlords, restaurants
He said the city is encouraging the “local utility companies to offer utility payment assistance to their customers” and thanked some that have already offering assistance and reduced rates.

The city could “ask landlords for assistance to offer flexibility on rental payments, both household and commercial.”

Wilson said the city was encouraging “our community to continue support local businesses when possible while following Public Health orders.

“Many restaurants still offer food delivery or take out,” he said. “Consider buying a gift certificate from a local business. If you are able, consider offering childcare, deliver meals, and help your elderly neighbors (from a distance) — this is the time to be a good neighbor.

“We recognize the amazing generosity and can-do spirit our Burien community members are already showing. It is inspiring and heartening. We will get through this as long as we stick together.”

Proclamations
At the beginning of the meeting, which was not televised but conducted as an online conference call with members by telephone only, Councilmember Cydney Moore wanted a discussion of the current coronavirus, the virus first detected in China, and its effects on the local area.

Moore thought the Council should be discussing the outbreak and the ways the Council could assist Burien residents. She said any delays in helping Burien residents could “be devastating and deadly.” She said an item already on the agenda was, in her view, just about a proclamation about a “program that quickly connects runaway and homeless youth ages 12–17 to services by reuniting them with their family or providing them with emergency shelter.”

She wanted discussion of items beyond those outlined in the proclamation, Moore said.

In other action, the Council proclaimed March 15 to 21 as “Safe Place Week in Burien, a move meant to place runaway and homeless youth 12 to 17 in services by reuniting them with parents, to placing in emergency shelters.

Council also approved a proclamation on problem gambling and getting treatment that is effective in minimizing this harm to both individuals and society as a whole.

The proclamation said “numerous individuals, professionals, and organizations have dedicated their efforts to the education of the public about problem gambling and the availability and effectiveness of treatment.” It unanimously declared May as problem gambling awareness in Burien.