[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The B-Town Blog, nor its staff:]
A volunteer experience in Burien.
I have volunteered in numerous ways for various causes in my decades of living in Burien. It had always seemed worthwhile and productive and I continue to do so. However, I will not volunteer again for a city program as long as Brian Wilson is city manager. When I volunteered for a position on the Burien Parks Board, a friend commented that he thought I was overqualified due to my extensive experience on boards, councils, etc. I didn’t realize that was actually a warning.
When the Parks Dept Director (since retired) mentioned that the city was going to build a pipeline thru Eagle Landing Park to dump stormwater directly into Puget Sound rather than allow it to infiltrate into the ground and enter Puget Sound as clean groundwater, I asked why. He said we didn’t have time to discuss it at that meeting. The board member manual states that any board member can request that an item be added to the agenda of a meeting. I did so. The request was ignored with no explanation. When I moved to add the item to the agenda at the start of a meeting, the motion was defeated in a 3 to 3 vote. The chair and staff seemed to be under strong pressure not to allow any discussion of Eagle Landing Park. As a result, my questions strained our relationship. Most board members simply wanted to go along to get along and similar later efforts were also defeated.
I continued to ask city officials, via email, why the city was building the pipeline. I was referred to others or to documents I had already read but the question still remains unanswered by the city management. The City Manager even referred me to engineering studies that essentially said the pipeline was pointless.
In spite of the city secrecy policy, using Public Records Requests and other sources, I believe the pipeline was built (just recently finished) because the city made changes to the inflow into the park that resulted in a large landslide on adjacent property. The excuse for secrecy seems to be concern about a lawsuit (a seemingly common issue with this administration). But since the city held update meetings on the progress of the pipeline with the affected landowner, that is a flimsy excuse. A more likely reason is that the City Manager just doesn’t want the public to find out about an expensive arbitrary decision. Of course, we couldn’t talk about this in a board meeting.
I pointed out to the city council (and others) that the city requires private property owners to handle stormwater (on new construction) on site but the city was proposing to spend $600K to take stormwater that was being naturally infiltrated on site and dump it directly into Puget Sound. The council then added a requirement that the pipeline stormwater be treated. That seemed like a good idea at the time but the water treatment cost alone rose to $200K. I suggested to the City Manager, Parks Director, Public Works Director, the Parks Board and the City Council that we could consider investing that money in other locations and treat much more stormwater. All ignored fiscal responsibility in favor of political expediency. And the Parks Board never discussed it.
These were only some of the issues regarding the storm sewer pipeline thru Eagle Landing Park and clearly it was the duty of a responsible board to discuss them.
The panic evacuation of the Annex is a similar but briefer story of an arbitrary unjustified decision. That can be best illustrated by one council member who listened to the City Manager’s summary of the consultants’ reports and supported his closure because “every consultant said we should close the Annex as soon as possible”. The truth is that not one consultant said that or even implied there was anything hazardous about the occupancy of the building (other than some minor fire safety issues that were quickly resolved). The strongest caution was that any one doing construction or destruction should be given a copy of the asbestos study so they would know of its presence. The Parks Board never truly discussed this issue either, in spite of obviously conflicting data, and simply rubber stamped the city manager’s proposal to tear down the Annex as soon as possible.
On June 1, 2020 four city council members (Matta, Marx, Moore, and Aragon) voted for the City Manager’s campaign to remove me from the Parks Board for violating the board Code of Conduct, although I had never even been declared out of order at a meeting nor had the chair, staff or anyone in city management even talked to me about my conduct.
Anyone who will blindly accept information and vote as the staff wants will be welcome on the Parks Board. Anyone who takes board responsibilities seriously should be very very careful.
– Lee Moyer
Former Parks Board Member
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