By Scott Schaefer
On the (unlucky?) morning of Friday the 13th (May 13, 2022), the Burien City Council held a special online joint meeting with the Burien Economic and Development Partnership (BEDP) to discuss how to enhance communication and collaboration between City Council and the Burien business community.
This was the second joint meeting between the two groups (the most recent one was Nov. 12, 2021), and it appeared at times like they were going through some kind of group therapy session – following Robert’s Rules of Order, cordially sharing concerns, responding politely, but at one point, directly confronting each other over a social media comment made by a councilmember in 2021.
As listed in the agenda packet, the BEDP made several recommendations with the aim of “having a productive collaborative discussion with Council at the May joint meeting”:
- Clearly defining the role of the BEDP in accordance with Council expectations.
- Formal process for Council to respond to correspondence from advisory boards.
- Council representative selected to attend BEDP meetings.
- One regularly scheduled annual joint Council/BEDP meeting.
The BEDP also recommended making the city website easier to navigate, City Council meeting roundups and information easier to find, and an easier way to reach out to Council.
Friday’s meeting started with a brief presentation by Burien Economic Development Director Chris Craig, comments from BEDP Chair Robyn Desimone and Vice Chair Linda Akey, followed by an open discussion between the two groups led by Mayor Sofia Aragon.
The meeting was mostly cordial and professionally conducted, but one confrontational issue was brought up by BEDP member Josh Halpin over concerns about a comment made in 2021 by Councilmember Cydney Moore.
“Finally, and I think this is where things really went off the rails, is that please refrain from making disparaging comments against the business community when they express concerns or disagree with Council decisions,” Halpin said. “This is directed at Councilmember (Cydney) Moore. Many members of the Council privately condemned these words, but nothing ever became public, and there was never any kind of acknowledgement publicly.”
As many of our Readers may recall, Councilmember Cydney Moore posted a comment on The B-Town Blog’s Facebook page – that many took offense to – last May regarding business owners and their negative responses to the proposed DESC affordable housing facility:
“Also, our small businesses can learn to share this neighborhood with the people who live here, or they can find somewhere else to do business. That’s all there is to it. I have and will do my best to support our small businesses (it was my idea to give them thousands of dollars in grants – i.e. free money – from the city to help them through covid, for example), but not at the expense and health and welfare and lives of our people. Sorry, not sorry. Either you are part of this community, or not. Our community includes our vulnerable populations, too. They have just as much of a right to be here as any business, and i will always – ALWAYS – prioritize people over profits. Health and safety of our people will always come first in my mind, and that’s not going to change.”
After Halpin criticized Moore, she responded:
“I think that we do need to engage respectfully with each other and with our community, but I would caution people to recognize the fact that every person on our board and on our Council has the ability and right to express their own individual opinions, not speaking as the voice of the board or Council, or city, but engaging with our First Amendment rights, which has been a contentious issue with our City Council previous years past so we do need to acknowledge that we are not always going to agree and we are entitled to our own opinions and we are allowed to speak to that,” Moore said.
“This has been touched on earlier – please respond when a member of the business community petitions the BEDP,” Halpin later said. “Dan House came in, asked for some help and some representation because he did not feel seen or heard, and to my knowledge, there was never any kind of public response to that.”
The special meeting didn’t end with any hugs or tears, but instead with a motion to direct the City Manager to work with other advisory boards and commissions to find out what their recommendations are, so “we can all move forward with implementing all recommendations at once.”