Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 3.52.53 PMby Jack Mayne Months of rancor over a Councilmember’s use of social media finally culminated Monday night (Sept. 21) with approval of guidelines that permits a member to be censured if caught Tweeting during meetings. The Council has – for nearly two full years – been haggling and debating and trying to develop a form of Robert’s Rules that would apply to Burien Council meetings. The quest included hiring a professional to train the members in the rules, and develop guidelines that include making the Burien city attorney the Council’s guide to questions of how meeting conflicts are decided. It was apparent that the majority of the Council did not approve of Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz’s use of Twitter (@BurienBerkowitz) to “Tweet” messages on what was happening at the meetings. Her Tweets sometimes were just informative, other times they included her opinions on the behavior of other Councilmembers. Then it became known that any such communication while the Council was in session would be considered by the state to be a public utterance and, thus, subject to the Washington Open Meetings Act. That means the records of such communications have to be stored to be available if a citizen demanded to see them. ‘Express disapproval’ The proposal worked for a long time, then got restructured by the city staff, who said members using social media during sessions could be censured. City Attorney Soojin Kim told the Monday meeting that censure would not prevent the member from voting or participating, it just would be to “express disapproval” by the rest of the Council. The proposal said, “Councilmembers should refrain from the following … posting, sending or reading electronic communications while a Council meeting is in session …” Berkowitz said the standard for making rules on meetings is “not what you like, but actual disruption” and she suggested that there was no actual disruption created by posting a message, noting there was no disruption created during this meeting because she had been posting to Twitter. “You may notice I got quiet,” she posted. “That is bc (because) the council voted to punish tweeting during meetings w censure, thereby unconstitutionally silencing me.” She said she did not “appreciate the minimization of the harm that is caused by actual censure.” The B-Town Blog checked and found that Congress allows live Tweeting from the floors of both houses while they are in session. Many professions require censures be reported to their governing bodies. Berkowitz is a recent law school graduate and could be a practicing lawyer soon. Council censure would likely apply to her and could cause her trouble or even the loss of her license to practice law. “Although censure seems like not a big deal, the harm caused by censure … can be a huge deal.” She also maintained that censure was limiting speech and expression because of added impact of the penalty. “If the citizens do not like the way a Councilmember is behaving, the correct response is to remove that person from office,” Berkowitz said. No penalty? She moved to eliminate the punishment, or censure, for violating the ban on social media during Council sessions. If that is done, she said, for the first time, she could compromise and support the measure. Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta supported Berkowitz’s change to make actions “aspirational” rather than mandatory and subject to penalties. Councilmembers Bob Edgar, Debi Wagner and Steve Armstrong all felt that censure should stay. Wagner said someone with a potential of added punishment would be more careful to avoid that fate. Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said she also favored retaining censure because it is a part of Robert’s Rules of Order. The moved to eliminate censure failed 4-3. Berkowitz Tweeted this right after the vote: BerkowitzProhibitTweet Berkowitz told the Council this was a “great example of how the rules are being used and written to silence me, specifically as a Councilmember. I am the only one that tweets during meetings. I think the rule speaks for itself and I encourage you all to vote no.” She also said that waiting and saying something later was not acceptable to her generation and neither if it is televised because television was an “outdated media.” Robison said he found it disturbing that the move against Tweeting was from Councilmembers who were opposed to Berkowitz. The Council vote to take out censure failed, 4-3. Then the Council voted to approve the entire meetings guideline package, 5-2. School Police Officer questioned The city is trying to clean up its various contracts with outside agencies, and City Manager Kamuron Gurol asked the Council to approve a cost sharing agreement with the Highline School District for the school resource officer. Finance Director Kim Krause said most cities have such agreements where the schools pay part of a police officer’s cost and that officer then works in the schools and is available should there be behavior problems. The officer, usually at Highline High School, works with students in a variety of ways, not just disciplinary actions. The total cost of the officers is $151,000 and the city would pay half, or $75,500, Krause said. She noted that during the summer the officer is assigned to city police assignments, and the city fully pays that part of the salary. Councilmember Berkowitz opposed the resource officer, saying, “a tremendous amount of research” shows police in schools “actually increases the violence and crime in schools” that “are an extraordinarily safe place for children.” She said she thought the money would be better spent “doing other things – I don’t think the city should be spending money putting police in schools.” Councilmember Wagner said she has two children who attended Highline High and another is there now. Valuable Resource “I am aware of several incidents that could have escalated to a much more dangerous situation had that resource officer not been available,” Wagner said. “I do believe that parents believe there is nothing more important than the safety of their children.” With the reports of problems in schools around the nation, she said it was a valuable resource she supported. Berkowitz mentioned a study that says violence is actually going down in schools, despite the occasional major incident, and studies show the use of police officers in school “is not working.” Councilmembers then spent several minutes arguing over procedural rules while trying to decide whether to vote or whether Berkowitz could ask more questions and over whether points of order were appropriate. Ultimately, the decision of the resource officer expense sharing was off to a future meeting. In another action, the Council fired City Arts Commissioner Jhoanna Whyte because she has not been attending meetings on a regular basis. The Council voted unanimously to remove her and declare her position open to a new appointee.]]>

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

31 replies on “As a Tweet told you earlier, Burien Council outlaws Twitter during meetings”

  1. I am thankful that the Burien City Council has adopted a code of conduct that will let them effectively move forward with city business. We need our citizens to be properly informed about what is going on – not just one person’s perception. We are privileged to live in a time and place where we are able to be present at a meeting, watch it on our cable chanel, watch it on our computers/phones/tablets, or wait for the great summaries available on the Btown Blog.

    1. I Love Burien, Though I agree with most of what you say, I would bet money that we will not see “them effectively move forward with city business.” anytime soon. They will cave again and again to one Berkowitz distraction after another, just as in the past. I predict whole meetings on turning over cell phone data, followed by threats of law suits, followed by revisits to championing the homeless strife in Burien, etc. etc. etc. Not a chance of this ego seeing itself as anything but superior to the rest. In a way, on a much smaller scale, this is our ‘Sarah Palin’. A whiff of notoriety gone straight to the brain. I mean really beyond being an annoying side show, what does she have to offer? Good photo ops? The sooner we can move on, the better.

      1. Is it possible to be positive about something? your always so negative and never offer innovative fresh ideas…Nera etc…me me me me…

  2. L.B. has absolutely no problem being anything but a royal pain in the ass and thinking the sun rises and sets in her own. Studies the law, yet doesn’t think it applies to her. Wow!

  3. The sham continues. Once again we have most of a meeting spent with the council dealing with themselves. This is ridiculous. Can you picture the Seattle City Council getting away with this month after month? Who will the next ‘expert’ be, that they will hire (at our expense) to help them conduct their meetings?
    Mean while all the concerns of the city are left hanging. None of these people raise thoughtful suggestions for the concerns of businesses, parents, landowners. No proposals of any merit about our concerns. What a waste of time and money.

    1. You can put this “sham” squarely on CM Berkowitz shoulders. She “shamed” the voters, The other council members have no choice but to deal with her and waste time, energy and money doing so. You should be thankful we have Lucy,Bob,Debi and Steve that can counteract this petulant child. You should also hold accountable CM Totsa and Robinson for supporting CM Berkowitz in creating havoc at all of our expense.

  4. Pam F, What you say about Berkowitz may be true, but the inability for the others to deal with her, is just as intolerable. As I said, can you imagine Seattle (or Bellevue, or Tacoma) letting this happen for month after month? Each time a course of action to prevent Berkowitz from sidetracking the meetings has been decided upon, it has not been followed. Half hour limitation on discussion, as an example. Turning over email/texts is another. I don’t see, or hear the quality of leadership in any of these people.

  5. Lauren Berkowitz,”whine, whine, whine whine, me, me , me, me.”
    The State Supreme Court ruled that cities have the right to put restrictions on the uses of private electronic devices being used for city business by staff and council members. She knows that but still wastes the time of us all with her constant whines and threats. And Jerry Robison had no problem joining with Joan McGilton, Brian Bennett and Rose Clark to censure Jack over something that was not even related to city business, his private Facebook page. It was a get even by the four of them because Jack was opposed to annexation. And now ,”Robison said he found it disturbing that the move against Tweeting was from Council members who were opposed to Berkowitz.” What a roaring hypocrite he is.
    Mule muffins, the public safety officer has been in the schools for ten years and the police chief said it had not caused an increase in violence increase in crime in those ten years. Teachers do welcome that officer’s presence in the schools as it increases safety. But Lauren Berkowitz, Burien Whine Queen was still sure she knew more than the staff and police chief again.”Whine, whine.”

  6. L.B. has a mental disease. She creates a problem to solve and champions herself as a hero for taking on the challenge of solving the problem she created. Kick her sideshow off the council so the city of Burien can move forward. If she spent time trying to solve the city of Burien issues rather than her own she would get an ounce of respect but instead she is confused on why she is on the council to begin with.

  7. Which group of people are the ones “championing” no tweeting during a meeting? Armstrong, Wagner, Bob Edgar, and Lucy Krakowiak.
    How many hours have been spent on the “tweeting” subject? 40-50 hours? Not even including staff time!
    This is ridiculous!
    What are Bob and Lucy trying to hide by banning the quickest way to reach the masses?
    Don’t like what Berkowitz is trying to say? Get your own DAMN twitter feed! Explaining twitter to this Jurassic council is like trying to describe an iPhone to my 97 year old grandmother and just as rewarding.
    So much for community involvement! This council said they wanted more community involvement – as long as the majority can control the message and shut down the minority voice on the council.
    Disgraceful. Vote out Bob and Lucy – Bad for Burien!

    1. BS, enough with the victim act. No one is being silenced. She can tweet all she wants after the meeting. Unless you are saying she is incapable of keeping her thoughts together until after a meeting, you point has no weight. If you are saying that her thoughts are so important that they must be shared during the meeting then you hav been fooled by her narcissism-driven social justice warrior act. Nothing happens in any city council meeting that is that urgent.

      1. If nothing happens in meetings that’s so important to be shared right away why the 40-50 hours plus staff time to try and stop it?
        What are they, Bob and Lucy trying to hide?

        1. BS, it would have taken only a few seconds if LB had simply said OK. she fought for the 50 hours. As she is free to tweet away after the meeting there is no logic to the claim of obfuscation.

    2. You obviously like the L.B. kool-aid and that is your choice. Funny how she sends the poor me, they are silencing me tweet and takes zero responsibility in why they are wasting time on this. That is the L.B. leadership way. If it doesn’t go her way, drop to the ground and throw a tantrum. I understand what she is doing and what the rest of the council is doing. Can we get some adults elected?

    3. Wow, so defensive! Me thinks you doth protest too much!
      In any action it takes two to tango, and if I remember correctly it was Debbi Wahhhgner who complained about the twitter feed.
      What are they trying to hide by trying to ban the quickest way to reach Burien residents?
      Vote out Bob and Lucy – Bad for Burien.

      1. BS, you are so full of it. As much as I would like to see Bob and Lucy get a grip, we know who is bad for Burien, and it’s not them. The majority of the council says to stop tweeting and focus on the meeting. In a democracy majority rules. Nothing wrong with that. The NFL, NBA and MLB all agree that tweeting would be distracting for it’s players during games. So it goes. Times change and yet common sense survives and balances that change with experience. No need to malign seniors or your own grandmother to make your point. You will be visiting old age soon enough. Give yourself a chance to mature before you get there.

    4. Actually brain science indicates that you can not really do two things at once – you are actually paying attention to one thing and then another even if you don’t recognize it. So when a council member is tweeting he/she is paying attention to that and not to what is going on at the meeting. While taking notes or reviewing material might be necessary during a meeting, tweeting is not.

      1. So you’re telling us working moms out there that we are failures at what we do? Is that really what I am hearing? Millions of moms, insulted. Wow.

        1. Hey, working mom here – at least in the past. Check out the research. You can try to do two things at once, but what you are really doing is alternately between two things as quickly as possible. Try copying two sentences consecutively. Then try writing the sentences by starting with the first word in the first sentence and then the first word of the second sentence and continuing on two lines like that until both are complete. Bet you ended up copying the sentences in the first example much more quickly and accurately than you did the second example. Another good example is when the working mom (me) puts the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the refrigerator while taking a cell phone call.

  8. Hmm, let’s see, if you figure out what percentage of the meeting Ms. Berkowitz spends tweeting and then deduct that from her stipend, what would that be? Hmm, is it worth it? Then, figure out what percentage of the other member’s time is spent on dealing with her disrespectfulness to us the public for using up our time and resources, how much would that be?
    Her behavior and rudeness, is embarrassing to the adults on the council, and to the taxpayers who fund her position.

  9. Joey/BS; Again more BS from you and mudslinging. You who claimed on another B-Townblog string that you are too busy working to blog but constantly troll around the blogs-4 comments on this string. Humm? You still haven’t answered Joel A. Manning’s and Joe’s questions from the other blog string. Why no?
    How can the Burien City Council members work with a member who claims that her generation (30 to 40 yr olds) have no impluse control or ability to delay their own person self gratification? Perhaps due to her lack of impulse control, Lauren Berkowitz should never drive because she could kill someone while texting?
    Or how do they work with a council member who fails to even believe that people in the USA use their TVs because they are out moded? 99% of people in the US have at least one TV and watch it. Quote from meeting for Lauren Berkowitz,”She also said that waiting and saying something later was not acceptable to her generation and neither if it is televised because television was an “outdated media.”
    Lauren Berkowitz is a woman who is out of touch with reality at times and during council meetings in her own petty “me, me, I’m the most important person” world.She really cares little about Burien and its residents. Rules and censure are the most peaceable and democratic solution to deal with her, Nancy and Jerry. Democracy is a long and time consuming political process but it sure beats trying a rag in her mouth, burning her at the stake, stoning her or executing as other political systems do.
    As to Sandy S- you obviously have no idea of how bad some Seattle City Council or King County Council meetings have been. Burien’s look mild by comparison.
    Those council members who have to listen to Lauren’s rants meeting after meeting deserve nominations for sainthood. Lucy K. Bob Edgar, Debi W. and Steve A. have my vote and support.

    1. Jeff, You might be surprised at what I have an idea of, concerning running a council. You might consider that ‘saints’, who may have marvelous qualities, may not be a perfect fit to run a council, especially one that includes Berkowitz. We need some people who will end these months of distraction and ignoring the towns needs. I want some innovators who listen to the people and try to engage the community in more than just arts and parks. I want to see leadership that will set-up meetings that will stay the course against individual grandstanding. If one of these people has the balls to truly manage, great. But, so far I have yet to see it. They have been whimping out again and again. And in more ways than dealing with Berkowitz.
      As to the comparison to other city councils, yes they certainly have their flare ups, but the point was that they would not allow one person to prevent city business from being taken care of for months, on end. It might behoove our council to take a peek at how such grandstanding has been taken care of in the past. Of course, that is assuming that they are not benefiting from the distraction! But, that is another topic for another time.

  10. Oh Sandy S- Democracy is a messy form of government but it sure beats Dictatorships and cementing political opponents into the walls of the stadium. The history of the City of Burien has been riddled with one or two people on the councils for years who hold up progress by their tantrums; 1. the demanded change to the Comp Plan called an emergency that inflamed the residents for two years, 1999-2000, 2. the Shoreline Master Plan that held the council up with its in fighting for 6 years, 3. the insisted upon annexation of White Center/Area Y that paralyzed the work of the city staff on other things for 4 years; just to mention a few things.
    Other cities have had like issues; 1. the City of Pacific that suffered for years trying to get rid of their mayor, 2. the City of Des Moines where the council members have fought with each other for years, 3. the City of Normandy Park that seems to fire its city manager about every 2 years, 4. the City of Federal Way that has fought over its form of governent for years with citizens, 5. the City of Ocean Shores that changes it form of government about every 7 years for who knows what reason, etc.
    The State of Washington has been fighting about; 1. how to fund and budget for education for at least 3 years now and has fought for years about it. There have been at least 2 Supreme Court decisions about it. 2. the Dept. of Transportation that is always fighting about funding,ferries, how to fund them, bridges, toll roads, Bertha and dumping it on the legislature who fights about it, etc. All these area of govt. have their Whine Queens like Lauren, Re-write Queens like Nancy and single topic, disgruntled Legacy Kings Like Jerry who hold up business.
    And then there is the Federal government, the Congress that has been fighting for the last 8 years and seems to have gotten little to nothing done.
    Dictatorships are much more efficient forms of govt. to get things done but Americans don’t seem to want that form of govt. This means that city council members who are trying to move the city ahead have to work around and create rules and sometimes laws for those members who do not want the city to move ahead. Yep, it takes time and is annoying
    but it is not unique to Burien. Too bad impeachment takes takes so long, is so costly and is why very few politicians have ever been impeached or even silenced. Whine, Whine,
    Whine Lauren Berkowitz knows that and that is why she keeps up her nonsense. In spite of that, look at the downtown;things are moving ahead. Enjoy the lemonade being made around the few council lemons.

    1. yea, and then there was Joan M as bossy pants Mayor! UGH….Burien is still in a turmoil from her tantrums! Spare Me!

  11. I normally dont get involved in political b.s like this but I just read those tweets from that Lauren Berkowitz, What a twit, er I mean tweet. *lol*
    Lauren, you may be a nice person, I dont know and dont really care but,
    Going from what I just (your brat-like tweets) I realize you have no business even being on the council.
    You are there to pay attention to the issues at hand, not looking down at your *%%#$% phone like a teenager in the school cafeteria.

    1. Hey startyourown most people on twitter sound a little dumb at times you try to tell a whole story in 140 characters or explain a idea in full detail in 140 characters. Also to type a tweet only takes a few seconds. The council meeting have plenty of times were not much is going on for a few seconds.
      Now I don’t really agree with Lauren Berkowitz on her political B.S. ether But it seems odd for the council to shut one person up for using a form of technology that the other council members could easily use to. I think the council needs to learn how to use social media in the right way to help get the word out on some topics.This could help in getting more people involved in politics of burien and maybe actually get things fixed up and done quicker if more people get involved and vote and pay attention to what’s going on.

  12. Jimmy says, “explain a idea in full detail in 140 characters”
    That Jimmy, is exactly what meeting minutes are for.
    Not just one side of the coin but notes taken from the meeting from all members on all sides of all the issues.
    By a neutral party.
    Not all of us tweet or twitter or whatever they call it or even carry a cell phone.
    And thats all I have to say `bout that. *lol* Goodnight

    1. So startyourown if you know how to view and post a comment on this blog then you should be able to figure out how to use twitter.People that use twitter can also understand that Lauren Berkowitz tweet’s are her own opinion and not everyone’s opinion in the city council on a situation. But then again if you want a read a council meeting minutes go right ahead but a there usually a few a hundred pages of mostly lawyer nonsense. Now if the council used twitter they could post a link to certain page of the minutes that explains what ever situation is going on so then people would not have read through the hundreds of pages of lawyer nonsense and get to the point.Then maybe more people in the city would that it is not a much of a burden or pain to get into politics in burien. Getting more voter turnout could help things out.
      Startyourown how many people do know that don’t carry a cell phone the number is most likely very limited unless you’re in some type elderly home or mental facility.When there are smart phones for $30 even the low income have cell phones

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