by Jack Mayne The Burien City Council on Monday night (Oct. 13) passed an ordinance on parking and impoundment of some vehicles but only after some acrimony involving three Council members. The Council voted five to one to adopt the state statute as a city ordinance to permit the city to prosecute violators rather than have the county prosecutors handle the cases. Councilmember Steve Armstrong was excused from the meeting. Before the final vote on amending the regulations, Councilmember Berkowitz said she was concerned about the Council making poverty a crime. ‘Criminalizing’ being poor “I just want to reiterate that we have made significant steps in the past several weeks of criminalizing people who don’t have any way to make income and I think that this ordinance would just be another way to make sure that … we can further criminalize people for being poor or having low income,” Berkowitz said. “I urge the council to not to pass this.” Councilmember Nancy Tosta said she wanted to respond to Berkowitz’s comments. “I certainly do not intend to criminalize homelessness or the economically disadvantaged. That is not the intent of any of my votes,” she said. Then, turning to Berkowitz next to her on the dais, added, “I don’t appreciate being accused of having said that … it is not the case and the intent. What we are trying to do here … is to help Burien, as a community to be the kind of place where many people want to live and can live and handle it well. “It doesn’t help being accused of something that certainly isn’t my intent,” Tosta said to Berkowitz. Councilmember Gerald Robison told Berkowitz, “If we only passed legislation that we thought was perfect, then nothing would ever get passed. “I don’t think it is proper governance – you are not showing proper leadership if you take a position that I am just not going to vote for it because I am unhappy with part of it,” Robison said. “The bulk of the ordinance is needed. There are issues in society with people who don’t have money being at a disadvantage in many situations. That is just part of modern life – it doesn’t make life any harder on anybody than it already is and, so I don’t think it is a perfect ordinance … I am not going to vote against it just for that.” Berkowitz did not respond to either Tosta’s or Robison’s comments and was the lone vote against the final adoption of the parking amendments. Retrieving vehicles Earlier in the discussion, Robison wondered about difficulties in reclaiming impounded vehicles. “If it is a rental car agency, they can show up immediately and get the car out of impound, just by paying the towing fees and impound fees, but nobody else has that privilege.” Robison moved to change the ordinance to allow anyone to get their car back immediately after paying fees. City Attorney Craig Knutson said the city can make some changes in state law when adopting it for local enforcement, but cannot change the part noted by Robison. The Council voted four to two not to make the change. Berkowitz and Robison voted for the change. Impound fees, problems Burien Police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan said if officers can determine who the vehicle belongs to, “we have extended ourselves dramatically trying to make sure that every opportunity is given to anybody who shows up in my office.” A person stopped for impaired driving but has a spouse or other non-impaired person in the car “we actually would avoid the impound and release the vehicle right at the scene to that other person and if that person is not there, they can come and immediately come and appeal that process and we do everything we can to get the vehicle back to them immediately if they have a driver’s license and insurance.” McLauchlan said police frequently “go out of our way” to waive the $100 administrative fee, “recognizing we have folks who are unemployed or have different financial problems. As soon as we waive that fee, the vehicle is released immediately.” The “sticky part” of the law the waivers are “only available when we are available.” To which Robison said if a car is impounded the night before Thanksgiving it would be a problem and the police sergeant agreed. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz said, “the police force does a great job in enforcing the laws and I’ve said that many times when I disagree with the laws,” but she did not see a reason to add the state law to the city’s statutes. “If we were to successfully lobby to change the state law, we would still have this Burien ordinance.” The city attorney later said if the state law were changed, the city would need to amend its ordinance and police would not continue to enforce that part of the city ordinance. Passage of the change, Knutson said, “I think it would subject our ordinance to legal challenge on the basis it would be inconsistent with the state law.” Berkowitz moved for removal of a section of the proposed city ordinance that specifies that a vehicle impounded because the driver was arrested for a violation of driving while a license was suspended for non-payment of fines or for driving with a license suspended by another state. “I am not as concerned about people accused of driving under the influence as I am about people accused of driving while poor,” Berkowitz said. The Council voted four to two not to remove the section, with Berkowitz and Robison voting for the change. Robison then wanted to know if people whose car is impounded got anything in writing to inform them about how to reclaim their vehicle. McLauchlan said the back of the impound form has the rights for people and the information on how to reclaim the vehicle printed on it. Wrong way parking Robison also brought up again the ordinance against people parking on the wrong way on narrow and less crowded residential streets. “I still fail to identify any safety issue with that,” he said. Sgt. McLauchlan said people expect cars pulling out from parking be in the proper lane of travel, and not crossing a lane of travel to get to proper one. He said other parked vehicles might obscure the view of oncoming traffic, be they pedestrians, skateboarders or other vehicles. In other business, the Council at Monday night’s special session (Oct. 13) gave final approval to an ordinance adding theft of rental property as a crime and adding Burien’s portion of the 2014 King County Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan update. The members also approved two proclamations, one declaring October 13-17 as “Discover U Week and one honoring City Attorney Craig Knutson (see story here). It also heard reports of city department heads about goals completed and those set for the coming new biennium.]]>

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

19 replies on “City Council approves parking, impound law despite ‘criminalizing’ charge”

  1. Berkowitz moved for removal of a section of the proposed city ordinance that specifies that a vehicle impounded because the driver was arrested for a violation of driving while a license was suspended for non-payment of fines or for driving with a license suspended by another state.
    “I am not as concerned about people accused of driving under the influence as I am about people accused of driving while poor,” Berkowitz said.
    So, according to her, if you make an individual choice to break a law you should not be punished? They need another break instead of being held responsible for their actions they made in the first place to owe a fine or having your license suspended. What does poor have to do with it? Oh wait, you needed to throw it in there to make yourself feel like a saint.If you are poor and break the law you should get a free pass instead of being responsible for your personal decision to break the law.
    Glad to see her making decisions for Burien, you represent yourself well Lauren.
    Keep up the good fight.

    1. You may be missing the point. To someone working with a good job, a $100 fine is an inconvenience. To someone with a minimum wage job, or no job, a $100 fine may be difference between eating for the full month, or rent, or having no heat.
      If you have never lived close to the edge, or you are lacking in empathy, it is hard to understand that for some, what to you may be penalty is to them a crushing burden. It does not mean those with the least means should get a free pass, it’s just that they should not be destroyed over a relatively small infraction. I believe all Council Member Berkowitz is looking for is proportionality in punishment.

      1. Eric,
        Respectfully you may be missing the point. Being poor has nothing to do with making bad choices. To get your license suspended you had to get a ticket and fail to address it. I know Joey Martinez thinks that suspended licenses just appear on your record magically but in the real world they appear because you choose to ignore a responsibility to address your ticket. Every ticket has a phone number you can reach to address it and make arrangements to pay your fine and avoid further fines. Berkowitz wants those who will not take self responsibility to be given a free pass but only if this person is in a certain class that she specifically designates. She wants to be her own hero of her own special group, She labels people poor when she should be calling them citizens of Burien instead of segregating us.

      2. Eric,
        Well said. The system of fines is very regressive, as is our tax system. To those with reasonable wealth, a $100 fine is not a big deal. To those just getting by it is a major crisis.
        If that fine represents a fourth of a week’s take home pay it is a much greater hit that if it represents only an hour or two of work.
        We should modify our system so the culprit can not pay a fine with money but must work it off in community service or jail time (depending on the severity of the crime) at the minimum wage. That would be even punishment for everyone (and maybe change the mind of a few on what should be the minimum wage).

    2. Every council meeting Ms Berkowitz gets up on her soap box and lectures everyone about the big social problems confronting this country . She needs to take her tin foil hat off and get down the unexciting job of governing a city.

      1. For all of us who knew better than to vote for her we just laugh at how ineffective she is serving the City and the tasks she should be focused on. At what point do you think she will lick her liberal wounds, come down off her high horse and quit being such a absolute distraction. Like you said, the hard work sucks, just like someone on the council.

        1. Being the “Lone no vote” was something that Mayor Lucy Krakowiak has prided herself in over the years. Seems Council Member Berkowitz is following in her footsteps.

      2. Burien don’t feel bad. SeaTac has 5 Berkowitz’s on our City Council. The unions simply bought our 2011 election by spending more on that election that ALL other elections put togther for their candidates prior to 2011 since our incorpoation in 1990. Our un-elected Mayor Gregerson is now running for the 33rd District Legislature and is the our Queen Berkowitz. In 2011 she spent 7 times her opponent and won by 28 votes so no one can tell me that your vote doesn’t count .
        I wish you the best but see:
        for what you are facing in one form or another.

  2. Driving while license suspended in the third degree is the least serious of the three levels. It generally means that you owe some money to the Department of Licensing. If you pay the money then you can get your license back.
    Where people run into problems with DWLS 3rd, is the simple fact that if they had the money they would have paid the fines. The Court’s penalty for DWLS 3rd can be jail time but is more often fines – which of course only compounds the underlying problem.

  3. No, what it comes down to are two things – CHOICES and CONSEQUENCES! If you are old enough to operate a vehicle, you should be familiar with those terms.

  4. This is a study of Washington state in particular.
    In our state, Washington, the state does not need to show proof that you have been served or notified that your License is suspended. Most people guilty of DWLS don’t even know they’re driving with a suspended license until they get pulled over.
    Most of us can pay the hefty fines associated with DWLS in the 3rd, however, if you can’t pay the bill the government keeps adding penalties for failure to pay and on and on. Read the article… it’s good.
    Thank you Council Member Berkowitz for fighting this ordinance.

      1. A vote for Ms. Gregerson is a vote for Mr. Martinez just at a state level by proxy. The mind set is identical. If that is what you want…….

  5. Wait until Berkoitz sees the article on KOMO about the squatters on 116th, she will come out saying junkies and scumbags need a place to shoot up they have no right to be at.

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