Here’s our recap of Monday night’s (Nov. 6, 2023) tense Burien City Council meeting, which at one point was halted so the unruly audience could take a “time out” after a 20+ minute argument over an email happened.
Council Reports: Public Meetings on Homelessness Issues
Councilmembers described their takeaways from two public meetings that occurred the previous day. One meeting addressed the possibility of a tiny home village or pallet shelter in Boulevard Park. According to Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling, neighbors expressed nearly unanimous concerns over the idea of an encampment there. They said their neighborhood is already struggling, and doesn’t have services for this proposed high-needs population. Councilmember Sarah Moore said that her Boulevard Park neighbors feel concerned about this possibility, especially in the face of losses they have dealt with since their annexation, for example losing their only grocery store.
The other meeting was hosted by Oasis Home Church, regarding the temporary homeless encampment going in at their site (520 S. 150th). Councilmember Cydney Moore explained that she is the head of the nonprofit working with Oasis Church to provide a temporary homeless camp. Residents of that neighborhood also expressed concerns and fears of having crime increase around the new encampment (read our previous coverage here).
City Manager’s Report: Encampments & $1 Million Dollar Deadline
The city has entered into a contract with Discover Burien to utilize the services of The More We Love to help the homeless find alternatives to living on Burien’s streets. City Manager Adolfo Bailon did not clearly explain why they are utilizing a middleman in this endeavor, rather than contracting directly with The More We Love (read our previous coverage here). The first project will be to help the remaining homeless move on from the Ambaum camp.
City Manager Bailon said that the camping ban is in effect now, as it started Nov. 1, 2023; however, the city is still working on outreach and education, raising awareness of the ban before enforcement. He said that he has received many comments and complaints from residents of the neighborhood near the Ambaum encampment who expected the homeless to be gone by now. He asked for a bit more patience, as the goal is to clear the area, rather than criminalize anyone. He said progress is being made, and there are now open spaces in what was an overcrowded camp. Some of the homeless have accepted services, and others have moved elsewhere. At this point, there is no hard deadline for enforcing the camping ban, but he did say they would have one soon.
Bailon then mentioned a letter emailed to him from the King County Executive’s office, warning of the impending Nov. 27 deadline for accepting the $1 million offer in aid they had offered for a homeless village back in June. The funds are ARPA money, which means they have to be allocated and spent on a specific timeline. According to the letter from Shannon Braddock, Deputy King County Executive:
“…if the City of Burien has not identified a suitable location by November 27, 2023, we will choose to allocate this money to support homelessness response through a different process and withdraw the current offer. The new process will still allow Burien to potentially receive the funding, but is not a guarantee of funding”.
Cydney Moore Challenges City Manager Bailon About Email; Meeting Halted for “Time Out”
Following the City Manager’s Report, Councilmember Cydney Moore took issue with the amount of time Bailon waited to share the news of the deadline for accepting the county funds. She said he delayed it by a week, and then lied about temporarily losing the email. Bailon said if Councilmember Moore had accusations about him, those needed to be expressed in Executive Session or they would constitute libel. Moore was adamant about airing her grievances and getting an answer from him during the meeting, and said she had already alerted the media to his actions.
Bailon averred that he was not trying to hide anything, and knew full well that all his emails were public record. The mayor and other councilmembers advocated for discussing the issue in Executive Session, and finally Mayor Sofia Aragon shut down the unruly discussion, saying the argument was inappropriate. Aragon said she already knew about the deadline and had been in discussion with Bailon about it previously.
At one point, Bailon and Moore got into an lively discussion as he tried to explain things:
“…there was an oversight on my part and it was an error. I can assure you that that happened. I can also assure you that if I was attempting to conceal something from the council, I wouldn’t do it through confirming an email message, because I am fully involved with the Public Records Request process, and I know that every document that is sent by the city through email is part of the Public Records Request process, so I can assure you that if I attempted to mislead council it wouldn’t have been by sending an email message, leaving a record.”
“But you did,” Moore responded. “You said you didn’t open an e-mail until Friday, so you discussed on Monday or Wednesday…”
“Also, I could also assure you that … I can’t assure all members of Council of this because all other meetings are one-on-one and there is no witness. However, my meetings with you are witnessed by Human Resources and in that meeting I can assure you that I confirmed with you that I spoke with Shannon Braddock and that we were going to receive a letter at some point that said that the deadline was November 27th…”
Things seemed to calm down, but then broke down again after the first few Public Commenters spoke, mostly scolding Bailon and Aragon or demanding they resign.
At this point Aragon had enough, and started scolding the audience.
“Okay, we’re going to recess for 10 minutes,” Aragon said as she stood up, pointing at the unruly crowd. “Clear the room right now. Right now. Right now. Up. Everybody out. I asked everybody to maintain order in this room and it hasn’t happened, so this is what we need to do. Go to the hallway. Time out guys…”
Soon, Burien Police Chief Ted Boe and other officials were escorting the audience out into the hallway for their time out.
Below is the raw, unedited footage of the altercation, starting with the end of Bailon’s City Manager Report, then into Cydney Moore’s accusations and the ensuing chaos and subsequent “time out” (running time 22-minutes, 56-seconds):
Public Comments: Tensions High Over Homeless & Manager
Over 20 community members spoke. One said they were alarmed by the email situation and City Manager Bailon’s conduct. Another requested that Bailon and Mayor Aragon resign and step down immediately. One mentioned that contracting with Discover Burien to hire The More We Love was just a workaround, since the organization has questionable practices. They said it is reckless to contract with them for so much money. Another person said that maybe Bailon should go back to California.
At this point Deputy Mayor Schilling was permitted to make “a point of personal privilege”, wherein he expressed that he was appalled anyone would tell our Hispanic City Manager to “go back to California.” He asked for an immediate apology. The crowd – and council – then became so disruptive that Mayor Aragon ordered the room to be cleared and they took a recess (as seen in the video above).
When the meeting resumed, Aragon read a rule regarding disorderly conduct, saying that if the behavior continued she would convene the meeting elsewhere, without the presence of the disruptive public.
Public comments continued, with one person saying the needs of the Toyota dealership shouldn’t be elevated over the needs of the homeless. Another asked what piece of the pie Cydney Moore had promised Oasis Church for taking on the homeless camp. They wondered how the organization would keep the promise of security & safety at the new camp.
Many people came out to discuss the potential Boulevard Park encampment, saying the neighborhood already has problems with crime, poor lighting, and a weak police presence. One said they are already seeing tents going in, and are really scared of the prospect of more. They said it is not suitable for a tiny home village, and one speaker implored the city to go with the Toyota lot downtown instead.
Others said they are against a camp anywhere in the city. One said we are being duped into accepting an outside problem, and that we had few homeless in Burien until Seattle did a sweep of their huge homeless camp. He said that since Burien allowed camping, many of those people came here and we saw a dramatic increase in the homeless population. He mentioned that the “housing first” model is a disaster doomed to fail.
Speakers asked the city to reject the $1 million deal, as it would put our youth at risk in any of the proposed locations. One mentioned that King County can use their money to house the homeless on one of their own properties, and that the current population of unhoused in Burien are the county’s responsibility. Others mentioned that even $1.5 million would be just enough to get started, not enough to keep it running successfully and safely. One said that it would further infantilize the homeless to simply provide this for them, rather than encouraging them to accept services or other resources available.
One commenter said he lives just two blocks from a very well run homeless village, and his organization, the Low Income Housing Institute, has not received any complaints from schools or the neighbors of any of the camps they operate. They have a strict code of conduct for residents, and case managers on site.
Another person thanked Bailon for being a centrist manager. She said Burien became a city to get out from under the thumb of Seattle & King County, and this pressure to build a tiny home village felt like a takeover. She said that The More We Love has a proven track record, and anyone who doesn’t support them has a hidden agenda and financial motivation.
Multiple people commented on the conduct of the council during the City Manager’s report, and asked them to deal with issues like these outside of public meetings so they don’t waste the public’s time. One stated that she expected the council to be much more civilized.