by Jack Mayne From the beginning of the Burien City Council’s Monday night meeting it appeared it would be a fast and orderly session, but as is becoming normal for this Council, nothing is easy or simple, even giving final approval of changes in the slow-coming redo of its guidelines for conducting its work. The plan has been gestating for much of the year, and it has caused many contentious debates and parliamentary maneuvers. Monday night (Aug. 17) was supposed to be the final work on the final part of the City Council Guidelines, its working rules. That was not to be. It took over an hour to do what had been slated for 30 minutes, but micromanaging and turf struggles won over calm action. Work will have to be finished some night in the future, even next year, hoped a Councilmember not seeking reelection. Procedures questioned Mayor Lucy Krakowiak said the Council would follow the “slightly different” procedure introduced at the previous meeting. Those provided that the first Councilmember who speaks is followed in order of the member seated to the left for two rounds of questions before considering a vote or more questions. Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz, who was absent the previous meeting, said she did not like the procedure. She thought it “restricts debate and is not a natural flow of debate” because if she “really agrees with or disagrees” with something a member said, she would have to wait until “it comes all the way around” to comment. City Manager Kamuron Gurol said the questioning of each Councilmember in order “would add a little more structure to your current process” and seemed to have worked at the meeting Berkowitz missed so he suggesting continuing to do it that way. Councilmember Bob Edgar questioned the part of the proposed Council Guidelines that limited the number of pages of a written citizen letter or document submission to 25 pages when they are duplicated and placed in the pre-meeting Council Packet. The Council just recently reinstated the practice of putting most letters and documents addressed to the Council into the packet, making them available to members and also the general citizenry. “Simply a way to have a bit of a paper saving,” said Gurol, adding that larger documents “would always be online” on the City website. The limit was to “keep the Council packet to a reasonable size.” This week, letters took up 116 pages of the packet, unusual in the number but also that there were many letters referring to previous actions on the Council Guidelines. The limit also reminded Council followers that Berkowitz had complained that all of the hundred or more very lengthy letters objecting to the so-called “trespass” ordinance were not completely duplicated for the packet. Most of those letters had lengthy copied material with precisely the same wording which was the reason stated for eliminating the duplication in the packet. That elimination of duplication was strongly protested by Berkowitz, an objection she continues even now. What is correspondence? Thus began a Council debate over minutia in the Council Guidelines that went on for over an hour. Deputy Mayor Tosta wanted “a broad spectrum” of the communication in the packet; Councilmember Debi Wagner wanted the current system where the mayor works with the City Manager to decide what is in the packet – and why was there a page limit? City Attorney Soojin Kim said staff added the limit as they tried to craft language to describe the packet contents for the Council Guidelines. “Councilmember Berkowitz suggested that we didn’t have a positive definition of what is and what is not correspondence to Council,” Kim said. “This is just a preliminary attempt to describe what it is.” She said the Council could decide on further guidance to the staff on the definition. Kim said that Wagner’s suggestion of having racy terms redacted was not part of the staff proposal. “I think the redaction might make it difficult because … it is somewhat subjective of what is and what is not inappropriate unless it is really defined very precisely,” said Kim. Wagner said she thought the earlier motion to return constituent mail to the packet also returned the methods used then, but Gurol said the Council had eliminated the language describing those methods when it took the correspondence out a few weeks ago. In effect, if you want it back you have to add it to this new document. The city manager added that Council members were getting “a little concerned” about the page limitation, but “that is an attempt to simply be practical, it is not an attempt to be exclusionary or to introduce criteria or extra process.” Ban profanity? Other than the 25 page limit, “the process would return to our old policy where the mayor would redact things that are deemed inappropriate by certain criteria like profanity – other than that we would have everything going in?” asked Wagner. Berkowitz asked if it were legal to ban profanity. “I’d rather discuss that with you in a confidential conversation, but generally I recommend that the Council stick with criteria that defines what is and what is not correspondence …” Kim said. “If there was an interest in eliminating profanity I think it would be very difficult for staff to go through and eliminate every word that may be profanity.” What followed next was a lengthy back and forth over whether the questions were done and the body was ready to make a decision. Robison said as long as members had more questions they should be able to ask them. Then he wanted to go from questions to discussion and then to action, but, no, said the mayor, there needed to be a motion; then a back and forth with the mayor over cutting off questions. What is a letter? It even got back to Kim, who said the Council needed a two-thirds majority to cut off questions and limit debate. She recommended the mayor allow all questions before moving on to debate. The allocated 30 minutes to discuss and debate the Council procedures was about up, but the discussion went on. What is a letter that would be published in the packet and what isn’t? Gurol also said that many citizens don’t follow the instructions on the city website on where to send letters, but the staff tries to make sure the correspondence goes to where it is intended. Councilmember Bob Edgar moved to remove the 25 page limit on materials included in the Council packet and that citizen action requests be sent to the Council members in addition to going to the appropriate city staff persons for action. A long, nearly impenetrable discussion then took place over wording and defining who gets to see and needs to see what terms, the staff for some kind of action or some type of general policy the Council needs to set or elaborate. See all complaints Tosta wanted to see all complaints from citizens, even those being handled in due course by the city staff. For example, if a complaint of a pothole comes in the day after the packet in produced, she would like to have that complaint sent to her immediately. Nearly an hour into the discussion on the Council seeing in their packet information from citizens, after motions and amendments to amendments, the city manager finally suggested moving on. “I would be nice to see progress on this and put these issues to bed,” Gurol said. Berkowitz then said she opposed the changes in what material was to be included in the packet. “Community engagement is my top priority, personally I don’t this actually contributes to community engagement and I think it fosters a lot of resentment as mistrust amongst the Council members,” she said. The Council did not agree with her. Krakowiak, Wagner and Armstrong favored the inclusion of citizen complaints in the regular packet and joined Edgar, who originally made the motion. Berkowitz, Tosta and Robison voted against it. [caption id="attachment_89380" align="alignright" width="225"]Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 3.15.38 PM Three Tweets Councilmember Berkowitz posted during Monday night’s meeting. Click image to see larger version.[/caption] Texting/Posting/Tweeting decision delayed The next item was to be an inclusion in the Council guidelines prohibiting texting and or publishing on social media during meetings, but the mayor noted the Council was well past the original half hour for discussing guidelines. Berkowitz, who is the only member to have posted during meetings, and thus the only member to be affected, thought it was time to move on. “We keep hearing from citizens that we should move on and actually discuss real things … so I think its time to move on to the next item on the agenda.” When the mayor polled the Council, most said move on to another item, including Robison who suggested the item be postposed to January, which Armstrong laughingly pointed out “you’re not going to be here.” Robison is not seeking reelection. The city manager said the matter could be added to the agenda for the Sept. 21st meeting, and the city attorney agreed it was legal to move on to other items. Get rent control Resident Rob Johnson told the Council his 85-year old mother had to find a new place to live because her landlord “decided to raise her rent over 20 percent. This is wrong and it is shameful,” he told the Council. He wanted the Burien Council to join “Seattle Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Nick Licata in urging the state to lift the ban on rent control which should be the city’s right to enact if they so choose.” Frequent Council commenter Ed Dacy said he thought public comments on an agenda item should come after the city staff makes its report on the agenda item because the staff’s report often would answer many questions the public may have.]]>

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

27 replies on “Contentious Burien Council debate stalls completion of working guidelines”

  1. Go figure, Lauren B. doesn’t want any citizen complaints about her included in the packet. Why, afraid the printer will run out of paper and overheat from the massive amount needing printing.

  2. City of Burien Councilmembers: DO YOUR JOBS! Enough of this petty, non-productive council inaction and try and do something meaningful.

  3. If the Burien City counsel can’t behave like adults, perhaps they need replacing at the next election.

    1. You know the comment from “Charles” was not made by me because I know the correct spelling of council. As in a deliberative body, not “counsel” as in legal counsel. All my letters in the CC packet are addressed “Dear City Council” so nice try.

  4. Time to cut the in fighting about every little detail… Yes the “devil is in the details.” But enough already roll up your sleeves and get to work for the people who voted for you!!!!

  5. As a resident who normally keeps up without commenting, it has finally to the point where I must say what is abundantly clear here is that Burien lacks City Council members but gained activists. The Tosta/Berkowitz/Robinson trio are trying to wrestle control from the whole, while shaming Burien in the process. What happened to having elected city officials actually serving the city in which they were elected, not using the very city in which they serve as a personal backdrop for pet projects. Tosta with her Bel- R Government should run a small business and let the tax payers pay for it, Berkowitz and her vendetta against hard working home owners and Burien as a whole and Robison sitting as a lame duck Council Member due to his (failed) annexation support This rhetoric must stop if Burien is to move forward.

    1. As a Pam F. myself (Pam Fernald) I wanted to make it clear that I am not the Burien resident Pam F. who posted above on August 18, 2015 at 6:17 pm.
      I do post as Pam F. when I post on blogs- and this is the first time I have seen another Pam F. so wanted to be sure the August 18 post if not attributed to me.

  6. This City Council packet contained a 73 page letter from a citizen that the City Manager and the City Attorney failed to mention at this meeting. The letter relates to a Public Information Request that the citizen has made according to the Public Records Act. He made a request for communication records from Lauren Berkowitz and Nancy Tosta. From the letter and documents he has received, it appears that both of these Council members failed to comply with Washington State Law. They appear to have denied or refused to turn over their communication records. Likewise the City has still not provided its records to him. He has been waiting 5 months for their records.
    As both Berkowitz and Tosta have made big issues about transparent govt. in public, it makes one wonder why they are not willing to turn over their correspondence and comply with the law? From the few documents Berkowitz has provided and that are included with the letter, it is apparent that she has been organizing protests against the city and the other council members from her personal email and cell phone texts..She has been responsible for helping to dispute and drag out council meetings. I encourage all B-Town Blog readers to look at the Correspondence to the Council Record for the 8- 17-15 Council meeting packet. So again why wasn’t this need to comply with the law by the two council members at least mentioned by the City Attorney or the City Manager at the meeting especially when correspondence for the record was such a hot topic of discussion?
    And no Department Of Justice case was mentioned at the open Council Meeting. So why is Berkowitz Twittering about one?

    1. Especially CM Edgar. Blaming everything on City Staff about his reading the news. I mean we know you’re up for election and all but what happened to “the buck stops here”?
      Take ownership man!

    2. Does the city have an Archivist or Records Manager to make sure that what is supposed to be kept is indeed kept and properly catalogued and stored, and requests handled or is it just a catch as catch can, whenever some staff member gets around to it set-up?

  7. Rob Johnson, bless you for sitting through that meeting, to ask the council to consider the issue of pricing seniors out of their homes. It is a very serious issue for seniors who rent, as well as their families, whose lives are also thrown into a whirl to figure out what to do, to help their loved-one. Curious how it is understood that seniors on limited/fixed incomes deserve a break on their land taxes, public transportation and utilities, but not on their rent? One answer might be for a co-pay program to help with any rent raised more than 50% of the yearly cost of living adjustment. With the yearly cost of utilities, food, care-giving, etc. ever growing, the meager cost-of-living raises of Social Security are hardly sufficient for a slight rent increases, let alone a 20% increase as your mother was asked to pay.
    I hope that your mother has a new home where her needs are considered. I also hope you find this post and will keep us up-dated. My prayers to you both.

  8. Wake up Burien…your being suckered by a bunch of Yahoos! This is ridiculous and a total waste of time. It will only get worse. The council and city government is totally dysfunctional. The council and city government ought to be ashamed of themselves for this nonsense! How dare you perform this circus for the citizens of
    Burien? You look and act like total jerks and could care less about your sworn responsibilities.

      1. Just keep in mind there are candidates aligned with Berko and her Socialist adgenda. Vote cautiously.

  9. I was at the meeting before this one when certain cm’s were absent and things seemed to go very smoothly. Funny how when you are not pushing personal agendas, other things can get done.

  10. So, did you all get the Burien Magazine this week? Wondering what you all think of it? You know me, my first thought was, What did this cost us? Then I wondered what the time line was from it’s conception to mailing. Who was working on it, rather than processing city business? Other than a lot of smiling faces and a nice fresh whitewash, just what is it’s purpose?
    Scary to think of all of the people who don’t know of the council meeting antic, and many other details of city business that will be taken in by this pretty little bit of baloney.

    1. Most likely Nancy Tosta wrote it! Airey Fairey and not the down at the heels drug dealin, alcohol, vagrant youth Burien I know as my hometown…talk about a white wash? On the weekends we continue to watch vagrant youth urinate on the entrance to City hall from the back parking lot and on the left window to city
      Hall chambers… And constantly public drinking and urination in the .city Hall park. Who cares the city manager, police chief, economic development manager etc. don’t live here so who really cares? Sad but life as it is in 911 call center language “Boorian”. Your calling from Boorian? Yes, I am calling from Boorian but you won’t really understand…

    2. Cost…..Advertising usually pays for publications like this.
      Purpose…..It’s a magazine. They usually show the good, positive and optimistic stuff.
      I liked it.

  11. Yep, the City Manager did have to have a CTJ disciplinary moment with some staff members for turning on the newspaper on to the Council members computers. The staff members control that feature from their desk stations while they are waiting to do their presentations to the audience. If Lauren Berkowitz knew her city computer station better or was paying better attention to what was going on, she wouldn’t have jumped to such a dumb conclusion about council members reading the newspaper. Instead Lauren focuses the greater portion of her attention to her cell phone texting and thinking of ways to attack the other council members and the staff. She now has the council record for rudely attacking all the other members of the council and all of the city staff for something or another. She has publicly announced the staff can’t be trusted and has argued with every city attorney constantly. Now Lauren appears to not be obeying the law on open records law. She needs to go but she is not up for re-election until 2017.
    Nancy Tosta;” the queen of the endless, dead end questions, another scheme to buy her pet project greenhouses at citizen expense and where to place the comma”, has also refused to turn over her emails and likewise appears to be in violation of the public records law. She needs to go too but she is not up for re-election until 2017. What to do? Perhaps this council needs to consider censure for both of these council members who refuse to obey the rules and the state law.
    Jerry Robison is a lame duck that is not up for re-election and all he does at the meetings is talk a lot, urge Lauren and Nancy on in mischief. argue and look for ways to disrupt the meetings. Three seems to be the magic number to disrupt and stall things from getting done because it takes a 2/3s (5) vote to close down excessive discussion and these three know that and play that game with their voting. Wagner, Armstrong, Lucy K. and Edgar are hard working council members that bring sense to the council, work for citizens and businesses and don’t constantly attack the staff. These 4 council members are worthy of keeping on the council and the citizens are lucky to have these people still working for them after all of the out of town thugs Berkowitz brought in to try to intimidate and scare them from doing their council jobs. Do watch who you vote for in this election and please don’t elect any Berkowitz clones or pals to the council.

    1. This post is so far removed from reality it’s a joke.
      Trying to say that someone is violating the law and then using it as “proof” is just sad and disgusting and is exactly what is wrong with America today.
      Vote out the incumbents!

  12. Be careful about calls to, “Throw out the incumbents”. That’s how we got stuck with Berkowitz in the first place. Anybody with open eyes can see that that Berkowitz, Tosta, and Robison’s strategy is to create so much disharmony on the council that the voters will be disgusted and vote out the 2 incumbents running. That means that at least two of their allies will be elected, giving them control of the council. I’d even venture to say that the people on this blog advocating fo “Throw out the incumbents” are allied with BTR. Vote wisely my friends.

    1. Oh they are indeed connected. Berkowitz Joey Martinez, Bell and Giffin. And I’m sure Upthegrove is involved.

  13. Did you all know the the famous “Son of Sam” serial killer in New York City has the last name of Berkowitz. Honest factual truth and may explain ???

    1. The Mayor of Anchorage, Alaska is Ethan A. Berkowitz. You can verify that on Wikipedia. It’s all part of the conspiracy. Do I need to draw you a chart?

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