By Jack Mayne The new mayor sat down with this reporter last week to talk about his views for the future of Burien and to allay fears of those worried that a first Latino mayor will be a disadvantage to its city. “I don’t think you can create change until you bring some kind of unity to the community, ’til we can have community input what the growth to Burien looks like,” he said, noting that as mayor he chairs the Council meeting but does not set policy for the city – that is set by other Councilmembers. He says as mayor he represents the citizens of the entire city, and considers his job as giving “people a place to come and voice their views” and ensuring that Councilmembers have a place to discuss the views of the constituents they represent, including those who may believe he’s the wrong person for the job or question his ethnic heritage. Proud American “I’m a proud American, I was born here and I want what everybody else wants,” Matta said. “It is where my child feels safe, a place where I can raise my family, a place that is affordable. I want a place where my mother and family members, who are aging, have an ability to live in the city and not be moved out because of raising taxes” as they have fixed incomes. “When I moved to Burien it was a retirement place and people lived on fixed incomes and it changed. We have young families coming in starting to have children. We are building new schools.” Matta said that when he first moved to Burien it was hard to get school levies passed, but levies and bonds are passing and that is “investing in our futures.” He said that during the election campaign he heard from many people about problems such as homelessness, personal property theft, crime and mental health. The city’s sanctuary ordinance is an individual’s concern and the view is now that it is controlled by the Burien City Council. Police not controlled by city “No, it is not controlled by the Council,” he said. “We obtain (police) services from King County on contract so we don’t have our own police department. King County is going to regulate their every day business in rules and regulations of what their officers can and can’t do under the sheriff’s purview,” Matta said. “Now we have the right to sign a contract or not sign a contract but we need policing in our community. We are not a big enough city with enough funds to have our own police department.” “I think the sanctuary city ordinance was more having the (Burien city) staff not be able to ask people their religious backgrounds.” Matta added that the background of that request was because a former SeaTac interim city manager wanted to “start a registry of Muslims” in early in 2016 when SeaTac’s then-interim City Manager James “Donny” Payne asked the staff geographic-information systems coordinator to undertake a special project to gather data showing where Sunni and Shiite Muslim residents lived. Payne at the time said a “tactical map” of Muslim residents from census data would be useful “in case he needed to go into the neighborhoods to ‘make the peace,’” a later report of the issue said. Payne left SeaTac shortly after. No such registry was ever attempted in SeaTac and it was universally condemned by SeaTac city Council and staff. “If you violate the law that hurts someone, you steal someone’s property, you are involved in domestic violence, you are drinking and driving — that is why we created laws in this country, making sure that we can curb people’s attitudes. We want to be sure we can project the fabric of the community. “At the same time, we have had a broken immigration system in this country for a long, long time,” Matta said, “whether you are for max deportation or whether you are for general amnesty or just wanting to protect the DACA children, at the end of the day, I do think that, in our communities, we have a community that someone is in some kind of domestic violence … with a significant family member, they are able to call the police, or, if my child is walking down the street and someone hurts my child, and somebody who is undocumented sees that, I would like them to be able to pick up the phone and not be scared.” Can’t help ‘my heritage’ “I can’t help that I am a brown man with black hair and I speak Spanish, that my heritage is Guatemalan, I can’t help that. I can’t change it. I am am American. I was born here, I love this country. I love Burien, I love this community. I want to make sure I make the right decisions for the community as a whole. “I think I have been pigeonholed as ‘here’s a guy for Latinos, here’s a guy for undocumented people, here’s a guy that wants to break the law,’” Matta said. “I’ve heard those suggestions and perspectives, but, at the end of the day, I have a family. I wouldn’t want anything to happen to my family, just like I wouldn’t want something to happen to someone who might be racist or intolerant of me.” Matta said there is no reason why children should suffer any backlash or violence and “are as adults are here to make sure that our children’s dreams become a reality” and Burien’s businesses flourish. He said he will talk to and take in information from all aspects of the city’s population, and wants to visit all areas of the city to get to understand needs and desires of the people. Celebrate good Burien people “Let’s celebrate the good people who are in Burien. I think what has happened is Burien has gotten a broad brush of it is infested with gangs, infested with homeless, impacted with criminals,” the mayor said. “That is not the case. I have lived in Burien for 20 years and its got great people here.” “We have a lot of great people in Burien and we need to celebrate that,” Matta said. “We can sit here and point to everything that is bad but that is not bringing a solution to the problems.” He said he is still viewed as a Latino and not as the mayor, noting that people in a restaurant wondered if he was a cook or a dishwasher, not the mayor of the city. “Being the first one is tough,” Matta said. “In life, sometimes being first is tough, I know I have a higher bar” to overcome. “All I can do is give it my best.”]]>

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