[EDITOR’S NOTEThe following is a Letter to the Editor, written and submitted by a verified resident. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of South King Media, nor its staff.]

I am concerned by the meeting rule changes proposed at the January 22nd City Council meeting. I believe some of the changes being discussed will make it more difficult for people to have their voices heard and to share their concerns.

  • Among the proposals is one to change the meeting time from 7 pm to 5 pm.  Throughout the years, the 7 p.m. meeting time has allowed working people to get home and participate. A 5 p.m. start time would prevent many folks from participating. I thought we wanted to encourage participation.
  • Another proposal would discourage non-residents and non-Burien businesses from participating. There are plenty of non-residents who work in Burien or own property in Burien but not a Burien business. These people have legitimate interests in Burien and should be allowed to continue to speak.
  • Still another proposal would limit public comment sign-ups to individuals who have arrived early to the meeting or knew how to sign up online. It’s yet another way the Council is seeking to limit public engagement. Currently, if there is time remaining for comments, those who haven’t signed up to speak may do so. This proposal certainly doesn’t match council members’ pledge to ‘listen’. 
  • Perhaps the most alarming proposal comes from Councilmember Akey to limit comments to agenda items only. No more bringing up issues that are not on the official agenda. This proposal would be a great blow to the opportunity to air grievances in public or even to say good things about the city. Yes, people could email the council, but issues brought up by email will not be public unless someone is constantly doing public information requests now that the e-mails are no longer included in the agenda packet, meaning that others will not know and issues will be easier to “bury”. This proposal is seriously flawed and detrimental to free speech.  

These proposed changes add up to restricted TIME to speak, restricting WHO can speak, and restricting WHAT we can speak. They’re not only anti-democratic, but they’re also against what these folks all just campaigned on (i.e. hearing from all of Burien).

Please attend the 7 p.m. council meeting on January 29 and tell the council you want more opportunities for public input, not less.  You can also email the council at [email protected].

– Stephen Lamphear
Shorewood, Burien

EDITOR’S NOTEDo you have an opinion you’d like to share with our highly engaged local Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to [email protected] and, pending review and verification that you’re a real human being, we may publish it. Letter writers must provide an address and phone number (NOT for publication but for verification purposes). Read our updated Letter to the Editor policy here.

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5 Comments

  1. I was a school board chairman and I had to make similar changes. I have noticed at city council meetings here that some people get up every week and say the same thing. This is their moment to grieve, but it becomes tedious. Also, those who are not residents or local business owners should not speak. This is totally inappropriate. I have heard people advertising their services or other organizations. I don’t attend many meetings because they go on too long and late. There are those with legitimate comments and some who like to be in the spotlight. I am also old fashioned and don’t appreciate the foul language that I have heard at council meetings.

  2. The proposed changes outlined in the above letter are an effort to hamstring democracy. Implementing these changes would limit who would be able to comment on proposed Council actions. And it would also limit, or essentially block, the ability of Burien residents to bring forth issues that affect their neighborhoods and the City. Business owners who do not necessarily reside in Burien, should have a voice. Service providers, property owners and scores of other individuals should be able to exercise their democratic rights to speak to issues of concern. Some of the greatest moments in Council Chambers have been when students of the Highline School District have had their say. FYI – not all Highline students line in Burien. Other times have been when “expert witnesses” have spoken to their field of expertise. There are times when subjects may have escaped Council’s attention. The Council should welcome public input and make it as easy as possible to share thoughts and opinions. Do not give attention to a system that is not broken. There are much larger issues facing our City.

  3. Well put. The purpose of the City Council elected position is to Listen and Hear their constituents– so that they can Represent us.

    You have described who we are and why these changes will limit the Council’s ability to Represent us

    -A Constituent

    Thank You

  4. “Another proposal would discourage non-residents and non-Burien businesses from participating.”

    Having not seen the proposal yet, I can’t say for certain what EXACTLY the letter means by “discouraging non-residents”. However, the Open Public Meetings Act is VERY specific about ALL of the public being allowed to attend any meeting. As such, any discouragement of non-resident members of the public being able to attend would violate that act.

    “Still another proposal would limit public comment sign-ups to individuals who have arrived early to the meeting or knew how to sign up online.”

    Nothing in the Open Meetings Act prevents the city council from doing this.

    “Perhaps the most alarming proposal comes from Councilmember Akey to limit comments to agenda items only.”

    This item is the most bothersome to me. In the past we’ve had two regular council meetings and one special council meeting per month; only at the special council meetings were comments restricted to the agenda. This month there is no special council meeting, nor for the foreseeable future. Also, by limiting the comments for regular meetings, the city council may be violating the Open Meetings Act in the RCW.

    https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=42.30.010

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