[EDITOR’S NOTE: At the request of the Writer, the following is an updated/revised Letter to the Editor. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Council Members,

I believe your failure to act is causing Burien to default on it’s obligations to Residents and the State of Washington.

Defaulting has consequences. The State Legislature has been informed.

Burien Residents were explicitly told there would be no reduction in services with the 2010 North Highline Annexation. The State of Washington underwrote this promise with a 10 year Retail Sales Tax Credit.

Police protection is a City function and a vital service. Below you will see a 20% decline in Police presence after Annexation:

Officers per 1000 Burien Residents: Source KCSO

I see you bickering instead of redeveloping North Highline. Reducing Police protection has not saved Burien money; its cost Burien dearly.

Recent matters sidetracking the Council are:

  • Protestors
  • Firing City Manager Gurol
  • Emails in Council Packet

Sanctuary City
Lack of focus and Council inaction is losing Burien to social chaos.

The Burien City Council tolerates:

  • Declining Police presence and increasing crime.
  • Crumbling roads and an increasing Structural Deficit.
  • Noisy overflights from Sea-Tac Airport.
  • A downtown business district struggling to stay alive.

I see Burien adrift and rudderless in dangerous waters, with shoals approaching.

Typical Burien Council Meeting
It seems the Burien City Council finds it more titillating to squabble than govern.

I see this Council as a hissing 7 headed Hydra moving in 7 different directions. A recent example of how the Council wastes time occurred:

  1. 10/18/16: A Council Member’s spouse sent an email complaining about actions of other Council Members.
  2. 10/24/16: A Council Member responded with a rebuttal email.
  3. 11/07/16: The spouse of the Council Member used the Podium to continue the tit for tat war of words.
  4. 11/07/16: A Council ruckus ensued consuming 1/3 of the meeting. Nothing was settled.
  5. 12/05/16: The Council Member of the wife continues complaining from the Dais about the issue.
  6. 12/19/16: The Council continues to be sidetracked by this matter.

Squabbling expresses anger. Anger is like fire and it’s addictive. This Council appears drawn to that flickering flame of anger like a hapless moth, pulling Burien downward into the inferno. Meanwhile, as Burien burns, the City Council continues infighting; instead of fighting for Burien.

Types of Power

I see 3 types of power on this Council:

  1. Passive
  2. Passive-Aggressive
  3. Aggressive

Aggressive Members are loud and disruptive. They talk about Social Justice while ignoring their base. Instead of offering solution, they employ protestors. Protestors cause Police Overtime. Overtime is expensive and this money could have been used to help people.

The passive aggressive coalition plays coy: they talk Cops, yet don’t fund them. They are willing to sacrifice scarce money for a more expensive King County Animal Control, instead of CARES. Interestingly, after the CARES vote, they said adding two Officers would be financially non-sustainable.

The passive faction sits idly by instead of bringing order to the meeting. I believe this Council’s posturing is killing Burien.

Understanding Power
Power is not intractable. Power can be readily engaged by calling out inappropriate behavior.

Power oriented people are often emotionally immature. Immature people frequently bluster and sulk to manipulate. Oftentimes, they are rewarded for adolescent behavior by people like Neville Chamberlin. Like middle schoolers they:

  • Expect others to make choices they will like for them.
  • Are prone to passivity in the face of conflict.
  • Make excuses for inaction.
  • Become petulant when “forced” to make a decision.
  • Blame others for how things turned out.
  • Love justification.
  • Are often unfocused and easily sidetracked.
  • Become enraged over perceived slights and engage in revenge.
  • Love rebelliousness, drama and attention.
  • Lack clarity of purpose.

It’s normal for an adolescent student to have trouble setting and meeting goals; this is unacceptable for a Council Member. None of us were raised perfectly. Our task is to grow up when we leave home. Immature adults are best dealt with by establishing clear boundaries and dialogue. Dialogue is engagement with curiosity. Dialogue speaks to the adult side of people and gets results.

I am describing how an effective parent engages a petulant child: treat them like the age they act.

If a fellow Council Member acts like a defiant teenager, grounding is the next step. Being censured, in an open forum, is emotionally painful. If disruptive behavior continues, removal from the Dais is next. Burien is a 5 Billion dollar corporation, not a political playpen.

I believe the Burien City Council is in crisis. Its time to make a choice: drop your political dagger and move the City forward or resign.

Rebelliousness and Consequences
My Public Records Requests show 3 of the 4 (out of 7) Council Members that fired City Manager Gurol refused to review his performance. It appears the Mayor and Deputy Mayor are amongst the 3.

Altering rebellious Council behavior is straightforward: treat them like teens. Rebelliousness has consequences. Teenagers get grounded when they don’t do their homework; Council Members should be censured for refusing to do their job.
Censuring sets an important precedent. Every Council Member will evaluate the new City Manager fairly and objectively.

I also want the Council to require the 3 truant Council Members to submit their evaluations with:

  • Their expectations of City Manager Gurol.
  • Actions they took as individuals or collectively to actualize those expectations.
  • Specific items mandated by the Council he didn’t perform.

This information is an important part of trust building between the Council and Community. Residents are paying for your decision to terminate him:

  • 25K dollars for City Manager Recruitment firm.
  • Unknown thousands for a severance package.
  • Consequential losses in revenue due to disruption of City management.

I want these reports entered into the Public Record by February 15, 2017. It’s time for the Council to focus on Burien. To do less, will get us less.

Social Justice vs Economic Justice and The Question
The Question isn’t whether we should have Social Justice or Economic Justice, we need both. The Question is “How are you going to fund your proposal?” Money is required to make things happen in Burien.

Property tax, the low hanging fruit, is insufficient to grow the City and make it safe and desirable. Burien receives $1.60 per thousand in assessed value from King County: the maximum allowed by law. Our Police Budget exceeds Property Tax collection by 4.5 million dollars, thus we have insufficient Police and a crime problem.

Creating wealth to make Burien safe should be easy:

  • Find out what residents want.
  • Enact and enforce Ordinances, giving us what we want.
  • Hire and support the City Manager to implement our wants.
  • A safe and responsive Burien is where people want to live and shop, thus creating prosperity.

Council Members who want an ordinance, service or capital outlay should:

  • Identify the problem
  • Share how their proposal improves Burien.
  • Show how they intend to implement their proposal.
  • Identify new revenue sources to fund it.
  • Retail and Lodging Taxes could easily enhance your budget revenue stream. Both should be easy to expand. Vacant storefronts are available for immediate occupancy and land is available for hotels.
  • Burien’s Downtown Business Corridors need to be desirable if you want more revenue.
  • Pervasive criminal activities are not creating a Burien shopping experience people want.
  • More Public Safety is needed. The Council’s role is promoting safety and economic activity through proactive action.
  • Burien is a Municipal Corporation. Running a Corporation requires a different skill set than Politics. Business skills involve building value. Politics is about manipulating to divide and conquer through political mischief. Mischief is associated with immaturity.

Council Members need to use prudent judgment. Evaluating all information, facts, and opinions is more prudent than being dismissive. We need Council members beholden to Burien, not to their political orthodoxy.

Moving away from partisanship towards effective governance opens many doors. Burien needs collaboration not compromise. Compromise is a zero sum game: redividing a shrinking economic pie. No one wins with compromise; everyone loses,
and everyone goes home mad.

Collaboration, on the other hand, grows Burien. Every Council Member has a stake: every Council Member can win. Running Burien as a Municipal Corporation will grow the City. Running it as a political fiefdom will continue to impoverish Burien. I want you to grow Burien; not fight over a shrinking pie.

Common Ground
Homelessness and poverty require action if you don’t want to see encampments, panhandling, and drug use degrading Burien. Just as urgent, there is a need for more economic activities to make Burien prosperous. Finding common ground will make both happen.

Social Justice Members want services but aren’t willing to grow Burien to make it happen. Economic Justice Members talk about Hotels but don’t fund Public Safety to make Burien attractive for development.

Both sides spend time dissing each other instead of rolling up sleeves to make things happen. Both sides are going to have to move to the political center to become effective. The left is going to have to help make Burien safe, thus creating economic growth. Their Human Services budget receives 1.25% of City Revenue. More money for Burien equals more money for their cause.

The right is going to have to show their cards: is law and order just talk, or are you going to get out in front of this problem? A Referendum is one avenue for more Police. If not a Referendum, then what do you propose? Be specific, expecting “billions of dollars to pour out of the top of Trump Tower” to make your dreams come true sounds like

I believe there is common ground and its going to take dropping partisan stances to make things happen in Burien.

Point of Order
I want Council Members to use Point of Order to keep Business Agenda items tracking forward. Point of Order allows The Question to be deployed if a Council Member becomes uncooperative, expecting the economic pie to be divided instead of grown. Petulant Power does not like being called out. Calling them out sends a clear message: be prepared with your proposal and supporting facts.

Growing Burien
Reactive governance must be brought to a close if Burien is to grow and prosper. Working together will allow you to set a proactive stance for governing Burien.

Much needs to be done to reverse decades of neglect:

  • Crime is still a problem that impacts almost every aspect of the City and many Residents.
  • Retail Sales and Lodging taxes must expand to provide money to fund Residents needs.
  • Social Justice issues need attention, too.

All of these issues require collaboration. All of these issues are resolvable.

Rarely, are choices so stark. Time is running out. What is your choice?

– Dick West

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Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

7 replies on “LETTER: Revised ‘I see this Council as a 7 headed Hydra’ Letter to the Editor”

  1. Seems to me the Council takes its upon itself to decide important issues without consulting the community or allowing discussion or vote on it. Case in point – voting to make Burien a sanctuary city. I vote no – I know it sounds hard but we have enough problems as it is, we don’t need to invitee it. I don’t pay my taxes to support people who can’t or won’t support themselves – my husband and I have been through immigration and citizenship by the number – there are jobs out there they can work. I don’t want to see homeless encampments here – I see too many in Seattle when I drive in for business.

  2. Alternate suggestion: Retail sales and lodging taxes set LOWER to incentivize more of that activity, and as a result the city would get more revenue overall. There’s an economic principle called the Laffer curve that explains this.

  3. Very well articulated. Change is hard, and people will be pissed (someone always is) but it would be great for Burien!

  4. What a neat letter!

    Well thought out and well written.

    I have no data to support it, but I think that additional police protection could be paid for by deleting the additional cost of encouraging illegal immigration. Do awaw with the sanctuary city approach and enforce federal law.

    Airport noise seems to be increasing.

  5. I disagree Joey. Change is easy come election time. If there is too much childish bickering, maybe it is time for a change.

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