[EDITOR’S NOTE: The 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:]
We read with dismay, a press release from the City of Burien, dated 5/22/23 responding to King County’s letter dated 5/19/23. We did not see a draft version of this response before it was sent, and this letter does not reflect our views. We are concerned about the damage it will do to long-standing relationships Burien city staff have built with our partners in King County. As with any relationship, trust is hard to build and harder to rebuild once it has been destroyed.
We believe that while police or sheriffs are hired by municipalities, their duty is to uphold the law, not to follow directions that they determine are unlawful. The city attorney & city manager may disagree with the county about how the law is to be interpreted, but ultimately neither city nor county, but the court of law decides such things, and we respect the county’s legal advisor’s belief that trespassing these individuals would not be upheld in the court of law.
KC’s letter informed Burien that its Sheriff’s office, which serves as Burien’s police department, is unable to trespass the unhoused people living on the City property at SW 152nd Street and 6th Ave SW. Burien’s council voted to lease that property. We were “no” votes, but presumably the majority believed that leasing would relieve the city of the obligations under Martin v Boise. Martin v Boise states that sleeping on public property cannot be treated as a crime if there is no alternate place for someone to sleep. In this case, there have not been alternatives provided.
The recent press release accuses the King County Sheriff’s Office of failing in its duty to serve the City of Burien. It defends the city against violating Martin v Boise by stating that we do not have a city-wide ordinance against sleeping outdoors. It blames the county for not providing alternate shelter for the people on city property. But Burien has not offered an alternative either.
While we share the frustration that a secure location has not been found for the individuals on the city property and agree that the current site is in no way suitable, we are deeply concerned by the tone of the response, which we believe lessens the likelihood of cooperation and collaboration with the County to find a suitable solution. We believe that our city should work to find solutions that respect the civil rights of every resident, regardless of how challenging that may be.
– Sarah Moore & Hugo Garcia
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