Here’s our recap of the Burien City Council meeting held on Monday night, Jan. 22, 2024:
Proclamation for Human Trafficking Awareness Month
Human trafficking involves the use of force, fraud, or coercion for sexual exploitation or labor. According to the proclamation, Washington was the first state to criminalize human trafficking, in 2003. It is estimated that there were 27.6 million people trafficked worldwide in 2022. Assisting victims requires the coordinated effort of community agencies and law enforcement. The proclamation was accepted by representatives from Seattle Organization for Prostitution Survivors. This organization is made up of survivors of human trafficking, and collaborates with Burien police as well as The More We Love to help victims locally.
Proclamation for Korean American Day
The first Korean immigrants arrived in America 121 years ago, on January 13th. Since 2007, January 13th has been officially celebrated as Korean American Day. The 17th annual Washington State Korean American Day Celebration was recently held at Highline Performing Arts Center. Burien welcomes and celebrates the traditions and contributions of all Korean Americans.
Empty Bowls Event Coming Friday, Jan. 26
Councilmember Sarah Moore wanted to remind the community of this upcoming event. Empty Bowls is a popular annual gathering where a simple meal is served and participants get to take home unique handmade bowls. The minimum donation is $20 for adults and $10 for children, and both lunch & dinner times are available. Proceeds support both the Highline Area and White Center food banks. Find the details here.
One commenter mentioned a homicide suspect who was harbored for a time at the Oasis Home Church homeless camp. They said charges are being brought against the suspect.
Several commenters shared concerns around homeless activities at Highline United Methodist Church. The church has been serving as a severe weather shelter, and community members are seeing a change in the neighborhood. These changes include scattered drug paraphernalia, human feces, and break-ins. Neighbors say they have had the added cost of increasing security measures, with the growing homeless population looking for anything they can steal. They say the church is not doing background checks, allowing criminals to stay, and that the coming day center will have no barriers to entry, meaning anyone can come regardless of criminal record.
The previous council allotted $200,000 for a homeless day center at the church, but people are asking council to revisit this decision. According to one speaker there will not be security at the day center. Casa Italiana is one neighboring business, and they say the neighborhood was not consulted or able to provide input about the homeless services at this church, which are negatively impacting the community.
One speaker said people should wait until the day center gets going to assess it, adding that it might improve the situation for the area it’s serving. The day center could provide the services homeless people need to get out of homelessness. Later in the meeting council showed support for discussing the day center at a future meeting.
One speaker asked council to find ways of raising revenue, rather than cutting costs by eliminating essential services. Another speaker asked for a timeline on the tiny home village, and suggested the community be given periodic updates.
According to one speaker, the 2010 census showed no homeless people living in Burien, highlighting the change in recent years.
Potential Modifications To Council Meetings
Council discussed several possible updates to the public comment period. Councilmember Linday Akey brought several ideas to the table, including prioritizing Burien residents and business owners, and not extending the comment period for people who did not sign up in advance. Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora added that she thought speakers should be required to state their city of residence along with their name. There will be a draft of these changes discussed at the next Study Session.
In addition, Councilmember Alex Andrade received support for discussing moving the council meeting start time an hour or more earlier. This will be a topic of a future meeting.
Garbage Collection 10 Year Contract With Recology
Staff recommended Burien sign on to another contract with Recology, after receiving bids from both Recology and Waste Management. The service was nearly 10% cheaper with Recology ($13.5 rather than $14.8 million per year), plus staff noticed a real difference in how the companies are run. According to the presentation, Recology employs more people who actually live in Burien, and more of the Recology employees participated during meetings with city staff.
Recology also runs the Recology Store, which is a popular spot for residents to take hard to dispose of items, like batteries and lightbulbs. Waste Management does not offer something similar, and proposed a much higher fee for doing so.
Staff found that both companies are unionized so workers are similarly compensated and supported. Even though it is cheaper than WM, the new contract with Recology will come with steep rate increases. A standard sized trash bin will jump from $31.52/month to $49.71. The rate increase is basically being seen everywhere, and is due in part to the value of recycling being down.
Several business owners and residents have spoken out against Recology recently, for missed pickups and failure to respond appropriately to complaints. Recology is actively working with city hall to fix these issues, and it was mentioned that if anybody is not getting a good response from Recology customer service, to please call city hall immediately. The city needs to know about any problems with this service provider and can help resolve issues.
The new contract passed in a 4–3 vote, with Councilmember Jimmy Matta, Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora, and Mayor Kevin Schilling opposed. The new contract begins in June 2025, and will come with new colored bins for recycling, garbage, and yard waste that will be consistent with nationwide standards. Customers will still be able to have one large item hauled away for free each year, if they call ahead. The company also committed to a live person being available to speak to within one minute of calling customer service. In addition, the new contract comes with 90 hours per week of litter pickup service.
Public Safety Ordinance 820 Passes
This ordinance amends the code to disallow the storage of old vehicles filled with refuse on private property. According to City Attorney Garmin Newsom, these vehicles become not only eyesores but habitat for vermin. He specifically mentioned that this ordinance does not include vehicles being used for actively cleaning up a property, which may temporarily be filled with garbage. This ordinance will generally only come into play when neighbors complain about an abandoned vehicle that is left filled with trash for weeks or months.
Councilmember Hugo Garcia said he was not comfortable directing property owners’ behavior on their own property. City Attorney Newsom then listed many ways our laws already direct behavior on private property. This ordinance passed in a 4–3 vote, with Councilmembers Sarah Moore, Hugo Garcia and Deputy Mayor Stephanie Mora opposed.
Watch full video of this council meeting here.