Here’s our recap of the regular Burien City Council meeting held on Monday night, April 17, 2023:
Police Chief Ted Boe Presents “Hot Blocks” Program
Burien Police Chief Ted Boe is trying something new in Burien, inspired by a similar program currently having success in Dallas. Through this program, Dallas saw a rapid 7% decrease in crime without increasing officer hours or cost. Other studies have shown between a 6% and 90% reduction using this tactic.
The “Hot Blocks” idea involves using heat maps of crime to determine where police presence should be focused, in order to prevent crimes from occurring. Police presence removes the opportunity and ability for criminal behavior. This program will present a “focused deterrence” model, using crime analysis to dispatch officers to areas crime is likely to occur.
“Hot Blocks” will be evaluated for effectiveness as a program after a 90-day trial.
Below is video of Boe’s presentation at the meeting (total running time: 17.53):
Mayor Sofia Aragon attended the US Conference of Mayors, where the top two issues cities are facing were homelessness and public safety. Mayor Aragon said that many local cities are partnering with King County Regional Homelessness Authority (KCRHA) to come up with regional approaches to the problem. KCRHA will be deploying staff in Burien to help homeless individuals find both beds and treatment, based on their individual needs. City Manager Adolfo Bailon will have weekly progress reports on how this is going, and KCRHA will meet with the city council in a month.
Schilling Makes Statement
Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling felt compelled to explain his position on the homelessness issue, which he said has caused the council to become politicized and divisive. He described his family’s work housing and helping homeless individuals over the years, and he has volunteered for years with various organizations that work to improve the lives of the homeless population. He asked that people message the King County Council, as the government needs to solve this problem regionally in order to increase shelter beds, treatment centers, and short term housing.
Schilling laid out three things he supports doing as a city:
- Enhance shelter space in the city by permitting churches and organizations to accommodate overnight guests.
- Continue to encourage and support staff to partner with regional builders of tiny house villages, to build one in Burien.
- Continue to provide Human Services with the resources necessary to coordinate services with Lead/Reach to communicate housing, mental health, and drug & alcohol services to people who need them.
Here’s video of Schilling’s statement (total running time: 5:19):
Multiple speakers expressed gratitude and pride in the council, Chief Boe, and City Manager Bailon. They thanked these people for their work on the homelessness issue, as well as the communication to the public about the process.
Some speakers said that the single Porta Potty, installed last week at the downtown homeless encampment, is not enough for the number of people using it. They asked to either get an additional toilet, or have it cleaned more frequently.
Sally Nelson, former mayor and councilmember, spoke about Burien Actors Theatre, mentioning that BAT has served the region for 40 years. They weathered the storm of Covid, including losing their physical venue, and are now performing at Kennedy Catholic High School. Their second in person show starts this Friday, April 21, 2023, and parking is free.
One community member said that Burien is getting a bad reputation regionally, stating that it does not feel vibrant or safe, and something needs to be done to make it a more welcoming destination without increasing taxes on residents. He suggested bringing in economic investments. Another said that the city needs to uphold trespass laws regarding private property.
General Fund Financial Forecast
Council watched a presentation on the imminent deficiency of funds due to rising costs for running the city. Cost of living increases in staff and police salaries make up the bulk of the rising expenses. Sales tax is the main revenue source, and it is expected to rise a bit, but not enough to meet expenses. The deficit is predicted to grow each year as costs rise, without the city increasing any services.
Three solutions were given for increasing revenue, in order to maintain the city government as it stands:
- Increase business & occupation tax – This could bring in $1.7 million for 2025’s budget.
- Increase tax on water & sewer from 8 to 10% – bringing in $0.4 million for 2025’s budget.
- Increase building & planning permit fees – amounting to $0.1 million for 2025.
These three changes are all needed simply to keep from laying off city staff, which would then result in service reductions.
Another possible source of revenue, a levy lid lift, would require voter approval and result in increased property taxes. According to other cities who have done this, it will take more than a year of “taxpayer education” to garner enough support for this to pass.
While no changes are required immediately, council voted to have City Manager Bailon bring them more specifics on any other possible sources of revenue, with the intention of making changes sooner rather than later to reduce impacts on staffing. Bailon reminded everyone that the city is already understaffed and overworked, so making cuts is not an option.
Camp Craz to Return
It’s too late for the 2023 day camp season, but there is strong support for Camp Craz to return in 2024. According to the presentation by Deputy PaRCS Director Casey Stanley, the camp historically breaks even on costs, but they may have a deficit if they can’t get enough participants the first year back in operation. However, all other local camps fill up quickly, and it is likely Camp Craz will as well. The 2023 camp has been contracted out to Skyhawks, a third party operation that is more expensive.
Charles Schaefer off the Hook for Helping Homeless Relocate
Rather than remove Charles Schaefer from his role as Planning Commission Chair, Deputy Mayor Schilling made a motion that the city just issue a statement that Schaefer and Councilmember Cydney Moore acted alone, independent of the city and without approval. This motion passed 4–3.
Looking for more City revenue? Do not underestimate the power of art tourism. A 300-seat performing and visual arts venue, like the one proposed by Burien Actors Theater, would add about $1.6 million per year in spending in the City, excluding what is spent at the venue. From a 2015 study of art tourism in Tacoma, Washington, “In Tacoma, for example, nonprofit arts groups generated $74.6 million in economic activity. Audiences of 2.7 million people added another $62.6 million in related spending for a total of $137.2 million for the city in 2015, and this generated $14.0 million in local and state government revenues and 3,656 FTE jobs.” https://www.artsactionfund.org/sites/artsactionfund.org/files/2022-03/WA%202022.pdf
The City of Burien and King County Police/Burien need to publicly release regular information on area’s being monitored under the “Hot Blocks” program. All City residents need to know what area’s of the City need extra Public Safety attention for civic transparency and knowledge. In addition KCRHA needs to step and show the residents of Burien what all that funding they received is actually used for, and take the lead in removing that encampment and any other that appear in Burien.
Leave a comment