by Jack Mayne What was intended to be a simple discussion of how the Burien City Council wanted to spend $55,000 on how to provide care for homeless people in the city turned into a marathon battle filled with numerous “Points of Order” and contentious debate over some members believing their right to free speech was being curbed. The members never made the decision on how to spend the money on homeless persons this year. The Burien City Council did stir up the potentially contentious issue of allowing the car-owning homeless to live in their parked cars on the city’s municipal parking lot and also in tents in other city parks. A decision will await a city staff review and report at a later meeting. The night was reminiscent of a long ago time when then U.S. Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy put into popular lore the term ‘Point of Order’ during infamous Army hearings in the 1960s. Last fall during budget discussions, the Council increased homeless services money for by 25 percent to $55,000 for both 2015 and 2016.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: An earlier story reported other actions at Monday’s meeting – read that here.)
Vouchers for food An idea under consideration are gift cards and vouchers for food, but Councilmember Debi Wagner said she had concerns about these “because people trade them” for money or they can be used at some stores to buy cigarettes or alcohol. City Manager Kameron Gurol said the city could include safeguards for such services, including gift cards that can only be used for food purchases. But homeless advocate Lauren Berkowitz said people who are homeless have “no less right on how they spend their money” than anyone else, adding she found “that line of reasoning pretty offensive.” Other agencies make it a crime to sell food stamps and have people to enforce it, she said, which “is a much more effective way to do it than to say the bad acts of a few punish everybody.” The city’s municipal parking lot is located on SW 151st near 8th Ave SW. Homeless in cars At the start of discussions on how the Council wanted to spend the money this year, Councilmember Gerald Robison suggested looking at a “car camp lot” and said the municipal parking lot “has a very low utilization rate right now” and could be used. “The car camp lot is something we could put into effect very quickly and at very little cost,” Robison said. Councilmember Berkowitz said she “thought it was a great idea” for a vehicle camping lot and combining it with mobile showers or laundries, suggesting that would decrease the need for police to use the trespass ordinance and “decrease city liability.” Car camping is “outside the scope” of land use regulations, said Gurol, and would need more research by the city staff. “We don’t know if we have a significant population of homeless in cars that could use a homeless car park or if more of our homeless don’t have access to a vehicle,” Deputy Mayor Nancy Tosta said, but wouldn’t mind the city providing if it was really needed. She suggested hiring a person trained in evaluating and helping the homeless population be available to find out what the needs really are and then next year begin providing money for added services. “Studying something is a good way to avoid doing it,” said Robison, adding that the police say there are people sleeping in cars on streets and utilizing an under used city facility. Berkowitz said she shared concern for knowing more about the people who might need services but “overriding that is that people are living without basic services and basic human rights” and recommended the city provide a tent encampment and car encampment facilities. “I am not in favor of car camping or overnight camping in the parks,” said Wagner. “This creates a lot of problems. ‘Point of Order’ Berkowitz said not giving direction to the city staff on spending money appropriated to help the homeless “is a wasted opportunity which this Council does a lot – discuss, do nothing.” At that point Mayor Krakowiak stopped Berkowitz, suggesting her comments about the Council doing nothing was negative and “using inflammatory language.” Berkowitz said that the Mayor was trying to “restrict my speech.” Then the Mayor began “checking in” with members to see if they agreed with her point of order ruling. Robison said Berkowitz’s “do nothing” comment was “an accurate statement of our process.” But Councilmember Steve Armstrong agreed with the Mayor that it was a negative statement. “So negative is now how we decide inflammatory?” asked Berkowitz. “I just want to clarify for the lawsuit that will be coming when somebody says this is unconstitutionally vague. I think this is very high risk for the city, I just want to make sure this is on the record.” No vote was taken, but it appeared to be four members agreeing with Krakowiak’s ruling on Berkowitz’s comment. Confusion reigns “I would just like to say that I have no further comments because it is very clear that the rules have been enacted to restrict my debate and speech unconstitutionally under the speech and debate clause and I object to this entire line of rules and there is actually nothing I can say that will be interpreted fairly.” Tosta said she was frustrated with how difficult it was to get things discussed, adding she does have questions on the homeless issue. “Point of order,” said Berkowitz. “I’m wondering how somebody else gets to say something negative and nobody objects.” Silence in the room until Krakowiak says “Council?” More silence. “I haven’t heard a decision from the chair,” said Robison finally. The Mayor said Tosta made her comments in a “non-inflammatory way.” Berkowitz wants a Council vote. Krakowiak seems confused, asks “somebody help me out with this parliamentary procedure.” The city manager said she could call on each Council member. Armstrong said he didn’t think Tosta’s comments were inflammatory, and Robison said the comments were “no more inflammatory than Councilmember Berkowitz’s were.” Others agreed. More confusion as Robison withdrew his second to Wager’s motion to end the discussion on the homeless issue, and the Mayor ruled enough members agreed. So the motion had no second. The Mayor seconded the motion to end the debate for the night. ‘Point of Order!’ Robison commented he had “come around to agree with Councilmember Berkowitz’s opinion that …” “Point of order,” said the Mayor, wanting Robison not to use a member’s name under Robert’s Rules of Order. Robison said, “I don’t believe that was covered under Robert’s Rule of Order,” then he sat back silently with a smile, not withdrawing his use of her name. Armstrong said he felt “we are having trouble getting traction” and suggested that the discussion had gone on long enough. The issue of homelessness services is not going away, he said, but “perhaps we need more time to analyze it …” Wagner said she wanted to end the discussion because she wants to get to other issues on the agenda. “I think that if people were to spend less time trying to talk me and some other Council members into voting for a car camp and taking away restrictions in parks overnight and directed questions to staff or wanted to get specific things done the we would not be here …” ‘Point of Order!!’ “I would like to protest this testimony as questioning the motives of Councilmembers …” Krakowiak agreed with Berkowitz’s point of order. So, back to voting on the motion. “What motion is that?” asked a confused Armstrong. “The motion is to end the discussion for tonight,” said the Mayor. Tosta, Berkowitz and Robison wanted to keep on debating but Krakowiak, Armstrong, Edgar and Wagner voted to end the debate. Then Robison moved to have the city staff come up with costs of using the municipal parking lot for car and tent camping. Berkowitz wanted to amend it to include all types of locations in the city. Gurol suggested a slower approach to the car and tent camping problems, because these activities “are not simple.” He wanted Council direction on spending the already allocated $55,000 in homelessness funds and to look into the more complicated car and tent camping later. Tosta said the way the money is to be spent includes whether or not the Council wants to approve car and tent camping, so she considers “it an alternative to how the $55,000 is spent.” Points of Order Again Wagner said her husband has a homeless car camp behind his Seattle workplace and “so the crime rate has doubled, the odor has doubled, the garbage has quadrupled” and that the costs Seattle a lot of money to clean it up …” “Point of order,” said Berkowitz, her comments are not “germane to the subject.” Krakowiak ruled the point of order was not correct and that Wagner’s comments were appropriate. The members voted 4-3 that the comments were relevant. Another point of order came from Wagner over what she said was Robison’s questioning of her motives. Confusion reigned. The Mayor banged her gavel saying people should talk one at a time. She agreed with Wagner’s point of order. Robison appealed. Armstrong said he was thoroughly confused and wasn’t going to decide who was right. Berkowitz said it is embarrassing that we can’t get anything done under these conduct rules. ‘Really Ridiculous’ “Point of order me all you want, I think it is really a shame that the facts that this conversation was supposed to be how we spend money for human services funding has been completely hijacked by procedural rules – it is really ridiculous,” Berkowitz said. “It is really a shame that the public does not get to hear any dissenting opinions.” In the end, the Council did not vote on Robison’s motion for the city to come back later with a report on costs and effects of car and tent camping on the municipal parking lot. The amended motion failed 3-4 on a Council vote, and then the original motion failed 3-4 on another vote. Even the final motion to adjourn took four times to decide because of problems with the electronic voting machine, but finally the long night of “Point of Order” was over.]]>

Senior Reporter Jack Mayne passed away in December, 2021. In his honor we have created the Jack Mayne Journalism Scholarship.

41 replies on “‘Point of Order’ debate night reveals Burien Council enduring political split”

  1. It is understandable to have this type of discussion as this is a very tough subject and lots of different views – I believe the council will work it through if everyone listens to everyone’s points of views very carefully. We need to try to help these folks but also protect our own neighborhoods at the same time (or we will have people moving from here). Why are we now dealing with so many homeless in our area anyway? Some are saying due to the bus terminal and the fact they can get here, and out of Seattle so easy now. We don’t need a bandage, we need a fix!

    1. Point of Order! Oh wait.
      Everyone should watch the last, roughly, 30 minutes of the meeting. Embarrassed by how this city is being run by Mayor Krakowiak.

    2. The influx of homeless and transients is because L. Bezerkoitz has invited them through her Socialist parties network in order to advance her obvious agenda that non citizens deserve more than the tax paying residents of Burien. Her quote that the homeless have no less right to how they spend their money is ridiculous, that money is not theirs, it was to be given for specific needs and hopefully with restrictions as it is our taxes being handed out for free. I wish she would accept defeat and resign her position and take Robinson with her.

  2. The Mayor, the City Manager and Council members Armstrong, Edgar and Wagner have been working hard to get the parks cleaned up and safe. But the Council members Tosta, Berkowitz and Robison have been fighting the clean up. At the last Council meeting, Tosta, Berkowitz and Robison tried to push through open camping of all types to happen in the parks and all public owned places in the city. They also wanted to use the municipal parking lots for camping. This would make the city a free for all location for all drug users, drunks, felons, prostitutes and the homeless to camp out everywhere in the city. That might include the public Right of Ways in your neighborhood. Luckily Lucy K., Edgar, Armstrong and Wagner voted against it.
    Also Tosta, Berkowitz and Robison wanted the city to issue gift cards to the homeless to go to businesses that sold liquor and cigs. They said it would be okay with them if the homeless used Burien taxpayer dollars and to buy booze and cigs rather than food. At several meetings now Council member Robison has told us how he slept off a few toots in public parks and so based on his past bad habits we should open our parks to druggers, drunks, felons, prostitutes and the homeless. But he and Berkowitz are opposed to having trespass ordinances in the city. When they can’t get their way on issues, then they cause disorder by playing games with Roberts Rules of Order like Jack Mayne reported in this story. These three have now wasted hundreds of city dollars and hours with ugly games.
    White Center just cleared that mess of encampments out of their area. And it was a mess full of criminals and substance abusers. But now Berkowitz, Tosta and Robison want to open up Burien to that criminal element.
    Watch out who you vote for in this next election. Berkowitz has already announced who she wants you to vote for because they have a like mind to hers. Avoid voting for Holli Giffin, Jon Scherer and Austin Bell.

    1. Berkowitz said that we should not put restrictions on the gift xards, that the homeless have no less rights on how they spend it. Well, she is mistaken. If you look at how food stamps cards for example, they are not allowed to be used for liquor or cigarettes, only food. She is correct that there are agencies and rules set in place for people who trade them for cash, but they are still being sold and traded. The only thing you said thigh at I didn’t agree with was the comment about Holli, Austin, and Jon. I challenge you to sit down and talk with them, you might find you are completely wrong about them.

      1. It will be extremely difficult for any of them to overcome the guilt by association syndrome. Once Bezerkoitz’s and their name get associated as it has, and some of it for good reason by shared beliefs and Socialist agendas their ship is sunk. And especially if J. Martinez 1-1000 chimes in supporting them.

  3. You must be kidding. While I agree that something needs to be done about the homeless, I don’t think the car camp lot is the answer. The city can not currently deal with all of the illicit activity that is rampant in Burien, so why would they adopt a “come one, come all” approach and open up our community to more of it? The streets of Burien are already strewn with garbage, and behind every bush, bench, and building are more piles of garbage, waste and used needles.
    The current city council has been held hostage by a minority of its members, whose strong arm tactics and personal agendas have made it nearly impossible to make any forward progress on this matter- or anything of any importance. If anyone thinks that their vote doesn’t count, think again. Enough single votes of those who are fed up with this nonsense certainly can make a difference in the next election.
    How about if we asked the homeless in our community what would benefit them the most, so they could someday embark on a path to becoming self-reliant, instead of pretending to know. As of today, I don’t believe there is one homeless person on the council, so how would they know what would be the most beneficial way to spend the $55k on the homeless problem?
    As for the car park, if Lauren Berkowitz thinks it’s a stellar idea, maybe she could test it out by allowing several of them to camp out in her driveway for a few weeks.

    1. Can I volunteer to camp in her driveway, my car has no toilet but her yard will suffice.

  4. It looks like the Reoublica. “clown Car” has made a detour off the campaign trail into Burien!

  5. I think the broken Burien sign at the top of this article is quite fitting, thanks Lauren for being so worthless.

  6. The reason the church, by the skate park, finally booted them out was because of the drug paraphernalia (needles) they littered their grounds with. They tried to be accomadating and provide assistance. They gave them numerous warnings. The writing is on the wall with this one.

  7. Thi Burien Council is quickly becoming a laughing stock. maybe the public could make a few positive suggestions.
    Why not set up portable showers, and toilets in places where the homeless can easily use them?
    When you enable them to utilize city property for living in you take away every one else’s right to a safe parking and/or recreational space.
    As far as gift cards are concerned why not spend the money at charitable organizations that already provide food for homeless and low income, they are already set up for those services. You could also use that money to help those who could benefit get a place to live.
    What you seem to be proposing is enabling these unfortunate persons to continue in their disabling way of life. Also you are proposing to provide a magnet for many others to follow them here thus not only truly not helping them but increasing the problem.
    Also, I can see many property owners objecting to their hard earned tax dollars being spent
    on drugs, booze, and smokes; if you want to be fair you should consider their point of view.
    Come on Council “qui’cha b…ickering” and use your expensive government provided education to come up with sensible suggestions You are really wasting our money not getting done what needs to be done at these meetings.

  8. It looks like the first thing the council needs is a mayor who can conduct a business meeting.

    1. But first it is in need of council members that represent Burien instead of themselves.

        1. They need to start spending our money on us not free loading, poor me, bad decision makers or funneling our money to their pals. The tax paying citizen of Burien should and always be priority number 1. You want to sponsor the homeless go volunteer and donate your own money. You want to help out your friends business ante up your own dime. Burien needs less addicts and more familes.

    2. If the Mayor “was” running a business meeting and held ownership type responsibilities she would have fired and had escorted off the property L.B. for insubordination and failure to perform her “job” You blame the Mayor, yet do not accept what dysfunction she faces with the grandiose grandstanding caused by “Oh the travesty Bezerkoitz”

      1. So what your trying to say is if the mayor had ownership responsibilities in say a internet web hosting company called well lets use a name like wombatnet . l.b was also someone who had some responsibilities in the company but instead taking care her responsibilities. She used her time and connections to troll blogs and mess with voting system on a blog. She may be asked to leave her position at the company.

        1. Haw haw haw!! Jimmy, you and Joey are hilarious! Your posts really make me laugh. You two are the Abbott and Costello of Burien! A timeless act.

        2. Well isn’t this a little odd I mention a web service company and most likely the proxy server that john poitras has been using to do his trolling on here. Seems to have done some business with to and now him and QofA have been pretty silent.

          For the people not aware john poitras also has a home in California where he is register to vote this is why he is not register to vote here in washington. But he still feels the need to try to badmouth any one on the city council that he does not agree with or anyone on this blog and other news outlets and sway people’s votes here in burien.

  9. Joey is right! Watch the last 30 minutes of these fools on the city council and the city manager included and grieve for a gem of a community destroyed by a bunch of gutless wonders! All of you should be ashamed for insulting those of us who live here and make this community a home. You are destroying it with your simple ignorance, petty backbiting, political agendas…on Wednesday we would of had each of you on the green in Burien
    Townsquare Park in shackles and throwing rotten tomatoes at you from the market! Your all a bunch of creeps and insulted all homelessness by saying with great enthusiasm…let them live in cars in our municipal parking lot for 6 hours a night and ” walla” we have solutioned the Burien homeless nuisance and the rest can get their services from Auburn, Wa and the $55,000 we, the city council, propose paying them to handle “our” problem!

  10. You might want to read up on how great these “car encampment ” are for Lake City residents before approving them in Burien. I think some of the council should camp with the homeless regularly first.

  11. So now every car camper looking for a free meal ticket from Blaine to Vancouver, WA will be flocking to Burien. How lovely. At least the Fire station and Police station are close by. They wont have to travel too far to respond to the multitude of calls that will ensue if this is accepted.

  12. Is there not someway to disband this council as unable to work for the needs of the community? The people are being held abashed at what has been going on, for months. Perhaps they would do us the favor of all resigning. They are not providing us with any service. They are instead, a barrier to any attempts to move forward on any of the community needs. They have had their chance to amend their ways. Let’s clean house and move on.

    1. Not all the council needs replacing. Just three! We need to make sure we elect people that care about our community and public safety. Lucy Kracoviak and Bob Edgar have proven themselves as caring for the citizens of Burien, Darla Green supports a safe and thriving pcity for all.

  13. Once the city of Burien starts giving free gift cards and provides a place for car campers and others you will be stuck with these folks forever and more will come as they hear of the handouts. Don’t do it.

  14. If the City ever pursues some form of car or Nicklesville encampment, which would be absolutely asinine and the immediate further downfall of our community. Why consider placing it in the downtown core anyway, put that needle strewn mess at least as far out as the Lora Lake parcel under the third runway and not wreck downtown any more than Bezerkoitz has done already.

  15. Since the council cannot get to the issues facing Burien, I suggest that we do it here on the B-town Blog. You may think that is already being done, but I am suggesting that it be done in a more organized way. If we had a Section Entitled ‘Your Thoughts On….’ with Headings such as Small Business, The Homeless, Burien Transit Center, Cleaning Up Burien, etc. we could each offer our ideas on these and other topics, rather than wasting our time reading the same old harangues about the council’s differences. In this way some new ideas may surface without all of the animosity this current situation engenders. I appreciate the reporting on the meetings, but my interest in these people is waning.

  16. A BRIEF HISTORY OF BURIEN POLITICAL HISTORY-Joan Mc Gilton was one of the meanest mayors in the history of Burien. She yelled at citizens and called them liars if she didn’t like what they had to say. The council was so ineffective that it took them 5 years to pass the Shoreline Master Plan(SMP). She banged her gavel at the SMP meetings and citizens were outraged at her and the council. Joan fought with other council members in public and frequently even refused to speak to citizens. She refused to allow the citizens to vote on whether they wanted to go on with the annexation of White Center and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars and staff time on this ill advised annexation election.
    Brian Bennett, the next mayor, openly made snide and rude comments about citizens who came to speak before the council and he laughed at his own rude comments. I believe Brian or Joan had Phil Levine physically removed from a council meeting. Brian watched football games during the council meetings and he threatened other council members. He, Joe Fitzgibbon and Joey Martinez conspired with Jeff Upthegrove and Lauren Berkowitz to run one of the dirtiest political smear campaigns in Burien’s history against Jack Block. The Seattle Times wrote an article about how bad the campaign was.
    Brian was a heavy political and monetary supporter to Lauren Berkowitz. Bennett foolishly supported the ridiculous annexation attempt and wasted city money too.
    Going further backing history, in 1999 the council opened up the Burien Comp plan against citizens’ wishes. Four neighborhoods and 300 real Burien citizens stormed city hall. The city gave out false information about why they had opened the Plan. When the chair of the planning commission appealed opening the plan to the Growth Management Board, the council fired him on the spot. Shortly after, the mayor resigned but the council members remained on and some were re-elected for a long time.
    Lucy K. is a good mayor compared to some in Burien’s past history. She, Bob Edgar, Debi Wagner and Steve Armstrong work hard for the city and have their heads on straight. Tosta, Berkowitz and Robison still wanted to pursue annexation in spite of the fact citizens in Area Y turned it down. That is how out of step these three are.
    The three new candidates are equally out of step with the city. They have never volunteered for city events, served on any city advisory boards, taken any positions on serious Burien issues such as annexation, master plans, critical ordinances, set up neighborhood groups, organized any Block Watches, marked storm drains or even worked the Clean Sweeps. Austin Bell has endorsed comments on Berkowitz’s Facebook and Twitters and his campaign manager is a close associate with Berkowitz. Bell has carefully removed any information about himself prior to running for office. He appears to be a perpetual student like Berkowitz and who still lives with his dad. All three of these candidates have been endorsed by Lauren Berkowitz and that already speaks volumes about them. Like her, they really know very little about the working of the city they want to be in charge of but they want to be the bosses of that city.
    Lucy k. and Bob Edgar are hardworking council members for this city. They have worked for economic development and small businesses, the environment, they voted to remove and got annexation removed from Comp Plan. They got the Town Square project moving again and got the needed stormwater development into NERA and actually made the city a little money in the process. They have supported public safety and have not made any unfounded, rude comments about the police and staff. Berkowitz has been totally rude to the police and staff and she and Robison have ignored public safety. I will support the re-election of Lucy K. and Edgar as they work very hard for Burien citizens and don’t play silly games at the council meetings. Beware of who is running and their experience and vote carefully in this next election.

    1. One, fatal, flaw to this “conspiracy” theory.
      There were also three other campaigns, one of them mine. In order to accept this (incorrect) theory you MUST believe that while “we” conspired to “take out Jack” we forgot to help the other three candidate- including myself.
      Block Jr gave as much as he took and in fact started it. Its been widely circulated that when asked about his opponent in an endorsement meeting he referred to Berkowitz as “oh that broad”. If anything you need to add how he shot himself in the foot MANY times.

      1. ” If anything you need to add how he shot himself in the foot MANY times.”
        At least you have some company,Joey

  17. Without seeing and hearing the context of the meeting, I won’t comment on anything except 1 statement made by Lauren Berkowitz:
    “But homeless advocate Lauren Berkowitz said people who are homeless have “no less right on how they spend their money” than anyone else, adding she found “that line of reasoning pretty offensive.””
    The homeless would not be spending their own money. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the city decides to give out gift cards to the homeless, I’m perfectly OK with that as long as there are restrictions in place in how those cards can be used. And rest assured, there will be a Burien gift card black market that starts if this happens.

  18. There are 2 kinds of homeless. (1) are those who are homeless due to many circumstances but would prefer to leave that lifestyle. (2) are addicts and alcoholics who will almost never leave that lifestyle. The latter are only interested in filling their addictions. Those who work with the homeless know this. That is why they require people to be clean before they provide services and precious resources. Otherwise the scarce resources are just wasted. Tent cities & car parks require strict management otherwise they will fill up with #2. I doubt the city of Burien will assume the responsibility to manage this. Unless the city wants to undertake this project AND all of it’s consequences it is far better to support those who are already working with the homeless and have the expertise & experience necessary to use the money effectively

    1. Common sense, though in general I agree with your thoughts on how best to use Burien’s limited resources, I feel it is relevant to point out some other groups of homeless whom I am aware of from my many year of riding public transportation. One well know group are our many Vets who have chosen not to live within public society. Many live in tents up and down our freeways or other obscure areas. The police are generally aware of them. They may have drug or drinking or mental issues, though many do not. They are just not up to what it takes to live a ‘normal’ life style and have a certain amount of money coming in, to cover a hobo/vagabond life style. There is another fairly significant population of older man who travel up and down the west coast yearly. Moving with the seasons and occasional jobs. They vary greatly in honesty and backgrounds. They often know the places where the homeless can stay and have free meals. Then there are the younger college age ‘want-a-be homeless’ types who seem to be patterning themselves after the previous groups. They are not generally so much into drugs as they are into ‘doing their thing’. Many have as much technology in their backpacks as any white collar worker. Some need to hang near WiFi hot spots but many have a mommy, daddy or girl friend who foots the bills. They tend to be rather elaborate in their attire, if in an off-beat rough way. I think of them as today’s version of young rebels and sense most give-up the gig after a winter or two and they have not written the great American novel, set up a .com or found the right chick. This last group oddly enough may present the biggest drain on our resources by making us feel they need help when they really could do something with their lives. They simply have chosen not to deal with the regular working hours and work ethic thingy. It’s still a rich country and they have figured out how to live off the’ fat’ that we reserve for those who truly are in need of assistance while they get their lives back together.

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