Each candidate running for the Burien City Council Nov. 7, 2023 General Election was asked ten questions by The B-Town Blog (read previous ones here), covering topics like their reasons for wanting to serve on the council, what they think about current issues in the city, and what kind of solutions they have.
The following responses to our questionnaire in our series are from candidates for Position 6, starting with former councilmember Krystal Marx.
Ballots will be mailed out on Oct. 18, and are due by 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023.
NOTE: Photos and links are to/from each candidate’s profile on the King County Elections website.
Why are you running for Burien City Council? Please explain what inspired you to run and why you are qualified.
“I am running for Burien City Council because this city is a wonderful place to live, work, and play. That’s why the dysfunction on public display at Council meetings and hearing the many reasons why Council will not act on an issue is so frustrating! While they drag out decision-making, our working families are falling further and further behind, homelessness is increasing, residents and workers don’t feel safe, and our environment is deteriorating.
“When I served on the Burien City Council (2018 – 2021), we:
• “Created renter protections with landlord input such as a Just Cause Eviction ordinance, requiring further notice on rent increases, capping move-in fees and requiring the ability to pay them in installments, limiting the amount of late fees that can accrue, and more;
• “Addressed our need for affordable housing by implementing the Affordable Housing Demonstration Program to test out creative housing options throughout most areas of the city;
• “Secured 95 units of permanent supportive housing (housing with wraparound services) for chronically homeless individuals, with 25 of those units set aside from homeless veterans, opening in 2024;
• “Increased housing density in the downtown core by approving the Kinect Burien project;
• “Added a successful arrest diversion program to address the root causes of low-level crime;
• “Implemented a Community Court to assist with diversion and reducing recidivism;
• “Passed a $5 per hour Hazard Pay ordinance for grocery workers during the COVID-19 pandemic;
• “Created Burien’s first Climate Action Plan to take measurable steps towards lower emissions and greater environmental protections;
• “Commissioned a study into the causes of flooding in Boulevard Park;
• “Provided emergency eviction assistance to over 35 units of families, seniors, veterans, and disabled residents at Fox Cove Apartments;
• “Kept a balanced budget and clean annual audits.
“I say “we” accomplished all of these things because while I may have been a vocal champion of many of these issues, it was the entire Council working together to serve Burien’s population regardless of our own political leanings. I may be progressive, but I also have a proven track record of working together across ideologies to get things done on behalf of our city. We passed tenant protections with a unanimous vote!
“We need to focus on more than just the downtown core; Boulevard Park has been severely underserved since it was annexed into Burien over a decade ago, the Manhattan neighborhood doesn’t have a single park or green space, businesses along the Ambaum corridor aren’t celebrated as much as downtown, and kids walking to school all over the city don’t have sidewalks off the road to provide some measure of safety. Investing in the rest of the city is an investment in more immigrant and refugee-owned, BIPOC-owned, and women-owned businesses, and lower-income families.
“While on the Council, I served on various regional committees to make sure that Burien was at the table where decisions were being made and studies were taking place. Professionally, I have served in mental health, dental health, fundraising, and LGBTQIA+ nonprofit spaces for over 15 years, most recently as the first Executive Director of Seattle Pride. Before that, I worked in water and sewer risk management, as well as academic advising for two local colleges.
What is the biggest issue facing Burien residents, and how can that be solved?
“I believe the biggest issue facing Burien today is a comprehensive lack of support for our working families. For instance, the lack of affordable housing, little to no access to affordable childcare and afterschool programs to keep our youth engaged and safe, a low minimum wage compared to neighboring cities, limited access to fresh food and cultural services, and a poor public transportation system.
“To solve this, we need to start by addressing our affordable housing shortage. In order to meet our housing targets, we have to boost our housing stock by 36% by 2044, which amounts to an additional 7,500 housing units, or 313 units per year, which is three times the city’s average yearly rate of housing production. If we streamline and simplify the permitting and design review process for housing developers, it will encourage them to choose to develop here (as they have told us). We need to provide affordable childcare for working families through a levy or federal grant, and a closer alignment with the Highline School District.
“Last year, nearly 2,000 Burien workers were making an hourly wage less than the minimum wage in neighboring SeaTac, which was $17.54 in 2022. Raising the minimum wage – an effort I have been working on with a coalition of labor, community organizations, workers, and businesses – would not only allow Burien residents to keep working in Burien, but would make it easier for our small businesses to retain their employees. When we redesign Ambaum Boulevard and Boulevard Park, we need to make sure we are including green spaces that keep temperatures low and clean our air, more options for fresh food, and increased transportation options for our limited-mobility seniors and working parents.
What are your thoughts on conducting sweeps of homeless encampments? How would you balance the rights and needs of people experiencing homelessness and those of other residents and businesses in Burien?
“Sweeps (defined as the forced disbanding of homeless encampments on public property and the removal of both homeless individuals and their property from that area) destabilize people at best, and result in death at worst. Burien does an excellent job of leading with services, but sweeps make it exponentially more difficult for outreach workers to find their clients and help get them into housing – the one thing that would actually solve the supposed need for sweeps in the first place. Sweeps are also bad policy as a neighboring jurisdiction, where people are essentially pushed to the next closest city. We’ve seen this with the City of Seattle, where the city conducted 943 sweeps in 2022.
“Unmanaged encampments are not an answer to homelessness either. Housing is.
“If we want to actually provide solutions to the dangerous situations that now exist for unhoused and housed alike with the encampment on Ambaum Boulevard and others that pop up in our neighborhoods, Burien needs to prioritize attracting a variety of housing options – especially permanent supportive housing, and a 24/7 shelter – and encourage other cities to do the same instead of relying on Seattle to solve all of our ‘problems’ for us. I would use my experience serving on various regional boards and committees, and my existing relationships with other elected officials, to advocate for our neighboring cities to increase their resources as well so that we are all working together. By providing housing assistance, case management, and supportive services after an individual or family is housed, Burien can significantly reduce the time people experience homelessness and prevent further episodes of homelessness from occurring.
“Even if sweeps worked as a solution to homelessness, and every unhoused individual accepted an offer of housing or treatment, there are not enough housing units or treatment beds available… not just in Burien, but all of King County. I will be a Councilmember who can see the facts, act with urgency, and plan for the future while advocating for these things at all levels of government.”
What are the best practices and models that Burien can learn from or adopt to address homelessness?
“I firmly believe in the Housing First means of addressing homelessness, which is an approach to serving people experiencing homelessness that recognizes an unhoused person must first be able to access a decent, safe place to live, that does not limit length of stay (permanent housing), before stabilizing, improving health, reducing harmful behaviors, or increasing income. We have great organizations throughout King County who do this work and would love to expand into Burien, so my role as a City Councilmember would be to encourage the creation of those housing units through tax incentives, streamlined permitting and reduction of permitting fees, a faster design review process, and more.
“I am also pragmatic enough to know that it will take time to get those units of housing online and accompanying services lined up, which is why we need to meet people where they’re at and have a suite of options available to address homelessness. Things like a managed tiny home village, congregate housing, a 24/7 shelter, and pallet shelters – all with sober and usage options – as well as maintaining active participation in county-wide efforts for individuals willing to relocate to a different city with the resources they need will all provide enough options to allow us to address homelessness by providing options for the visible encampments in our city. “
How would you measure and evaluate the effectiveness and impact of Burien’s homelessness policies and programs?
“The effectiveness of our homelessness response should be measured by short, mid, and long term outcomes for the individuals being served, taking into account their unique needs. For instance, not everyone experiencing homelessness is unemployed, so the services they access (and the resulting outcomes we hope for) shouldn’t be tied to employment… but rather to whatever their unique barrier to housing may be.
“We need to look at effectiveness over time because there isn’t a “light switch” solution that will magically make the issue disappear – not even incarceration or involuntary commitment for individuals with untreated mental illness.”
What are your thoughts on the job that Burien Police/King County Sheriff’s Office are doing?
“I think we are incredibly lucky to have the exact makeup of officers that we do at this time in our city’s history. The Burien Police Department has enthusiastically been on the forefront of many creative or alternative public safety efforts, such as adopting the Let Everyone Advance with Dignity (LEAD) program which provides community-based care for people who commit law violations related to behavioral health issues or extreme poverty, serving as an alternative to punitive enforcement-based responses. I spoke about bringing LEAD to Burien when I first ran for office in 2017, and was proud to see it implemented in 2019.
“I think the amount of money that we spend on Police Services vs. Human Services is drastically unbalanced, however, and needs to be addressed. According to the 2023-2024 Adopted Burien Budget General Fund expenditures, of the $36.3 million allocated, $16.04 million (or 44% of the budget) will be going to police services in 2024. Our police services budget has increased by $3.32 million over the last three years, but not only do we not have a fully staffed police department, we are also under-funding programs that are a part of our “lead with services” mentality. Burien’s Human Services Division, for instance, has been allocated $1.25 million (or 3.46%) of the General Fund in 2024. The amount spent on police is 29 times that spent on Human Services.
“Since the King County Sheriff’s Office can’t fill all of the positions that we are paying for (regardless of whether they’re filled or not), we should be able to ask for a reimbursement for those unstaffed positions and use the money to support Human Services efforts aimed at easing some of the pressures that lead individuals to commit a crime in the first place.
The more we fund Human Services (housing assistance, behavioral health, mental health, healthcare access, access to living wage jobs, early childhood education, and more), the more opportunity it creates for families in our community to feel supported.”
Do you have any plans to help Burien businesses that are struggling from recent issues, like COVID or increasing crime?
“Yes, and I want to see *all* of our businesses supported, not just the ones in the downtown core. To that end, I want to build upon the work our Economic Development staff has done and encourage thoughtful development of Ambaum Boulevard and Boulevard Park to make sure we aren’t pricing out existing small businesses, while including housing options, grocery stores, and other amenities in the plan. We could also continue to foster an entrepreneurial spirit by encouraging small business mentorship between existing and new businesses. Workforce development programs, which create pipelines into union jobs, are a critical way to address staffing shortages at transit agencies, school districts and local government. Burien can create registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs in partnership with labor and employers for public sector employees, too!
“Raising the minimum wage to be competitive with our neighboring cities and unincorporated areas is crucial as well. The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell estimates that the cost of employee turnover averages around $5,864 per person for a typical front-line employee, like many who work for one of our restaurants… and that is money down the drain when workers see they could be making over three dollars more per hour (or over $6,700 per year) doing the same thing in SeaTac, Tukwila, Seattle, and (soon) unincorporated King County.
“Finally, we have to acknowledge that many of our small business owners and employees have shared not feeling safe when they’re on the job, citing run-ins with individuals suffering a mental health crisis or battling addiction. I would advocate for Burien standing up a crisis center that will provide walk-in access and the potential for short-term stays to help people stabilize, depending on needs, referred to and access 24/7 crisis services. Voters just approved a Crisis Care Centers initiative, a nine-year levy that will create a regional network of five Crisis Care Centers, restore and increase mental health residential treatment beds, and invest in the people who do the difficult, important, and historically underpaid work of providing mental health and substance use disorder services. As of July 2022, people waited an average of 44 days for a mental health residential bed as nearly one-third of the mental health residential treatment beds in King County have been closed since 2018.”
How would you balance the needs and interests of different neighborhoods and communities in Burien?
“We have to be able to hear the needs before we can address them, and the fact is that there are parts of our city that feel completely disconnected from a shared ‘Burien’ identity. Since each Council position is ‘at large’ and not assigned to a specific region of the city, I think it would be a good idea to spend a year having Council meetings in different areas of the city, not just at City Hall. We could meet in different schools around our city, encouraging local participation by literally meeting people where they’re at. We could also create a requirement that each Councilmember must hold a Q&A session in a different Burien neighborhood every quarter, whether separately or together, allowing them to hear directly from constituents.
“We also have to ask ourselves what stands in the way of engagement in local government.This could be a lack of childcare, a need for interpretation, or any number of reasons.
“I was proud to have been the Councilmember to sound the alarm when the Fox Cove Apartment residents posted on Facebook that they were all getting evicted. Within a couple of hours, I had the City Manager and Human Services Manager at Fox Cove with me, talking to residents. SImilarly, when Boulevard Park residents were telling the Council of the horrific flooding that was causing entire houses to be uninhabitable, I went on a tour of the entire problem area, met with residents, and helped to commission a study to get to the bottom of what was causing such a bad backup every time it rained.”
How would you engage with Burien’s youth and seniors?
“Our youth need to have access to after school programs that excite and engage them, even offering them ways to build skills in preparation for entering the workforce. Late Night for Burien teenagers has been an amazing program, but it’s only on Fridays. I want to hear directly from Burien’s youth on what they would like to see more of in order to make their city work for them.
“Similarly, our city’s seniors need to have access to reliable public transportation to get to and from their appointments, run errands, and generally get where they need to be, safely. I would like to partner with the Transportation Choices Coalition, Hopelink, and King County Metro to see how we could get regular shuttle service in residential neighborhoods with a high senior population.
“I would like to set aside part of as many budget categories as possible for youth-advised funds. This doesn’t have to be any huge amount, but bringing back the Burien Youth Council would be performative at best if we didn’t also empower them with the ability to invest in their city in meaningful ways they believe in.”
How would you enhance Burien’s environmental sustainability and resilience?
“When I was on the Council, I was proud to help form and pass Burien’s Climate Action Plan which acts as a roadmap for Burien to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts. This plan aims to reduce Burien’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 while supporting the community’s capacity to adapt to unavoidable future climate impacts. I also helped pass Burien’s Urban Forest Stewardship Plan, with a goal that Burien’s tree canopy would cover 40% of the city by 2038. As of 2017, Burien had a canopy cover of 30%, so in order to achieve this additional canopy, we would have to add approximately 39,000 trees—which would also add $7.3 million in ecological benefits. I plan to work closely with Burien’s own People for Climate Action to make sure we are hitting the targets we need to.
“Another way I look forward to helping enhance Burien’s environmental sustainability and resilience is by advocating for neighborhood nodes that provide easy access to transit, amenities, jobs, and housing. We also need to see what financial assistance is available for businesses and homeowners to retrofit their properties to be in alignment with energy standards.”