On Tuesday night, July 18, 2023 the Latino Civic Alliance (LCA) held a forum for candidates running for the 2023 Burien City Council election.
Nina Martinez, director of the LCA, organized the event with ten questions for each of the city council candidates. She explained that the LCA is a 501c3, nonprofit organization that does not endorse political candidates.
The forum was moderated by Paula Lamas, a renowned journalist and anchor originally from Venezuela.
Also present were current councilmember Jimmy Matta, and City Manager Adolfo Bailon.
Since many of the attendees spoke Spanish, live interpretation was available.
As Lamas explained in her introduction, Burien has a 23% Hispanic population, amounting to nearly 12,000 people in our city. She said a frequent complaint within our Hispanic community is about crime, graffiti, homelessness, and theft, and that the questions to candidates would mainly address these and other challenges to small business owners.
The city council candidates that were present included:
- Cydney Moore and Linda Akey, who are running for position 2.
- Daniel Martin, Kevin Schilling, and Patricia Hudson, who are running for position 4
- Alex Andrade, who is running for position 6.
- Candidates not present included Rut Perez-Studer and Brittany Williams (position 2) and Krystal Marx (position 6). Because there are only two candidates vying for position 6, there is no Aug. 1 Primary vote for that seat.
With a few exceptions, there was general agreement among the candidates regarding supporting more police officers, better lighting and security around businesses at night, more grants to support businesses impacted by crime, diversity in businesses and government, and services and outreach in multiple languages. Highlighted below, in the order that they spoke, are some of the ways the candidates stood apart from each other.
- Patricia Hudson specifically mentioned that more cops on foot or bike would improve neighborhood safety. She also thought that writing grants for money for lighting & cameras would help the police protect small businesses. She said at her Seattle business, 24-hour security is now necessary. They also utilize a business watch program that she would promote in Burien. Regarding homeless encampments, Hudson supports a “housing first” approach, saying that sweeps were inappropriate when people need mental health care and community support. She would support wraparound services that follow successful models for homeless rehabilitation.
- Alex Andrade said she had recently completed the Citizen’s Police Academy, and police report being short-handed as a problem in crime prevention. Andrade, a downtown business owner, also said she had been broken into twice by the same person, and that she would support more security cameras as they have been shown to be effective in helping police catch criminals. She also said that if people could report crimes in an accessible way online, more crimes would get reported. Some community members are wary of police interaction, and online reporting would eliminate that barrier. Andrade said homeless encampments are not good for anyone, and mentioned the rise in crime around the camps. She said she does not believe “housing first” is a good idea, as it sets people up for failure. Andrade also has experience helping people start and run small businesses since 2010, and she said the city needs one common location where small business owners can get all the support they need.
- Kevin Schilling said he has always supported fully funding the police, and is the only councilmember who has done a ride-along with a cop, in order to learn firsthand the needs of local businesses. He was a witness to a shooting in Burien, and supports all efforts to increase public safety. He said the government–at the state, county, or local level–should assist business owners in the cost of installing security cameras. Regarding the encampments, he wants to get people mental health and addiction services and shelter, and get them off the streets. His priority is a safe, clean, and accessible community for everybody, and he pointed out that there is a huge difference between being without shelter and doing drugs and robbing houses. He has also voted in favor of business grants for loss due to crime. He believes entrepreneurship is the key to economic development. He wants to understand the barriers of entry for small businesses, and streamline the permitting and business license process.
- Linda Akey said she understands safety concerns downtown, as she was recently attacked outside her condo. She also completed the Citizen Police Academy, and believes that even non-violent crimes should be prioritized. Akey is the Chair of Burien’s Business & Economic Development Partnership (BEDP) and has worked to increase funding for businesses. She said there is a business watch program in Burien, and is happy to help get more business owners involved. She is very against encampments, and mentioned many crimes around and within them. She supports incentivising people to accept services and treatment, and holding them accountable for any bad behavior. Regarding a one-stop incubator for small businesses, she said she set up something similar in Colorado.
- Daniel Martin believes the city already spends too much on police funding, and that they are not understaffed. He supports online police report filing, as well as feedback, and believes the police are not giving people the results they should, and need to change. While he agrees that well-lit streets are safer, he does not support installation of security cameras because of privacy concerns as well as the extra expense. While he does not like homeless encampments, he says there are 6000 more homeless people in the county than there are shelter beds, and would prioritize housing as a solution, rather than sweeps. Martin said housing is a human right, and that housing for all is the responsibility of the government. He sees police and jails as more expensive and less effective than providing housing. Also, he has seen firsthand the difficulties of running a minority-owned business and wants to support them.
- Cydney Moore voted to increase police patrols, and would like to expand social services, to free up police for violent crimes. She helped pass a program that gives grants to small business owners for lost revenue, and would like to expand that program. She sees homeless camps as an unfortunate reality, and supports the “housing first” model. She wants to see the homeless camp move to a safe, stable place where they can then transition to permanent housing. In addition, she said we shouldn’t fine people for human body functions, and that criminalizing homeless people just costs the city more money. She said the role of city government is helping small businesses, and the city should be accountable for not helping enough.