by Scott Schaefer

As 2009 (and the first decade of the 21st century) winds to a close, we’re taking a few moments to reflect on a very interesting year, full of new beginnings, tragic endings, a drunk city manager, record-setting temps, an innovative art installation, a fake news issue, an expanding city and much much more.

Not only was 2009 a very exciting year for the area, it was also an outstanding year for The B-Town Blog, as our Readership rocketed from around 10,000 per month to nearly 50,000 in November (THANKS EVERYONE!).

Herewith, we proudly present what we consider to be the Top 11 Burien Stories of 2009 (Top 10 lists are soooo 2008), in reverse order:

11. The B-Town Blog’s Fake April Fool’s Day Issue: You can blame this idea entirely on me – as a former comedy Writer who has loved “fake news” since the 1980s (anyone out there remember HBO’s “Not Necessarily the News“?), I thought it might be kinda fun to do our own hyperlocal version on April Fool’s Day.

Who knew that it’d really fool people into believing that a new nightclub with Strippers on Segways was moving into the old Office Depot space?


The most rewarding aspect of this online prank was the slew of Comments, emails and yes, even a couple of inquisitive voicemails – one from a local businessperson asking for more info on the “new strip club,” another from a man whose business monitors the internet for “terrorist news” (he was very interested in the interview with the laser pointing culprit, and he found the story through searching the keywords “laser” and “airport”).

Here’s a short collection of some of the best gags & comments:

BREAKING: Ex-Office Depot Space To House Strip Club

Dona Forrester: “I hope this is an April Fools Joke also? This would be terrible for Burien!”

Christine: “Gosh I hope this is an April Fools joke too…yikes….empty space beats a strip joint any day.”

BREAKING: King County To Fence In North Highline Area

too embarassed 2 say: “I didn’t fall for Google’s, or UW Daily’s, but then I saw this title in the RSS feeds, and for a second I was totally wondering…”

Several blogs linked to our “Strippers on Segways” story, including out of New York City:

10. Is The New Nude Female Sculpture At B/IAS Too Explicit? Take Our Poll…: After reading a Comment left in one of our Forums about a new, “naked female statue” at Burien’s Interim Art Space, we took some pics, posted a story and a poll, then sat back and watched as 140 people Commented (read ’em here) on this “controversial” sculpture called “Paradigm Shift” by artist Mike Magrath. Soon, even mainstream media picked this story up, including a blog at the LA Times and a right-wing “news” source called Breitbart.

Soon, our own Mark Neuman and Bart Bryan were out interviewing people, asking “Whaddaya Think?” Of Burien’s Controversial Nude Female Sculpture? in this video that was viewed by nearly 2,400 people:


9. Burien’s Interim Art Space’s Fiery One-Year Life: The innovative Burien Interim Art Space, conjured up and co-curated by residents Kathy Justin and Dane Johnson, brought a taste of “Burning Man” to the city, with unique art pieces ranging from Dan Das Mann’s iconic “The Passage” to a way-cool (or rather, hot) computer-controlled “Fire Pod” sculpture that shot fire out to techno music, and sadly, was only lit up once (on opening night) due to fire regulations.

Like many residents, we were sad to see B/ IAS dismantled, but luckily we have lots of media to re-live its short but interesting and inspiring life in B-Town:

Here’s Photographer Francis Zera’s time-lapse of the installation of “The Passage”:

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Here’s our photo slideshow recap of that opening night (w/pics by Maureen Hoffmann and Scott Schaefer):

And here’s a video of opening night shot by Steven Bradford:


And finally, here’s Photographer Michael Brunk’s Photo Slideshow of the B/ IAS “de-installations”:

Click to View Michael Brunk’s Photo Slideshow

8. HOTPOCALYPSE ‘09: Burien Has Its “Hottest Day” In Recorded History: the mercury hit 104-degrees in Burien on July 29th, and it was all anyone could talk about. The city turned on sprinklers to help people cool off, while some creative residents like Carrie Rasmussen baked cookies (yes, cookies) in the back window of her Nanny Gloria’s car:

That's right...on Burien's hottest day, chocolate chip cookies were baked in the rear window of a car.

From Reader Candice Packer came this pic of a truly-retro Honeywell thermostat showing that the day’s temp was totally off the chart:

Our own Mini Cooper Blogmobile recorded the following 104-degree temp whilst overheating in downtown Burien:

BTB Photographer Francis Zera won the “hottest place” contest with this shot of his thermometer hitting 106.2!:

7. Burien Man Stabbed To Death Outside Good Time Ernie’s: Tragedy struck Burien when Mark. K. Ebinger (25, pictured left) was stabbed to death outside Good Time Ernie’s in an “ambush” that also injured his brother Peter, 24.

The incident occurred around 1:40am on Nov. 12th. Sheriff’s detectives interviewed bar patrons and witnesses, but no one has yet been arrested, the investigation is ongoing, and a $5,000 reward has been offered.

If anyone has any information on this case, they should call the King County Sheriff’s Office at (206) 296-3311 or Crimestoppers at 1-800-274-6313.

Here’s a Photo Slideshow of the crime scene taken the morning after the incident:

Click to View Scott Schaefer’s Photo Slideshow

6. King County’s Stealth Attempts To Sell Puget Sound Park May Postpone Official Annexation: King County stealthily attempted to sell Puget Sound Park to the King County Library System out from under Burien.

Puget Sound Park is located in the unincorporated area of North Highline that is to be annexed by Burien early next year.

This is an ongoing story, and we’re proud to have been the ones to break this news, including publishing numerous letters from new King County Exec Dow Constantine showing his support for keeping the park, to our upcoming coverage of Burien City Councilmember Lucy Krakowiak’s role in the issue (she serves on our city council as well as the board of the King County Library System, and our records show she never informed the council on this possible deal nor recused herself – more to come on this soon).

5. Burien City Manager Mike Martin Arrested For DUI: City Manager Mike Martin was arrested for a DUI on April 19th after his vehicle left the road and struck a ceramic pot in the yard of a house.

According to King County Sheriff’s records, Martin was found outside his car, “leaning forward and swaying side to side.” His breath allegedly smelled strongly of alcohol, his speech was slurred and he admitted to drinking a couple glasses of wine and two beers.

This was not Martin’s first run-in with the law – previously he resigned as Chief Administrative Officer for the city of Kent after a 2005 hit-and-run incident. Martin has been city manager since November 2006, and his yearly salary is $135,180.

We took a poll of our Readers, and of 223 responses, 53% thought Martin should “Resign immediately, get treatment and move on.

However, Martin entered a “Not Guilty” plea, and remains in his position, with an amended contract:

(click to view PDF of entire contract)

4. Over 1,000 Witness Burien Town Square Grand Opening: On June 13th, Burien’s brand-spankin’ new Town Square opened, including a new City Hall, Library and Condos which, sadly, sits mostly empty some six months later.

The Highline High School Pirates marching band kicked off the grand opening ceremonies by marching (and boisterously playing) down SW 152nd to the main podium at the Town Square where numerous local and state dignitaries spoke to a crowd estimated by local police as “well over 1,000.”

The day’s celebration served as the culmination of over 12 years of the city’s planning for the $193 million “town square as the central focal point for the downtown core” as first approved in 1997, then developed and built beginning in 1999 until construction began in 2004 to Saturday’s festive ribbon cutting ceremony.

Click to View Michael Brunk’s Photo Slideshow

3. Sound Transit Opens Light Link Rail Line July 18th: Although the nearest stations are located in Tukwila and SeaTac, the fact that South King County is now part of the northwest’s first mass transit system is huge news.

For just $2.50, riders can get to downtown Seattle from this area in around 35 minutes and not have to worry about parking or traffic.

Reporter Ralph Nichols wrote I Rode Link Light Rail & Lived To Write About It. Have You?

2. Burien Nissan Loses Entire Inventory, Closes: Over a few nights in March, several large 18-wheeler haulers pulled up and took away all of Burien Nissan’s new car inventory.

After the business’s “flooring” (financing) fell through, at least 100 new cars were removed, with an estimated value between $2 and $3 million, leaving the once-bustling car lot looking like a ghost town:

At the time, Sales Manager John Antonelli said:

“it’s business as usual – we’re still open for business in service, parts and sales. When we get our new financing we’ll re-open in a couple of weeks.”

Because the flooring could not be re-established, at least 35 employees were laid off, and in May, the business closed for good despite a recent $5 million remodel.

After one false attempt to re-open the dealership by a new owner, nothing materialized and the lot still stands empty, a beacon to 2009’s weak economy.

Because auto dealers account for a significant portion of tax revenue for Burien, Dick Loman, Economic Development Director for the city, said:

“This sorry economic downturn is just hurting everybody.”

1. Voters Decide To Approve Burien’s Annexation of Southern North Highline: On Aug. 18th, voters in the southern portion of North Highline voted by a 56% to 44% margin to approve Burien’s annexation of that area.

With this annexation (once set for March 2, 2010, but now delayed pending to the above-mentioned Puget Sound Park issue with King County), Burien will become the 21st largest city in Washington – just above Olympia – with a population of about 45,000.

Currently Burien ranks 31st in the state, but look out Richland – you’re next!

So…what do YOU think the Top Story of 2009 was? Please take our Poll, or leave a Comment below…

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Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.

One reply on “The B-Town Blog’s Top 11 Burien Stories Of 2009; Plus, Take Our Poll…”

  1. BTB, LOVE the shot of the cookies baking in the car window! Glad I missed THAT heat wave.

    On another note: I’ve been thinking about the “Naked Lady Sculpture” that graced Burien’s B/ IAS art space… I’m spending time in Europe right now and just did my stroll through the Louvre in Paris. There were more Naked Lady and Naked Man sculptures (and paintings) than you could count! Parents and their children strolled by the statues without a gasp or comment, except for noting the skill of the sculptor. No eyes were shielded. No children were led in other directions to avoid “exposure to” the sculptures.

    The unclothed, human body has been the subject of art and creation since people first started to craft images. (The Venus of Willendorf is estimated to have been created between 24,000 and 22,000 BC.) For there to have been such a fuss over “Paradigm Shift” by artist Mike Magrath, reflects closed minds and unfinished educations on the parts of those fussing.

    Isn’t there a place on 152nd where Magrath’s well-considered, attentive, thoughtfully-rendered sculpture could be permanently installed?

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