Photo by Michael Brunk /
Photo by Michael Brunk /
Photo by Michael Brunk /

Story by Jack Mayne
Photos & Video by Michael Brunk

Whether you are for or against Burien’s so-called “Trespass Ordinances,” it seems it will become the debate that never ends, with both sides becoming more and more entrenched.

Once more the Burien City Council spent an hour Monday night (April 6, 2015) listening to many of the same messages concerning the so-called trespass ordinances that have been linked by demonstrators to criminalizing the homeless and defended by those who say the whole thing is not about homelessness, but crime.

Many hope the City Council will do one of two things soon to end the endless debate.

Either repeal the two ordinances or, as former Councilmember Jack Block Jr. said at Monday’s meeting, “make it clear there will be no change in the measures for at least the rest of 2015.”

The side defending Ordinances 606 and 621, and urging their retention, did get some new supporters coming out to make their case to the Burien City Council Monday night (April 6).

The mostly same opponents repeated many of the arguments they have made for the past several weeks. Most are not Burien residents – a few are local folk – who have proclaimed that the ordinances criminalize homelessness and empower police to act without having to prove their case.

Schoolgirls Scared
First on Monday evening the Burien City Council voted unanimously to allow two minutes each of all those wanting to address the Council on matters not on the agenda. The next hour was turned over largely to people for and against the city’s two ordinances regulating conduct in public areas, mostly the King County Library that is in the City Hall building.

The first speaker in favor of retaining the ordinances was a 12-year-old Burien student who said she uses the library for schoolwork and, “I am scared to use the public bathrooms.”

Later in the meeting another teenager “a seventh grader” said, “this ordinance needs to stay in place,” that “the problem with all the loitering and drug use around the library is people being scared to go to the library. I am not just worried about my safety, I am worried for everyone else too.” She wondered if people can’t read the signs that say no loitering.

“It makes me mad that they can act like that and not even obey the simple rules.”

The girl said she understood that homeless needed somewhere to stay but suggested rather than loitering at the library having “spitting fights and pushing each other down the stairs,” they should be doing things to get their life “back into order.”

Taxpayer Rights?
Roger Delorm said “homeless rights versus my rights as a taxpaying citizen of the City of Burien,” adding, “Where is my right when I come into this building and not have to step around people lying on the floor or going to the public restroom and having to go around a person half-naked standing at the sink taking a bath?

“Where is my right not to be accosted on the sidewalks, parking lots and at the Transit Center?”
Delorm noted a remark a while back about the homeless paying taxes on a cheeseburger and asked, “How many cheeseburgers would they have to buy to equal the taxes I pay to this city? So, where are my rights?”

Patti Jansen said a lot of “people who vote for you” Councilmembers want to keep the ordinances “that have nothing to do with homelessness, it has to do with criminal activity.”

She glanced toward the audience where derisive shouting was breaking out, prompting Mayor Lucy Krakowiak to admonish the shouters and noted police officers were in the room.

“Morally Reprehensible”
Former Councilmember Jack Block Jr., who was defeated by Lauren Berkowitz in 2013, said Burien has been listed as having “one of the highest crime rates in the state.”

He said the city has had an influx of people with “little or no regard for civil behavior” and because of this, the Council passed the so-called “Trespass” ordinances.

“Some individuals have morphed this issue into being an attack on the homeless,” and suggested using “those less fortunate in order to further one’s own personal standing is morally reprehensible.”

Block said some in the audience were there to force the repeal of the two measures and “their tactic is one of intimidation to beat you into submission; as we told our children, do not give in to bullies. I urge you tonight to put this issue to rest and return to more important matters of governing our city. I urge you tonight to bring from the floor a motion that the issue resolution of Ordinance 621 will not be revisited for the rest of 2015” when he was told by Krakowiak his two minutes was up.

Supporters of retaining the ordinances applauded him.

“Make Burien Awesome”
Resident Robbie Howell also supported keeping the two ordinances, “at least it is a start to make Burien awesome,” and suggesting people are not bringing their children to the library in City Hall because parents did not want to subject them to “gang fights, teenagers peeing and having sex in the elevator” and other disruptive conduct. Her remarks were accompanied by loud male laughter.

“I do hope the Council will make a strong effort to work with the state, county and Burien agencies to help the homeless so those who really want to make a change in their lives will get the help they really need,” Howell said.

She said the people who don’t want help, “will no longer continually disrupt the lives of people” who are business owners as people in public places.

Linda Plein said she has lived “as a taxpayer in Burien for 25 years” and ” this is an ordinance against trespassing, not against the homeless,”at which some shouted and Mayor Krakowiak again warned against “comments and clapping so we can hear each individual speak.”

“We want a safe place, we want economic development, the only way to have economic development is to have a safe place,” Plein said.

Remember “Visioning Plan”
Steve Schmidt, a longtime resident, said he urged the Council to stick with Ordinance 621 and to remember the original “visioning plan” from the time 25 years ago when Burien incorporated as a city.

“There’s two main things, cultivate a thriving business community and provide for public safety,” he said. “621 is a reasonable approach by the City Council to satisfy both. I would urge you to stay with 621 as written.”

Darla Green, a business owner who has often and forcefully advocated keeping the ordinance, noted the bustle of the Council chambers.

“There is a lot of passion in this room tonight. Awesome. It is great to see a community involved in the safety of the very neighborhoods they live in.”

She said she has worked with the homeless and disadvantaged youth and is “disgusted that there are individuals manipulating this issue of crime prevention to advance their personal agenda,” adding that she remained supportive “of the five City Council members who voted in favor of making Burien a safer community and recognizing that we have a growing problem with crime, not homelessness, it’s crime.”

The city has to address the city’s “social disorder” so it can then address the pressing problems we are facing. She said she was asking Council members “to put aside your personal agendas and start working together on behalf of Burien citizens. Stop revisiting this issue and move forward to a safer Burien.”

Won’t be threatened
“Those of us who are committed to a safe Burien will not be threatened, coerced or intimidated by outside groups whose sole interest is to create chaos in our neighborhood. We are people who live, work and own businesses in Burien who are committed to having a crime-free community. The voters will take careful note as to who supports public safety in the next election.”

She got loud and sustained applause from the audience until Krakowiak asked for quiet to continue the testimony.

Steve Parks, of Burien, read from a document he said was written by City Manager Kamuron Gurol, that the motivation for the trespass ordinance was “a helpful tool to help address behavior problems on public property,” and then he was interrupted by audience members who were told to quiet down by Mayor Krakowiak.

Parks continued reading, “the trespass mechanism is a milder sanction, versus arrest, than arrest and prosecution” and has been employed by the King County Library, Seattle Public Library, Metro Transit “for many years”to handle behavior problems.

“Never does it mention homelessness,”Parks said. “I know there is a homeless problem, let’s work together, let’s fix it but let’s keep 621 intact.”

Dawn L. Coffenbury said she was new to Burien and said she did not feel safe at the library and children who come to the library need to feel safe. She said she was surprised that “no one was doing anything about” her request for some action.

“I am really surprised that people can come in here that don’t even live here and be able to make a statement when they are not even part of this community. This is about where we live and not someone who lives away, somewhere else.”

J.J. Connelly of the Boulevard Park area thanked the Council for Ordinance 621. “I hope you guys continue to support it and you don’t let these people from outside our community change your mind.”


“Intolerance” for behavior
Burien resident Mark Manning said he was opposed to Ordinances 606 and 621, because it “appears to attempt to legislatively erode and negate individual rights”under the state Constitution “to which this city is bound” and based on “intolerance for public behavior of some individual who are being couched under the term of disruptive behavior” and cited Constitutional passages about freedom and the Council members are in office to protect individual rights, “not erode them” and his trust in the Council “is now broken.”

Cammie Pekonen said she was “embarrassed to be a Burien resident with this ordinance.”

Ann Slater, a Burien resident who has spoken against the ordinances before, said she “wholeheartedly urged the Council to repeal” the two ordinances. â”urien does not exist in a bubble. Homelessness is increasing, in part, because over the last seven years, our state and federal government has slashed social services like unemployment benefits, childcare and housing.”

She said she is a member of Radical Women, which has seen “the impact of these cuts on women, 40 percent of families headed by single moms live in poverty.” The two Burien ordinances are â”unishing these people by making it a crime for someone without a home to sleep in a public space. That is immoral and scandalous in addition to being unconstitutional as the ACLU has said.”

Instead of passing “draconian laws” the Council must find ways to provide for services, Slater said.

We’ll be back
A regular speaker at these events is Will Laudanski of Seattle, and a frequent demonstrator who has spoken against the Burien ordinances before, and he said Monday night that the ordinances “definitely do” target the homeless. He suggested, as he has before, that there are many ordinances and state laws on the books to control misbehavior in public and the Burien ordinance is to “harass the homeless” and “suspend due process.”

Several other speakers, most who had appeared before the Burien Council before, said the city statutes should be repealed.

Another repeat protestor, Bryce Phillips of Kent, said people cannot go to the shores of Lake Burien unless they :are one of the privileged few” who own property there, and the poor “pay more taxes that the rich” and the libraries and the parks are “the last refuge” for those who don’t own property. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” he added.

Jeremy Griffin of Seattle, once again told the Council that opponents to the ordinances would keep coming to protest.

“We are human rights activists. We are going to keep coming, and keep coming until you repeal the ordinance.

“There is a lot of ill will about why people from outside of this city would take such notice of this law,” Griffin said. “This ordinance allows police, at their discretion, to turn behavior into a crime without the legal burden of proving that crime.

Several other repeat protestors, mostly from outside Burien, appeared and repeated their objections.
But, at the end of the long hour, Richard Dover of Burien said he was likely to make both sides mad at him.

“The group that is against, you boo and you are rude,” he said. “The group that is for it are just as bad. Both sides should show honor to the other side.”

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