The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the views of South King Media nor its staff:

Burien City Council – why it is important to be part of the process

Burien is a city on the move
Burien’s population is growing; our center is shifting. A 2010 annexation added to our footprint and our demographic is becoming more multicultural. People move here for many reasons: Burien is affordable, near the water, near the airport. As we grow, Burien is experiencing some of the trends that prevail nationally, such as rising housing costs, more people losing homes, and repercussions from the opioid epidemic. We look to our leadership in times of change, either to ask for help, or to assign blame. Who is Burien’s leadership and why is it important to choose them carefully?

Burien has a council/manager government
Burien is governed by an elected city council and a team of professional city management staff. The city council sets priorities and budgets for the city. They also hire and direct the City Manager, who in turn hires and directs the rest of city staff. Burien’s city council members receive a modest stipend, but it is not a full time position.

Our Mayor is a member of the Council, selected by and from among the councilmembers. On top of normal council responsibilities, the mayor runs meetings and represents the city publicly when needed.

Any resident can write to the council or speak to them at meetings. In addition, many of Burien’s council members reach out to the community to help them set priorities for the city. They either host town hall meetings or make themselves available to meet with community members. They read and answer emails from the community, and some are willing to arrange group or individual listening sessions. This is not a job requirement, but these activities are consistent with the council’s need to represent the community.

Our city staff are responsible to present the city’s needs to the council. These needs can include essential city functions, emerging issues, and ongoing “maintenance” type issues. But we as a community are also responsible for communicating our priorities to the council and staff. We must express our wants and needs from and for the city to our Councilmembers. City governance needs to know what the community wants them to fight for, work for, and change.

Some recent examples of how the residents of Burien have impacted city policy:

  1. Fox Cove, a 36 unit apartment complex that housed low income families, was sold with very little notice, leaving the residents of the apartments with, in some cases, 20 days notice to vacate and find new homes. With not enough low income housing in Burien, most of these residents were unable to find alternate comparable housing in Burien and many were facing homelessness. The situation was brought to the attention of the Council and as a result, the city held several public meetings and are currently in the process of putting strong protections in place for our city’s renters and are considering additional ways to keep people from facing homelessness by addressing some of the core issues that cause people to lose their homes.
  2. The city recently made a change to its Comprehensive Plan that will allow Mary’s Place to request a zoning change on their property in order to build low income housing. This was a contentious situation with many residents of Burien speaking out both in favor and against the proposed change.
  3. Based on feedback from residents over the past year, the city recently voted to increase fines for illegal fireworks in the city.

Our elected officials can best represent us when they know our priorities. ACLU Burien People Power encourages you to attend meetings, meet in small groups with council members, and email your concerns to the council or city employees. https://www.burienwa.gov/staff_directory.

With a general election coming up, now is a great time to think about what you want for our city in the years to come. Some values you might care about in a candidate are:

  1. Responsiveness
  2. Priorities that match what you want for Burien
  3. Honesty
  4. Has the City’s best interest
  5. Openness to other points of view

You will be hearing from candidates – by flier, in debates and forums, and at public events such as the Farmer’s Market. Now is the time to ask candidates about the issues that matter to you. And the time to think about which ones have the flexibility to bring our changing city into a new and in many ways unknown future.

We encourage you to reach out to the candidates and learn more about what they want to achieve and how that might impact your life. The general election is Tuesday, November 5th. If you are not currently registered to vote please visit https://olvr.votewa.gov and ensure you are part of the process of building Burien’s future.

More info on who is eligible to vote can be found at this link.

About ACLU Burien People Power
The ACLU Burien People Power team is part of the ACLU’s grassroots member-mobilization project. Through public speaking, trainings, letter writing, dialogue with public officials, and public engagement we affirm our American values of respect, equity, justice and solidarity. In our actions we support our community and the rights guaranteed to all in the laws and the Constitution of our nation.

For more information contact [email protected], or find us on Facebook @BurienPeoplePower.

– ACLU Burien People Power Co-Chairs, Sarah Moore and Nancy Kick

EDITOR’S NOTE: Do you have something you’d like to share with our engaged Readers? If so, please email your Letter to the Editor to scottscha(at)gmail.com and, pending review, we’ll publish it. Letter writers must use their full names.