The statements and opinions expressed below are solely mine and do not reflect the beliefs or opinions of any other individual, the City of Burien, or its employees.
I feel the need to write to the residents of Burien and explain what occurred at the city council meeting on the evening of October 17th. During the meeting, I smelled smoke coming from the emergency exit doors immediately outside the council chambers. After observing for a few moments, I left the chambers, followed by some staff to see what was happening outside. I saw two individuals smoking a substance out of a pipe. For those of you that aren’t aware, I’ve lived on the streets, and I can tell you there was the potential that what the two individuals were smoking was extremely hazardous. That type of smoke drifting into council chambers could have very serious consequences.
I went back in and interrupted the council meeting, and made a motion to recess so that the issue could be dealt with. As many people are most likely aware, street drugs are increasingly being laced with hazardous substances like fentanyl. As a result, I worried for the safety of myself and everyone in the building. I don’t know what was being smoked, but I shouldn’t have to guess or worry about it in an enclosed, public space. My goal was to get everyone out of the building. I currently have a nursing baby at home. For the sake of my child, I had no desire to be anywhere near those individuals and breathe in toxic fumes.
To my shock and dismay, several members of the council did not see an issue with what was occurring and, in fact, stated those individuals had a right to be there. As someone who has been homeless, I believe strongly that the public spaces of our city belong to all of the people in Burien. We, the residents of Burien and King County, pay for the City Hall and the Library. But the idea that someone smoking has a right to be there is absurd. Homelessness isn’t a choice, but smoking definitely is.
I refuse to accept that this must be the new “normal” for our community. I reject the idea that the business of the people during a city council session comes second to enabling someone’s habit on public property. I do not believe that people should have to worry about their safety when they come to their city hall, including council members.
It is past time for us as a community to step back and say enough is enough. This is not ok, and it never was. The people who say it is ok are enabling it to continue, and it will only worsen. We can do better for our community, and we should expect much more from our elected representatives.