By Martin Barrett
Monday evening’s Burien City Council meeting was a full house. Over 125 residents packed into the Council Chambers to make their voices heard on an issue that has plagued Burien.
Public comment did not begin until 8:44 PM, a full hour and forty-four minutes into the meeting. The early part of the meeting was taken up by Council Member Cydney Moore grandstanding. She consumed 30 minutes with the kind of diatribe one would expect out of a 7th grader who did not get her way. The public shouted out their frustrations. The other council members looked irritated.
Finally, Mayor Sofia Aragon was able to move the meeting forward, and the disillusionment of the rest of the council members was voiced. “We have been dealing with this issue for 7 years,” former Mayor and current City Council Member Jimmy Matta said. Matta fired several questions at City Manager Adolfo Bailon regarding the options available and the constraints of the Martin v Boice decision, which does not allow a city to remove someone camping on public property unless they can offer housing. (See the Gem of the Sound story regarding the city’s position.) Matta noted that Seattle is clearing their camps. Each Council member brought questions forward to Bailon.
The understanding of this court ruling was stated and challenged. Bailon stated, “If Burien had its own place, we could enforce the camping rules. No one city can meet the obligation. In lieu of this, they are targeting specific locations and ensuring they have enough beds for that specific sweep”. Bailon said the city could rent rooms from other cities if possible, but Burien must pay for them.
In the end, there was no clarity on the city’s next steps.
Forty-two people signed up to speak. Due to the long delay in getting started, the comment period was limited to 1 minute per speaker. All the same, public comment ended at 9:35.
There were clear advocates on both sides. Both sides violated the rules of decorum for attending City Council meetings by clapping and cheering the viewpoints they agreed with. Overall, those frustrated with the city for allowing the homeless crisis to merely move to another location outnumbered those frustrated with the city for not providing more services. Very little middle ground was found.
Travis Lauricella recommended making the city lot where the camp has moved into a park, allowing immediate removal. A few commentors noted that they, too, had been addicts and that what the city is doing does not help. “What turned me around was consequences, and you are taking them all away,” said a former addict. City Council Candidate Alex Andrade emphasized the need for boundaries and noted the city does not seem to have them.
On the other side of the conversation was the demand for more funding. The solution the city manager and the council spoke about throughout the evening was more government: the need for a service provider to help the city, and the county to step up with more resources.
A consistent theme was the anger of the commentators that the city’s number one responsibility is safety and cleanliness and the perception that it is failing on both counts. Thomas Green summed up much of the spirit of the comments with, “This council’s utter failure in serving the people!”
During the meeting, Bailon was asked about the results of the work of LEAD and REACH in getting the campers into some kind of housing. Bailon said they had two on Friday and five folks in the week leading up to March 31.
In today’s Gem of the Sound, you can also see the amazing results for the Church Coalition.
For another summary, please see Stephanie Mora’s Twitter summary.
These words, views and opinions reflected are mine alone and do not reflect anyone else's on the Burien council, the City of #Burien or it’s staff#EnoughIsEnough #homelessness #housing #shelter #election #action #accountability #vote pic.twitter.com/tUhY4ghm7t
— CmStephanieMora (@CmStephaniemora) April 4, 2023
Below is another story about the meeting: