By Martin Barrett
Public comments were highlighted with testimonies by City Council Candidates Linda Akey and Alex Andrade, and Burien citizens Kim Davis, Chestine Edgar, and Darla Green regarding the actions of Charles Schafer and Cydney Moore, which they believe undermined the efforts of volunteers Kristine Moreland and Joseph Riverson in helping the homeless move to shelters where they can get clean and find help. Those commenting noted that Moreland was especially dishearted, as folks she had worked with for weeks to obtain commitments to go to a shelter (upon the clearing of the encampment at 6th and 152nd) were talked out of it by Schafer. Schafer and Moore encouraged the campers to move to Dottie Harper Park.
For those supporting Schafer and Moore, there was a consistent statement that the campers had not been offered services and housing. Their testimony indicated that these commenters had not been at the site and were stating opinions inconsistent with the facts. Campers and the volunteers working with them have shared that many offers were made to them and for them. Council Member Kevin Schilling stated in comments at the Special Meeting on May 30 to address this issue (burien-news.com/…/city-council-confirms-lease-of-lot-at-6th-and-152nd), “The campers have had many touches but turned them down. If they deny services, then they have violated what it means to a citizen in Burien,” said Schilling.
Heather Williams, a worker at Safeway, said that since the encampment was moved to Dottie Harper Park, there has been a substantial increase in the number of drug users at the Safeway store. She turned to face Charles Schafer to “Thank” him for making her job more dangerous.
Later in the evening, Deputy Mayor Schilling noted that the best work in helping the homeless and solving the city’s problems was coming from the volunteers. He followed this by asking the City Manager to work with government agencies, Seattle City Light, Water and Sewer, and others to find any land that might be available to house campers. He wanted a place that the government could operate, control, and administrate their programs. It was a stunning admission, shared not only by Schilling but by other council members, that no conversation had come forward about how to help the volunteers from faith and nonprofit organizations that have proved to be far more effective.
Council Member Stephanie Mora asked for a letter of thanks to be given by the city to Kristine Moreland for all her help. Council Members Schilling and Jimmy Matta stated they were uncomfortable doing this with city letterhead but would consider it personally. They noted a hesitancy in any official communication because these were volunteers and not under a city contract. Cydney Moore stated that she could not sign it because some of the things Moreland had communicated indicated she was transphobic. However, at the end of the meeting, this reporter was able to talk with two of the PRIDE organizers who are friends of Moreland. They flatly denied this to be true and believed Cydney Moore was just using it to deflect.
Mora asked the city manager and city attorney to create an “ordinance for proposal” to the council to expand the “parks camping prohibition” to the downtown core. Mora, Matta, Schilling, and Mayor Sofia Aragon agreed, directing the city manager to proceed with a proposed ordinance.
During the meeting, Chris Craig, Economic Development Manager, updated the council on the Food Truck Pilot program that began in June 2021. In year one, there were five licenses issued. Only one of the trucks is still operating. There have been no qualified applications since. The council agreed to extend the program one more year, to June 2024.