by Martin Barrett
Discontent and dysfunction continue to express themselves in Burien’s City Government. After the expulsion of Charles Schaefer from the planning commission on June 15, five Planning commissioners resigned in protest. At that time, three commissioners from other commissions also resigned in protest.
On June 22, 2023, the City of Burien Human Services Commission sent a letter to the Burien City Council expressing their “great frustration” with the Council regarding Burien’s homeless problem. In the letter, they highlight resignations in the mass of previous commissioners. “We respect the individual decisions of other commissioners to resign their volunteer positions with a city council that is not aligned with their values.” The letter was signed by the Chair, Fred Swanson, and seven other commissioners.
The Human Services Commission specifically addressed their concerns:
1. Frustration over City Council’s responses to events preceding and following the tent encampment within our community,
2. The lack of public debate or leadership from the City Council to evaluate the merits of King County’s offer to provide housing and funds to the City.
The City of Burien finds itself at a loss. One council member shared “off the record” that “we cannot even agree on the facts, much less the solutions.” This seems a reasonable observation.
Members of the faith and non-profits community have told Burien News during the sweep of each campsite, beginning with City Hall, the Dog Park, and Dottie Harper Park, that every camper has been offered a place to go from three to 14 times. Yes, the Human Services Commission states, “Despite historical, ongoing, and considerable efforts from city and county staff, volunteers, agencies, faith communities, and non-profits, all persons living in tents in the Burien community do not have access to viable, appropriate, local housing.” This may stem from disagreement on housing requirements. The Commission letter uses the qualifiers of “viable and appropriate” which lack shared understanding on what that is. Also, there is no agreement on the requirement geographically as to where the housing must be located. The majority of cities have understood the Martin vs. Boise requirement to be anywhere in the region, not necessarily in the city!
At this point, the dysfunction has become so great that the next Burien City Council meeting has been pushed off for one month. Burien News was told this is because the meetings have not been productive or orderly.