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by John L. White
To the Members of the Burien City Council:
I am writing to express my concerns regarding the public comment time period at the city council meetings. As a registered voter and an active participant in our community, I believe it is crucial for residents to have the opportunity to directly address the council.
Currently, the council allows 30 minutes for public comment, with each person allotted two minutes to speak. While this may seem reasonable, considering our city’s population of nearly 50,000, it is clear that only a fraction of our voters are able to voice their opinions during this limited time. In fact, last night’s meeting on August 21, 2023, saw 40 individuals officially sign up to speak, making it impossible for everyone to be heard within the allocated timeframe.
The council’s solution to this issue is to reduce the speaking time for all participants, without distinguishing between residents (voters) and nonresidents. This approach undermines the voice of local voters, as nonresidents are given the same priority and opportunity to speak. It is unjust to have decisions that directly impact our city’s rules, regulations, and ordinances influenced by individuals who do not reside within our limits.
As concerned voters, many of us believe that a change is necessary. We propose a revised method that prioritizes the residents who elected the council members in the first place. This does not mean silencing nonresidents entirely, but rather acknowledging the time constraints and ensuring that our voters have the chance to express their views.
If there is insufficient time to accommodate all 15 residents who wish to speak, their allotted two minutes should not be reduced. Instead, additional time can be granted for nonresidents, limited to one minute, or they can be directed to submit written comments. This way, the council can effectively manage time and ensure that our registered voters are given the opportunity to be heard.
Implementing these changes would not only improve time management during council meetings but also facilitate a fair and balanced representation of the voices that truly matter – our residents.
It is important to note that individuals residing outside of Burien should address their own city council when discussing rules and regulations within their jurisdiction. This approach respects the democratic process and ensures that each community has a say in its own affairs. To clarify, our intent is not to ban nonresidents from speaking but rather to request that they yield the initial 30 minutes of the allotted time to the actual voters in Burien.
Thank you for considering our concerns and taking the necessary steps to enhance public participation in the decision-making process.
John L. White,
Representing Downtown and Seahurst