In an effort to help those living on the street, the Burien City Council voted to ban camping on public land, a step that will move more street people into the many drug-free shelters ready to help. Additionally, City Manager Adolfo Bailon said the city is in conversation with The More We Love. Kristine Moreland’s organization has been effective in helping dozens of street people living in Burien into shelters, detox centers, and rehab programs over the last 7 months. Along with the Salvation Army and Samaritan Worldview, they have done what government and government-contracted organizations like REACH, LEAD, King County Housing Authority, and others have failed to achieve. Bailon said they are drafting a scope of work and a potential contract at this time.
In a 4 to 3 vote, the Burien City Council ratified Ordinance 818, a city-wide ban on camping in public spaces, effective November 1, 2023. Mayor Sofia Aragon, Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling, and Council Members Jimmy Matta and Stephanie Mora voted in favor of the ordinance.
During the public testimony in which 30 stood to speak, the split between pro and con was about even. Laura Nencetti, Manager of the El Dorado, a retirement home close to Ambaum, testified there are elderly in her facility with significant health and mental challenges. She said her residents are afraid. She acknowledged that the street folks need help but charged the Council to bring help to her people as well.
Bailon began his City Manager report by asking the Council and others to stop spreading false information. Bailon communicated that this false information (including potential campsites like a location in Boulevard Park), put forward in the preceding Council Meeting by Council Member Hugo Garcia, is causing problems. Bailon said there has been no plan or investigation into a site in Boulevard Park. As if to emphasize the damage and waste of staff and council time that Council Member Garcia’s comment sparked during the evening, multiple people gave testimony against putting a tent encampment in Boulevard Park.
Bailon said the city staff has received more information regarding the Pallet Village being discussed as a potential homeless solution. This option would use the $1 Million pledged by King County. However, the information gathered indicates that the village cost would be $1.2 million annually.
Clear lines of division over the philosophy regarding the homeless crisis were evident during the testimony. Last week, Council Member Garcia stated that Ordinance 818 reeked of white supremacy. This week, public testimony started with Todd Baldwin, a black man living across from the Ambaum tent village, who testified two weeks ago in favor of Ordinance 818 and specifically the trafficking of a young Native American girl in the tent camp. “A black man trying to save a Native American girl was deemed a white supremacist. That is so dumb only a politician could come up with it!” said Baldwin. The comment brought immediate laughter and clapping. But a steady flow of testimony came from those supporting CM Garcia, including Zoe Benett, Kelsey Vanhee, August Hahn, Jennifer Fichamba, Jen Greenstein, Nancy Kick, Karin Sinkula, and City Council Candidate Patrica Hudson. Each rose to defend CM Garcia, asserting that a camping ban was racist and an expression of white supremacy.
Bailon said the city staff has also been working on gathering more information regarding a potential minimum wage for Burien as instructed by the Council. “We are talking with every group that has a stake,” said Bailon.
The City Manager also said the staff is working on racial equality and DEI, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The city is engaging a consultant to help roll the messaging out to the community, to push it through.
The Council also voted new members onto the Planning Commission. It is to be seen if the Council practiced DEI in their selection. Burien News will research more concerning the diversity and inclusion of political thought drafted into the new Commission. Past commissions have been very one-sided, nondiverse, and exclusive of anyone not agreeing with a progressive agenda. The application ended with a litmus test question requiring each member to be progressive to have a seat.
The new Commission members are:
Position 1: Heidi Turner
Position 2: Shelli Park
Position 3: Jessica Ivey
Position 4: Paul Croon
Position 5: Joshua Halpin
Position 6: Jimmy Matta Jr.
Position 7: Sam Ostrander