By Martin Barrett
City Manager Adolfo Bailon flatly stated, “The city is in a financial hole, and it is getting worse. In a few years, the city will need to lay off staff.” This sober assessment, amplified by Financial Director Eric Christensen’s budget presentation, puts into numbers and dollars the history of our city’s fiscal mismanagement and leadership. A lack of vision for growth, taking on expenses like DESC (which benefit King County and Seattle but not Burien), and spending on essentials like law enforcement drive out businesses and deter new ones from coming. We live by a great cash machine, SeaTac Airport; yet we receive little benefit from hotel and hospitality spending and tax receipts.
In lieu of a visionary city council, we spent last night listening to Cydney Moore trying to shame the other council members for supposed “not having a good heart,” which is her way of brow-beating them into supporting more of her failed and cruel homeless policies and spending. The sour-lemon whining, constant bickering, and talkovers were grating. Members of the audience could be heard saying, “Thank God she is out. How many more meetings do we have to put up with her?!”
The main topics of the evening were the Eagle Landing stair removal, a $750,000 expense, far more than the repair cost. John White, Bruce Davidson, and Leit Myers spoke about the irresponsibility of this expense and pressed the Council to review it immediately and reverse it. The destruction of the stairs is set to commence in early December. Former Fire Chief Rick Weiler testified that the stairs are so solid that the fire department used them for training, and firemen exercise on them wearing full gear. Bailon noted that the Council discussed this, and they directed city staff to secure a firm and execute demolition; To rescind would come with penalties.
The second topic of the evening was the potential location for a tiny house village using a $1 Million grant offered by the County. Some, including Moore, CM Hugo Garcia, and CM Sarah Moore, were adamant that the city could not pass this funding up. S. Moore added that we have an obligation to all the other cities in our region to take on the folks who come here. Others noted that the $1 Million would only fund 9 months of operations. The actual cost of the village, estimated to house 50 people, is $1.5 million per year ($30,000 per person per year). The advocacy of the two Moores and Garcia in taking $1 Million to fund an ongoing, year-after-year $1.5 million expense, required because of evil and poverty-increasing County and City of Seattle policy, is precisely why the city of Burien is financially in trouble!
Three locations were offered up:
First was a location in Boulevard Park. During the public testimony, one person spoke in favor of this location. However, 20 spoke against the placement of the village in Boulevard Park, which is considered a food, service, and transportation “desert.” The Council voted down that site.
The next site nominated was the Seattle City Light property adjacent to Kennedy Catholic High School. This, too, was voted down in a 3 – 3 tie. Council Member Jimmy Matta abstained from all votes. Of interest was the lack of representation by Kennedy’s leadership. While the Boulevard Park community came out in bold numbers, not one Kennedy official showed up to speak on behalf of the kids and staff. The pattern of apathy has been seen throughout the process. The City Light property has been on the table several times.
Finally, Garcia moved to have the lot leased by Burien Toyota to be used as the tiny home site. Bailon said that besides the legal issues of breaking a lease, it would result in a reduction of $24,000 in lease revenue, plus a reduction in sales tax and B & O tax from Toyota. This also was voted down in a 3 -3 tie, with Matta abstaining.
At this point in the meeting, it looked as if this issue of the insufficient King County grant and sighting a location was dead. But C Moore was not finished and put forward another motion that the Council meet before November 27 (the date King County requires a response) to see if there is a way to come up with a solution. This turned into a long and useless back and forth on the rules of process and notification requirements. Having finally worn down several council members who said they could or would not come to a meeting to discuss this again, the motion was put to a vote. Matta, Mayor Aragon, and Council Member Stephanie Mora committed an unforced error by all abstaining from the vote, with only Deputy Mayor Schilling voting no. The motion carried. The Council will again go over this same ground on Monday.