Burien City Council Candidates Exchange Views At Lively B-Town Blog Forum

[EDITOR’S NOTE: From our sister site The B-Town Blog comes this multimedia recap of Tuesday night’s Burien City Council Candidates Forum:]

"He's a really nice guy," said Burien City Councilmember Gordon Shaw about his opponent Joey Martinez at the conclusion of Tuesday night's Candidates Forum. Photo by Scott Schaefer.

by Ralph Nichols

Six of the seven candidates for Burien City Council exchanged views in a lively forum presented by The B-Town Blog Tuesday evening (July 26), which you can listen to by clicking the “Play” button below:
Four of the candidates are on the Aug. 16 primary election ballot. The forum was hosted by Mike Heavey, and featured Geoffrey “Mac’ McElroy and this Reporter as panelists.

Position 2 challengers Ed Dacy and Greg Duff fielded questions in the absence of incumbent Lucy Krakowiak, who declined to attend the event.

And Position 4 incumbent Gordon Shaw and challenger Joey Martinez are in the primary because a third candidate who filed for that seat, Bob Edgar, withdrew after the statutory deadline so his name remains on the ballot.

Position 6 candidates, incumbent Gerald Robison, who was appointed in January to fill the unexpired term of Kathy Keene, who resigned earlier, and Debi Wagner, who also applied to fill that vacancy, will appear only on the November general election ballot.

The candidates’ responses to questions asked during the forum appear below. Some of them are partially paraphrased. Although the order of their answers was rotated, these are grouped here by race, in alphabetical order.

If the numbers pencil out, do you favor annexation of the North Highline Unincorporated Area by Burien?

Dacy: There are a lot of red herrings in the anti-annexation debate. But we need a couple of years to see how the first annexation works out. Some city services that Seattle would provide if it annexes the area are not provided by Burien; for example, fire and water services are provided by separate taxing districts. This annexation move is being forced by the King County Library District. The city is not served well by Burien’s representative on the library board.

Duff: Yes – if the final financial report is favorable. Also, once a decision is made, we want someone on the city council who will work for the annexed area, not someone who will say “no” for the sake of saying no.

Shaw: I have publicly said yes a dozen times or more with the caveat if the numbers work out. The question is how to make White Center a better neighbor for Burien. There are several advantages to annexing White Center that remain unanswered. Burien also has to be a better neighbor of White Center.

Martinez: Yes – if the numbers pencil out. We need to work to get more assistance from King County. I know they have pennies hidden. We need to ask for King County deputies to be assigned to Burien for at least the life of their contract, and also get storm and flood control assistance.

Robison: Yes – I am an emphatic supporter of annexing White Center. I studied it before the first annexation, I studied every report, and in fact it is economically viable. There are ways to improve it including working with the King County Housing Authority. It is critical for the city of Burien because of the impact if we don’t annex.

Wagner: I’m the only one opposed. We can’t afford it. I don’t know why Burien can afford it if Seattle can’t. It’s not a stigma issue. I just think that Burien needs to lower its tax rates, which are the highest in King County, instead of increasing taxes to pay for resulting shortfalls from annexation.

How will you balance shoreline management with landowner rights?

Dacy: Property rights are important. The SMP [Shoreline Master Program] the council passed is the best compromise. The state is being unreasonable. The shoreline is low density with single-family homes. The state Department of Ecology is out of line for what they’re trying to do.

Duff: The government shold tread very lightly when it steps on peoples’ property. I’m glad the city of Burien came up with a compromise – I hope they stick to their guns. We need to protect the environment, but even more we need to protect people’s property rights.

Shaw: On the council, I was the most landowners’ rights proponent during the SMP process. The environment needs to be protected, but the program brought to us has little reasonable expectation to benefit the environment.

Martinez: The state Shoreline Management Act is a slippery slope. There is a wide gap – a slippery slope of 45 feet – between what the city council wants and what Ecology wants. If we don’t act there will be a lawsuit, so we need to try to balance property rights and the environment.

Robison: Property rights are important; property rights are human rights. Environmental protection is nice, it is important. But the Founders included just compensation for the taking of property to avoid the tyranny of the state.

Wagner: It’s a tough issue. Protection of the environment benefits everybody. Maybe the state should compensate homeowners for that part of their property that is affected. We need to be environmental stewards. We need to hold back on development at all costs.

Will you vote to renew City Manager Mike Martin’s contract when it expires?

Dacy: I will vote to keep any city manager as long as they do the will of the council. Mike has done a good job of following the will of the council.

Duff: I believe Mike is an excellent city manager. If our city isn’t being run right, it’s not his fault. He’s simply doing what the council instructs him to do.

Shaw: The council sets policy but the council doesn’t run the city from day to day. The greatest thing I’ve done in almost eight years on the council is to seek out and get Mike Martin made city manager. Look around at other cities in the area. They’re laying people off. We’re in good shape vis-à-vis everybody else.

Martinez: This is a tough choice. He seems to be controversial in some circles, but he seems to be doing an OK job by my standards. I can’t say yes or no.

Robison: Mike is doing a fine job as city manager. He’s doing a much better job than any of his predecessors. The city is run much better now, much more efficiently. I’m disgusted by some of the things I hear.

Wagner: I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the city manager.

What is your top priority for Burien?

Dacy: To make North Burien feel like it’s part of Burien. We’ve got to be one city. We’ve got to be more business friendly. The lack of that hurts us. [Note: Dacy added that he’s seen no evidence of corruption in Burien government – this in response to a comment made by Wagner, who spoke just before him (see below).]

Duff: I’d like to see us go after businesses. We need to bring new business in. Paul Allen is going to build buildings in Bothell. Why Bothell? It doesn’t have an airport next door and isn’t near I-5. We need to get Town Square finished.

Shaw: My support for the Northeast Redevelopment Area [NERA} has been both a success and a failure. The only long-term lasting solution is to remove houses under the airport flight path and convert this to some other use. Not a park next to North SeaTac Park. We’re on the cusp of converting it to commercial use and I want to see it happen.

Martinez: We need to invest in the future, in parks and crime prevention. If we invest our money wisely now, we can direct our youth to become productive members of society.

Robison: I have a number of priorities – police, annexation, a good budget, completion of the 1st Avenue Project. But first is North Highline annexation.

Wagner: To listen to the people. To see what the people want. To make decisions based on consensus and not whatever is corrupt about government.

NOTE: The next B-Town Blog Candidates Forum will be held this next Tuesday, Aug. 2nd, starting at 8 p.m. at the ERAC Building, and will feature candidates for the King County Council, Position #8: incumbent Joe McDermott, and challengers Diana Toledo and Goodspaceguy (more info here).

Here are some photos of Tuesday night’s forum, as shot by Publisher/Editor Scott Schaefer:

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