Bid to delay annexation vote defeated on tie vote

The November election vote on annexation of North Highline and White Center to Burien will happen.

Despite pleas heard during more than an hour of public comment to delay the annexation vote because of the poor economy, the Burien City Council decided on a tie vote Monday night to leave the measure on the ballot.

Only residents in the area to be annexed will vote on it. Burien residents do not get a vote.

The Burien council rejected a motion by Councilmember Jack Block Jr. to take the annexation measure off the November ballot. Voting for the motion were Block, Lucy Krakowiak and Bob Edgar. Opposed were Mayor Brian Bennett as well as council members Joan McGilton and Gerald Robison. Because the motion did not receive a majority, it failed. Deputy Mayor Rose Clark, an annexation proponent, did not attend the meeting.

A majority of the public commenters opposed annexation. The speakers said it would be fiscally irresponsible to take on North Highline during a poor economy.

“It’s OK, things have changed,” long-time annexation opponent Kathy Parker told lawmakers while arguing that the continuing economic downturn means the council should reconsider its annexation decision.

North Burien resident Rachael Levine argued that not allowing North Highline residents to decide on annexation would be a form of “voter suppression.”

She also said that Burien state Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon had assured her that Burien would receive the entire $5 million a year in state sales tax revenue for annexing North Highline.

Rachael Levine’s husband, Phillip Levine, was involved in a minor physical altercation during the public comment session.

As he stepped to the microphone, he made a remark to the previous speaker, an annexation opponent. The man followed Levine back to the microphone, made some angry comments and then mildly shoved the elderly Levine. Councilman Block and Burien Police Chief Scott Kimerer quickly intervened.

In arguing for his motion, Block said annexation is like adopting a child. The prospective parents must be able to show they can maintain the child and themselves, he noted.

“I don’t think we can do that now,” Block declared. “The attitude seems to be to just go ahead and things will work out.’

Block said Burien should negotiate with King County over mitigation costs before an annexation vote. He also cited concerns over costs for low-income housing, infrastructure improvements and North Highline firefighters’ pensions.

“It is irresponsible to move forward,” Block said. “We should revisit this in a couple of years when the economy is better.”
Councilmember Robison responded that annexation opponents have provided “an incredible depth of misinformation.”

He noted that White Center has fewer empty storefronts than Burien.
“White Center is not a mill stone, Robison declared. “Annexation is an opportunity for Burien. It is essential for the long-term survival of Burien.”

Robison added that if Burien does not annex North Highline, the area would be incorporated into Seattle. That would be a “disaster,” he said.

Councilmember McGilton added the issue has been “talked to death.”
She said anti-annexation arguments are coming from a “select few” who are presenting “skewed information.”