Update 3: Rancor continues as strong-mayor election shelved in Burien

With one of the two majority council members back, a proposed April election to decide on changing Burien's form of government was shelved by the City Council on Nov. 26.

Councilmember Joan McGilton, along with Deputy Mayor Rose Clark and Councilmember Gerald Robison voted Nov. 26 against Councilmember Jack Block Jr.'s motion to set an April election. Burien residents would have voted on Block's proposal to change to an elected mayor system of government.

Council members Lucy Krakowiak and Bob Edgar along with Block voted for the motion. With a 3-3 tie, the motion failed.

Krakowiak's amendment to direct the city attorney to draw up the elected mayor resolution also failed on a 3-3 vote.

The rancor between council factions that surfaced at the previous week’s meeting continued. At the Nov. 19 meeting, Deputy Mayor Clark abruptly called a recess and walked out after three lawmakers usually in the minority began pushing through legislation.

Mayor Brian Bennett was again absent Nov. 26 but Councilmember Joan McGilton returned, assuring a 3-3-tie vote on any controversial proposal.

Clark had the last word Nov. 19 when she recessed the meeting and the deputy mayor had the first word on Nov. 26.

She said Councilmember Jack Block Jr. had interrupted the Nov. 19 meeting to make a motion that Burien withdraw it Potential Annexation Area (PAA) claim on North Highline. Clark said the PAA claim is different than annexation. North Highline voters overwhelmingly rejected Burien’s annexation proposal in the Nov. 6 election.

Clark said retaining the PAA designation would allow Burien “a seat at the table” if Seattle wanted to annex North Highline. The PAA is part of Burien’s comprehensive plan, she said.

Block as well as council members Lucy Krakowiak and Bob Edgar had voted Nov. 19 to withdraw the PAA. Clark and Councilmember Gerald Robison voted against.

Block also made a motion Nov. 19 to set an April election date for Burien voters to decide on changing the city’s form of government. Burien would switch to electing a mayor in a citywide vote.

On Nov. 26, Clark said such a significant change would affect the budget, which had just been passed earlier in the month. Holding an election would cost Burien $30,000, according to Clark.

“I tried to reason with Mr. Block but when he continued his rash action, I chose a recess,” Clark declared.

She noted it was the first time in Burien’s history that a council meeting had been ended in that way.

Clark also said Block was poised to offer a third motion to accept a grant for two new police officers.

She said in budget discussions, Block had wanted to eliminate the police officer position at Highline High School but was now proposing adding two more police officers.

Block countered that the annexation controversy had torn the community apart. He said eliminating the PAA claim would have ended the acrimony.

He said the elected mayor election would have been “something positive that would bring the community together.”

Block added, “The residents of Burien deserve a choice. In the current system, all power is vested in the council.”

Currently, City Council members hire a city manager to supervise staff and manage city government. Council members also select one of their own to serve as mayor. The mayor presides over the council meeting and represents the city at ceremonial events.

Under the elected mayor system, Burien voters would elect a mayor, who would be the city’s chief executive.

Krakowiak said Federal Way successfully changed to an elected mayor recently. She also noted that 80 percent of the state’s cities have an elected mayor.

“Burien is maturing and is ready for it,” Krakowiak added.

Following the meeting, Block suggested to the Highline Times that residents could petition the city to hold an election on changing Burien’s form of government.

He also said he has a plan to pay for the two additional police officers. Block did not offer his motion on Nov. 26 to add the officers.

Councilmember Robison said city officials discussed annexation for several years before putting it up for a vote. He said there has been no study of costs or the election process before Block proposed the mayor election at a meeting where he knew two lawmakers would be absent.

“When I joined this council, I wasn’t prepared for such underhanded maneuvers,” Robison said.

McGilton said she began volunteering in Burien in 1993, joined the Planning Commission in 1995 and was first elected to the City Council in 2001.

“I care about the community and I will not be bullied by other council members,” she declared.

Here is our coverage of the previous Nov. 19 meeting:

Burien Deputy Mayor Rose Clark abruptly recessed Nov. 19’s City Council meeting after three lawmakers, usually in the minority, began pushing through legislation by taking advantage of the absence of two majority council members.

Mayor Brian Bennett and former Mayor Joan McGilton had excused absences from the meeting. They often vote on the same side as Clark and Councilmember Gerald Robison.

However, as the meeting was winding down, Councilmember Jack Block Jr. moved that North Highline be removed from Burien’s proposed annexation area (PAA.) North Highline voters overwhelmingly rejected Burien’s proposal to be annexed into the city at the Nov. 6 election.

The motion was approved when Block, along with council members Lucy Krakowiak and Bob Edgar, voted in favor. Clark and Robison voted against.

Krakowiak and Edgar did not offer comments before the vote.

Block said Burien’s annexation proposal had “torn the community apart.

“It is time to bring the community back together,” Block declared.

On April 2, an ill Mayor Brian Bennett attended a council meeting just long enough to provide the deciding vote on placing the annexation measure before North Highline voters on Nov. 6. Clark, Robison, and McGilton voted with Bennett. Block, Krakowiak and Edgar voted against.

At the Nov. 19 meeting, Robison countered Block’s comment by saying North Highline’s annexation vote was not a rejection of Burien. He said voters did not want to be annexed to any city. He also cited a strong anti-annexation effort in North Highline that Robison said gained strength in the last two weeks of the campaign.

‘The action taken (by Block) causes disharmony,” Clark declared.

She accused Block of going behind the backs of the two absent lawmakers.

It was Block’s second motion that caused Clark to end the meeting and walk out of the council chambers with Robison.

Block moved that the council set an April election date for Burien voters to decide on changing the city’s form of government from city manager/city council to elected mayor/city council.

In the current system, City Manager Mike Martin supervises staff and manages city government. Council members select one of their colleagues to serve as mayor. The mayor presides over the council meeting and represents the city at ceremonial events.

Under the elected mayor system, the mayor would be elected by a citywide vote and would be Burien’s chief executive.

Block, Krakowiak and Edgar have often clashed with Martin. The four other lawmakers have generally supported him.

After Clark ended the meeting, Krakowiak said Clark’s action was “inappropriate.

Block called it “immature.”

He said the two absent council members had chosen to schedule their vacations on a night when the council met.

Block added the council needed to take action on the timely matters he had brought up.

The council is scheduled to discuss Block’s motion at a Nov. 26 study session. See www.highlinetimes.com for updates.

Block said he had planned to introduce a third motion to accept a grant for two new Burien police officers. He said Martin had based acceptance of the grant on approval of North Highline annexation.

Before Block’s series of motions, the meeting had preceded harmoniously

Council members unanimously approved a chronic nuisance property ordinance.

The ordinance allows Burien’s police chief to issue a warning to an owner whose property has three or more nuisance problems within two months. An agreement would be worked out between the chief and the owner to correct the nuisance problem. If not resolved the matter could be referred to the city attorney for legal action.

Police Chief Scott Kimerer said the ordinance would be used sparingly.

“It is not a hammer,” Kimerer commented. “We are trying to get compliance.”

Lawmakers also reached a consensus that the standard for new development in the city should be a project would not result in “a net loss to the community.” The current standard calls for the developer to prove the project would be “a benefit to the community.”

Council members also tentatively agreed to set Jan. 28 for a public hearing on proposed north Burien zoning changes and comprehensive plan amendments.

Acting community development director David Johanson said 200 parcels out of 4,000 parcels in north Burien face possible zoning changes. Notices of the public hearing will be sent out to residents around the affected areas.

Lawmakers also unanimously voted to declare Nov. 19 as Malala Yousafzai Day and honor her as a “Daughter of Burien.”

Malala is a 14-year-old blogger from northern Pakistan. Taliban members shot her on Oct. 9 in retaliation for her advocacy of education for girls.

Block proposed the proclamation.

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