Photos by Jerry Gay
Opposing signs gave customers food for thought at a White Center grocery in 2012.

Annexation & Enfield head Top Stories list

A tradition among some. Totally arbitrary to most. We’ll get on with covering 2013 but first, here are my Top 10 Stories of 2012:

1. North Highline voters overwhelmingly reject annexation to Burien
Burien City Manager Mike Martin promised no big changes if it passed and King County officials predicted dire consequences if it didn’t. But the opponents came on strong in the end.

I suspect some city staffers secretly breathed a sign of relief when annexation failed. Having covered Highline Public Schools for many years, I know how intractable and expensive the problems are when dealing with low to moderate-income areas. Burien already has a lot on its plate.

Annexation is supposedly the issue that tore the community apart but I would be hard pressed to name more than a dozen people in Burien who were torn apart and they were the winners. As for White Center, the Civil War between those who want things to remain the same and those pressing for change has been going on since at least the early 1950s.

What’s next? There’s still $50 million in state sales tax rebates on the table until 2015. Powerful King County and state officials are still bound and determined to get urban unincorporated areas annexed into cities.

2. School superintendent Susan Enfield scorns Seattle and Bellevue to become Highline’s head honcho

Dr. Enfield has what I would characterize as a “nonsense/no nonsense” leadership style.

She dances with the kids out in the schools, displays her personal rubber ducky collection and seems like a fun person to work with. You would hate to disappoint her.

But when she replies in that rapid-fire and super intense style to burly armed security officers who want to keep their guns that she’ll study the issue and then do whatever is best for the kids, I wouldn’t want to mess with her.

Despite her rapid rise, this is her first permanent superintendency. Hang on, Highline. It’ll be interesting.

3. Media reports of Normandy Park’s death are greatly exaggerated as residents vote to raise their property taxes

Who knew that residents in that leafy-landscaped island of red voters that is surrounded by a vast sea of blue voters would approve a property tax levy lid lift?

I asked former 33rd District Republican chairwoman Barbara Steele, who actually led the pro-proposition efforts, about that. If the levy measure failed, Normandy Park would have to annex to Burien or Des Moines, she said. Normandy Parkers would still have to pay higher taxes to those cities. It’s more logical to pay to your own city with its own police department, she concluded.

Logic--how refreshing. We should try that on the national level.

4. Burien is split

It was such a routine Burien City Council meeting that two of the lawmakers had been excused to get an early start on Thanksgiving week. Then Councilmember Jack Block Jr. made a motion to withdraw
Burien’s designation of North Highline as a Potential Annexation Area. The motion quickly passed 3-2.

Then he moved that the city set an April election to decide on an elected-mayor form of government that would throw City Manager Mike Martin out of his job.

The spectators and Deputy Mayor Rose Clark realized at the same time that with Mayor Brian Bennett and former Mayor Joan McGilton absent, the usual 4-3 majority vote had flipped to a 3-2 majority of the normally minority members. Clark abruptly recessed the meeting and walked out.

When I say Burien is split, I don’t mean the general population. I mean the about two-dozen hardcore citizen activists on both sides.

They are split on annexation, the budget, and Burien Town Square apartments but mostly on City Manager Martin. It’s up to the voters at the next City Council election to decide.

5. Des Moines struggles

As we hunted for houses in Des Moines, Marge commented that she had never seen a town with so much unfulfilled potential.

Part of it is those Sea-Tac jets flying so low overhead you can count the rivets on the underside.

Part of it is the lack of businesses to shoulder the tax burden. Waterfront towns like Des Moines, Normandy Park and Burien suffer financially. Meanwhile it’s a budget crisis in interior SeaTac, with its airport parking tax, when that city’s financial reserves slide way down to $35.3 million.

Another part is the failure to come together with a plan to connect the picturesque downtown with the beautiful marina and Beach Park.

Des Moines got a double whammy when Puget Sound Energy pulled out of the business park on otherwise unusable land near the airport and the developers of the Des Moines Theater block put their parcel back on the market. The theater developers are reportedly reconsidering but I’m skeptical about a happy ending.

6. Not much happens in SeaTac

No elected-mayor proposition. No city-center entertainment district proposals. No juicy emails coming to light.

The airport opened a giant consolidated rental-car facility within sight of state Route 518 and International Boulevard but the locals have no reason to go there. The new 200th Street light rail station won’t open until 2016.

City Council votes are often 4-3. But there is no interesting Gene Fisher-Ralph Shape sparring at the meetings.

Like Burien, the 4-3 votes won’t flip unless there is a council vacancy or a transforming election. The majority troops woke up at the last election and the current outs are on the wrong side of the city’s demographics.

7. Highline Medical Center finds a partner

Until we get more people from Medina to move here and pay for ER visits to Highline Hospital, bigger is better in health care.

8. Pregnant plane delivers space shuttle trainer to Tukwila’s Museum of Flight

The NASA Super Guppy cargo plane isn’t actually pregnant but its giant belly looks like it is. The full fuselage trainer was used to train the astronauts. The museum wanted a space shuttle but this is more accessible to school kids and others because its inner workings can be explored.

By the way, no matter how they market the flight museum to potential tourists in New York City or Asia, it is located in Tukwila, not Seattle.

9. Navos Mental Health Center celebrates grand opening of new facility

The 52,450 square foot campus encompasses two buildings with client apartments nearby. It is easily accessible along the Ambaum bus route at Southwest 136th Street.

The center moved from the old Sunny Terrace school site under the third runway flight path. That allows me to throw in that I attended school there, the old center was once named for my mother who was one of the founders and being under a flight path is bad for anyone’s mental health.

Bigger is also apparently better in mental health care as Navos has also taken over the Ruth Dykeman Children’s Center on Lake Burien.

10. Tukwila board exonerates superintendent but she resigns anyway

Just about the time Susan Enfield came on board at Highline, Tukwila superintendent Ethelda Burke resigned after being charged with discriminating against African American staff members. The school board cleared her but Burke said it would be impossible for her to return and be effective. Burke quit in July and there is still no permanent replacement in one of the country’s most racially diverse school districts.

Burke is African American. Obviously there is much more to this story that we will never know.

Ending on a positive note, Tukwila along with Highline and five other area districts won a $40 million Race to the Top federal grant.

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