Burien won't be divided into council districts for upcoming election

Facebook lingerie photo nets Block a council censure

Burien will not be divided up into wards for the upcoming City Council election races.

Informed that the King County Elections Department needs to receive adopted ward/district boundaries by April 1, City Councilmember Gerald Robison on March 18 withdrew his proposal to change the way city lawmakers are elected.

Robison emphasized he is not abandoning his idea. He noted there was not enough time before the April 1 deadline to fully discuss and then act on the changes.

He had suggested dividing the city into wards. In the primary, candidates would have to file and run in their own district. In the general election, the entire city would vote on the candidates.

Robison said that would ensure council members come from different areas of the city. He said the current system where candidates can file for any council position favors richer areas west of Ambaum Boulevard Southwest.

However, critics, who have flooded the council with e-mails and public comments, said the ward system would promote cronyism and discourage the best candidates from being elected.

Robison said he wants to keep his proposal on the council’s work plan.

“It deserves and requires more discussion so the public is not in such a panic,” Robison declared.

Mayor Brian Bennett and Councilmembers Rose Clark and Joan McGilton are up for re-election. The three along with Robison usually vote as a majority on the closely divided council.

The council censured Councilmember Jack Block Jr., who is also up for re-election, on March 18. The censure was in response to an “I Love Redheads” photo Block posted on his personal Facebook page. It showed a lingerie-clad woman on her hands and knees. Her head is partially shown.

Block had added, “Merry Christmas, ya’all.”

The censure vote reflected the council’s 4-3 split. Bennett, Clark, McGilton and Robison voted for censure. Block and his council allies, Deputy Mayor Lucy Krakowiak and Councilmember Bob Edgar, abstained. The censure does not carry any official sanctions.

Bennett noted the photo had gone out to numerous public officials on Block’s Facebook page.

Robison called the material “inappropriate” and “poor judgment” that does not reflect city policy.

Clark said, as a woman, she considered such material “pornographic” and not the way the council treats women.

Edgar said Block posted the photo on his own time and did not use city or council resources. He noted Block removed it after three people objected.

Krakowiak said she doesn’t approve of the photo but Block posted the photo “in a private setting that spilled over into the public.”

Calling himself a “flawed and imperfect person,” Block said the photo should be placed in the proper context. He said models in lingerie ads wear less than the woman in the Facebook photo. He also pointed to a bronze statue of a nude woman squatting that was publicly displayed on a Town Square vacant lot during an interim art display.

He also charged the censure action was politically motivated. The issue was brought up just after he proposed the council explore a succession plan in case the city manager is fired or resigns, Block said.

Block also noted the woman who brought the complaint has announced she will be running against him for his council seat.

During public comments, Boulevard Park resident Dick West declared, “According to the King County Assessor’s Office, property values in Burien are falling 35 faster than SeaTac, 35.1 percent faster than Tukwila and 34.6 percent faster than Des Moines.”

West blamed the reduced property values on 50 to 100 houses with code violations that the city has not dealt with. Some are bank repossessions while others are owned by “slumlords,” according to West.

At the previous council meeting, City Manager Mike Martin said he would give lawmakers a report on West’s previous allegations on a “nuisance house.” Martin did not report on March 18 but said city staff disagrees strongly with West’s conclusions.

We encourage our readers to comment. No registration is required. We ask that you keep your comments free of profanity and keep them civil. They are moderated and objectionable comments will be removed.