LETTER: Response to Burien City Council Members

Dear Editor:

I am writing this in response to comments made recently by one of Burien’s new city council members. It appears from her assertions at the council meeting that Lauren Berkowitz is strongly pro-annexation. This stance is surprising to me because I thought annexation, as a viable issue, was put to bed during the last election cycle?

Apparently not, because both Ms. Berkowitz and her ally, Jerry Robison, a long time annexation proponent, have not as yet given up on this unpopular notion. It looks like political expediency to me because the council never heard a word from Ms. Berkowitz in the months that led up to the 2012 Annexation vote and she certainly did not work on the campaign. I suspect she was cautioned by her handlers to distance herself from the pro-annexation supporters as it would most likely have hurt her chances to defeat Jack Block in the city council race. (Its easy to have the courage of your convictions in hindsight when there are no political consequences for taking an unpopular stance)

Ms. Berkowitz was quoted at the April 7th meeting by the Westside Weekly. She claimed that the opponents of annexation used misinformation in their campaign to falsely warn the public about the pitfalls of annexation, suggesting that annexation is a still viable idea for Burien if it can be spun the right way.

Having been involved in this campaign, I know for a fact that it was the PRO annexation proponents, like former city manager Mike Martin, the very unrepresentative North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, some former city council members, the King County Executive, his allies in the capitol and some of his aides, (who were most eager to get the red ink off the county books) were, in reality, the ones that engaged in an unceasing misinformation campaign. I know this because as a member of the Anti-Annexation PAC, we spent a significant amount of time exposing their false and misleading claims about how good annexation was going to be for everyone. Ms. Berkowitz stated that voter turnout was low in 2012 when in fact it was 130% greater than the vote total in the 2009 annexation of area X, which was stealthily held in the summer when pro annexation supporters on the council and the city manager knew voter turnout would be low.

The reality is that in 2012 the council again attempted to have the annexation vote held in the summer, this attempt failed, thanks to the “Keep White Center Independent” PAC who put pressure for fairness and increased democracy on the swing vote on the council and it was decided to hold the vote in November by a 4 to 3 vote because voter turnout would be higher.

Here are the FACTS on the 2012 vote to annex Area Y in comparison to the 2009 vote to annex Area X.

2012 Burien Proposition #1 – Annexation of North Highline/White Center:
2012 (~17,000 residents of Area Y):
FOR ANNEXATION: 1,997 • 35.03%
AGAINST ANNEXATION: 3,704 • 64.97%
In comparison to the 2009 North Highline South Annexation Vote:
2009(~14,000 residents of Area X):
FOR: 1,380 • 55.56%
AGAINST: 1,104 • 44.44%
DIFFERENCE: 3,217 more votes cast in 2012 Annexation vote (+129.5% increase).
So, Ms. Berkowitz’s claim about voter turnout being low is in fact misinformation and an upside down view of what really happened. In fact more, people voted against annexation in 2012 than voted in the entire 2009 election. She also claims that only one demographic group participated?? This claim can only be described as nutty and is clearly more an opinion than a fact. I challenge the council member to back up this claim with some empirical data that supports her statement because on the face of it, this claim is incoherent and just more misinformation. I also want to mention her statement claiming that regulating fertilizer use in the Lake Burien area would be a less restrictive way to deal with environmental concerns in an ecologically sensitive area like Lake Burien is clearly unenforceable. Unless, of course, she was planning on hiring some fertilizer police for the whole Lake Burien Basin (some 200+ uplands acres) and considering we don’t have enough police to go around anyway, it seems more of a divisive political statement rather than a constructive comment on the environmental concerns facing Lake Burien. Ms. Berkowitz clearly understands nothing about storm water management.

I take away two things from her statements at this meeting: She wants to revive the dead horse of annexation by finding someone to blame for its resounding defeat by the voters. She clearly has animosity against anyone in the city who lives in the Lake Burien area. (I assume because she believes that many who live there were Burien members of the anti-annexation PAC) To sum up, I was hoping with a new city council we would start with a clean slate, meaning that the acrimony, divisiveness and arrogance of the previous city council was gone and we would see a new united council leave the past behind. Unfortunately, it seems that one new council member would rather reconstruct history than join with the majority in moving Burien forward to a better future.

John Poitras

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