Public forum on Burien economic development suggested for June 21

By Eric Mathison

With the Burien City Council pondering the city’s economic development strategic plan, lawmakers want to hear from the public on the subject.

An economic development public forum has been tentatively set for Saturday morning, June 21 at the Burien Community Center, 14700 6th Ave. S.W. Anyone interested in Burien’s economic development is invited. The community center can accommodate only 200 people so pre-registration will be required.

The forum’s date and location could change.

Councilmember Nancy Tosta and a “passionate group of community members” took the lead in formulating ideas for the forum. Tosta reported on the group’s plans at the council’s April 28 study session.

Tosta said the forum would “bring people together to bang out ideas.” She suggested that participants sit at tables based on their interests and discuss economic development. The attendees could split up and sit at other tables during a second session, according to Tosta. At the forum’s end, all participants would come together for a general session.

Councilmember Gerald Robison said he favored having participants with different interests sit together at the same table instead of, for example, having all arts groups members sit together or all developers be at one table.

Skeptical Councilmember Lauren Berkowitz criticized the ad hoc organizing committee as just one group of Burien residents with a “narrow perspective.”

She said she could not endorse the forum unless more groups were involved, particularly workers.

Berkowitz said that although a $15 per hour minimum wage has been a critical issue in the neighboring cities of SeaTac and Seattle, the committee did not suggest wages as a suitable forum topic.

Lawmakers agreed the forum should strive to attract a wide range of “stakeholders.” They discussed methods to notify diverse groups of the gathering and alternative ways to receive feedback from those who could not attend.

Mayor Lucy Krakowiak asked economic developer director Dan Trimble to develop further ideas for the forum and present a cost analysis, including the hiring of a facilitator.

The proposed strategic plan presented to the council on March 3 calls for Burien to be marketed as an “international city.”

According to the draft report, Burien’s most marketable claim to being an international city is its closeness to Sea-Tac Airport. The city’s most important advantages are its central location between Seattle and Tacoma and its nearness to major freeways.

The advisory report said, “Burien citizens enjoy the benefits of both a small-town setting and quick connections to regional and international business centers.

“It has a small-town sense of community while offering urban attractions typically only available in cities several times its size.”

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