North Highline Unincorporated Area Council to meet Thursday

March 29th, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council to meet Thursday

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin, word of the next NHUAC meeting this Thursday (April 4th) and its agenda:

Please join us on April 4 when we will have Bryan Hastings from the Evergreen Community Aquatics Center, who will provide updates as well as some of the challenges facing the operations of the pool. Community input on this valuable community resource is welcome. Our White Center Storefront Deputy, BJ Myers will also be on hand to give updates on crime trends. All are welcome. The meeting is at 7 PM in the North Highline Fire Department meeting room, 1243 SW 116th St.

Agenda:

7:00 pm Call to Order – Flag Salute – Roll Call –
Approval of Agenda – Approval of Minutes
7:05 pm Public Announcements
7:10 pm Public Comment
3minutes for Individuals
5 minutes for Groups

7:15 pm Deputy B.J. Myers – White Center Storefront

7:20 pm Bryan Hastings – Evergreen Community Aquatic Center

7:40 pm Treasurer’s Report

7:50 pm Committee Reports
1. Governance
2. Arts and Parks
3. Public Safety
4. Housing and Human Services
5. Public Outreach
6. Transportation

8:00 pm Unfinished Business/Old Business
• Bylaws

8:10 pm New Business
• May 2 Public Safety Forum
• King County Grant Application
• Jubilee Days

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From cannabis to crimefighting: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

February 8th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news 2 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

From fighting graffiti vandalism to forming block watches to learning where legal marijuana stands, about 40 people got a more-than-full serving of public-safety information last night at the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s quarterly forum.

Here’s how it went:

LIQUOR (AND MARIJUANA) CONTROL BOARD UPDATES

Tim Thompson from the Washington Liquor Control Board started off by warning he didn’t have much information about marijuana, referring to the I-502 rule-drafting process now under way (including public forums, with an updated schedule). You can get all the latest in this section of the WALCB website.

No specific current liquor cases were discussed. (If you need to contact Thompson to report a problem, 206-439-3739 or TAT@liq.wa.gov.)

Asked how privatization is going, he mentioned there are about 1,000 retailers now and still growing, at least over the next two years – “after that, we’re not sure where that’s going to go,” regarding the current restriction to spaces 10,000 square feet or more (unless it was a grandfathered ex-liquor store).

He mentioned that the trend of liquor thefts was on the wane; if you find any bottle locking mechanism disposed of – it can be tracked by matching it to the store from which it came, so contact the LCB (or other law enforcement).

MORE ABOUT MARIJUANA

What’s it like on the front lines, as a sanctioned recreational-marijuana industry forms, while the medical-marijuana industry forges forward?

Chris Cody of Herban Legends in downtown White Center said, “Up till now, it’s been very Wild West-y … I’ve done my best to be as conscientious as possible,” and he’s even been part of a coalition working on “cannabis standards and ethics,” which he says they are trying to convert into legislation in Olympia for a “more formalized system.”

He foresees that the medical-marijuana industry might go away completely as part of all this – and says that will be a shame because “if you think liquor is taxed now – ” he envisions even higher marijuana taxes.

“A lot of the places that are open now, (probably) won’t be open in a year.”

One attendee asked about testing standards at shops, saying she needs it for insomnia – she quit smoking marijuana 40 years ago “because it put me to sleep” and now that’s exactly the effect she’s looking for. She suggested that recreational users might appreciate analysis of the different strains’ contents and strength, too.

Asked where his supplies come from, Cody discussed the “collective gardens” with which they deal, and how he checks on what they use while growing.

In a wide-ranging Q/A, he was asked if major pharmaceutical companies are likely to jump into the marijuana business. He didn’t think so, unless it was reclassified at the federal level (where, despite legalization in our state and elsewhere, it remains illegal).

Overall, Cody believes, “This is going to be a boon for Washington – whether you like it or not – it’s going to bring people here from all over the world.”

Invariably, before the discussion ended, somebody asked if Cody had samples. Giggling ensued. NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin moved the agenda along.

GRAFFITI VANDALISM / “BROKEN WINDOWS THEORY”

Burien police Sgt. Henry McLauchlan, a 35-year veteran with the King County Sheriff’s Office, first marveled that he never expected to find himself following up a discussion about legal marijuana shops. He had praise for Cody trying to rationally and responsibly work through the issues.

Then – to the “broken windows theory” – the domino effect if one bit of vandalism or disrepair is left unattended to.

While examples of tagging were being shown, someone called out a certain prolific vandal’s name. “Gonna get that j*****s one of these days,” Sgt. McLauchlan laughed. He also mentioned that Facebook is a tagging-fighting tool – since the vandals “love to brag,” and the investigators know how to find what they post.

But the front-line defense is up to property/business owners:

“The only response you can have is to get it painted out as fast as possible,” he exhorted attendees. He also explained that taggers are showing off, but gang-graffiti vandals are marking their territory.

Veering off the track for a moment, he discussed the concept of responsibility – saying that gun control doesn’t seem to him a matter of how many guns you have, as long as you’re responsible and nobody else can “get their hands on them.”

Burien, for example, has an ordinance requiring people to clean up graffiti.

Some of the vandalized unincorporated-area properties photographed by NHUAC president Dobkin included the former Bernie and Boys, the former El Chalan/Wendy’s/Ezell on 16th, the old NAPA building, and some other sites in areas including Top Hat. “It just doesn’t bode well for a community,” Dobkin lamented. “And then people start (illegally dumping on the site) …” NHUAC councilmembers and volunteers have periodic paintouts, and also engage state Department of Corrections-provided crews are engaged by KCSO when possible.

What about property owners who are sent repeated letters about violations/concerns? County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who was on hand for the entire meeting, said it was complicated, once people wind up being summoned to court.

He was challenged by a community member who expressed frustration that “we’ve been putting up with this for years” (regarding the business properties) – at which point McDermott said he’s drafting a letter himself to contact the property owners (ostensibly the El Chalan site owners, listed as NB Partners LLC, which traces in county records to Mark and Tom Nickels).

Sgt. McLauchlan then recounted how he and his teams worked on shutting down muisance multi-family properties, and “It’s a nightmare.” He suggested, though, that publishing the names of the nuisance property owners might have some effect. How to go about that?

One attendee then said it was a shame that Burien annexation hadn’t passed, since that municipality has tougher laws than the county itself. Later, Sgt. McLauchlan went on to detail the difficulty of catching graffiti vandals in action. Is there another way for them to express their creativity? one person asked. One woman said she hopes to start a “White Center as an art zone.” campaign.

If you have graffiti problems – contact NHUAC for advice on how to handle it! (Lots of info on their site at northhighlineuac.org.)

DEPUTY MYERS’ UPDATES

White Center Storefront-based Deputy BJ Myers took the spotlight next. He says there’s been a high level of auto thefts for many months and one detective is now taking the lead on most of the investigations. He’s been analyzing patterns, seeing themes, and working on ways to catch the auto thieves before they steal the cars. Myers said “small groups of thieves stealing many cars” is what they believe they are seeing the most.

By the way – one way to reduce auto thefts, he suggested, is: Don’t leave your car idling while it’s warming up; one investigator “is getting tired of reading those reports!” Myers said.

Mail theft also has been high in the past month – but “we’ve also caught and identified some mail thieves,” as has Seattle Police‘s Southwest Precinct, said Deputy Myers, “so hopefully those numbers will start moving down.” In areas where are non-locking mailboxes, they’ll find “piles of mail at the end of the street,” he said.

He also shared detectives’ requests to document serial numbers on expensive items – electronics, tools, etc. Could be as easy as taking a photo of your items. And be sure to keep that photo – or the info, otherwise documented – someplace you can find it no matter what happens! And he talked about suspects who can be one-person crime waves, like someone who stole a car, then went and stole a lawn mower, and had committed about five thefts before he was caught.

“How did you catch the mail thieves?” Deputy Myers was asked. Answer: Somebody called in a tip, seeing someone looking in a mailbox that wasn’t theirs. He said that’s almost always the way it goes.

He mentioned the recent serial robberies; the robber is pretty well covered up, so it’s tough, but they’re working on it, Deputy Myers said, noting that nobody has been hurt – yet – and the heists have tended to happen late in the evening. The detectives in the Major Crime Unit are working on it. “I think we’re going to catch this guy,” he said.

BLOCK WATCHES

Burien Police Community Service Officer Nicki Maraulja brought longtime volunteers Patty and Pam to talk to the group about how Block Watches work; they are members of the Burien Citizens’ Patrol: “It starts small but has a big impact.”

They mentioned North Highline’s late Barb Peters as an example of somebody “so involved” in their local community, full of personal responsibility.

The size of a “block” for a Block Watch is not necessarily rigorously defined, the volunteers said. They talked about time-proven tacics of dealing with possible suspicious folks in the neighborhood – go up to them, talk to them, ask them how they’re doing. She also advocated setting up websites or groups for neighborhoods.

But first – be sure you have a block watch! Asked how many people in the room have one, close to half of the 40 or so raised their hands. The unincorporated area has about 25; Burien has more than 120.

One person suggested they might set a goal of doubling the number of block watches this year.

Informational booths at community events “are a great way to reach out to your neighbors,” too, the volunteers had.

If some neighbors don’t want to participate – don’t let that stop you, they urged. “Just do it.”

Officer Maraulja said, “It’s fun,” and the volunteers mentioned Night Out, getting together wth your neighbors, etc.

E-mailing her is the best way to organize a Block Watch.

“The more people you have watching out for each other, the better – don’t wait till something happens.”

FINAL WORDS

Sgt. McLauchlan said the four most important words on the topic of public safety are:

AWARENESS – it’s simple, if you’re not awareness of your surroundings, you can’t help your neighbors, you can’t help yourself.

AVOIDANCE – Be the eyes and ears (though don’t get TOO involved, and don’t confront a criminal – “that’s why you have 911.”

KNOWLEDGE – that’s a Block Watch, a Crime Prevention meeting, “a lot o things’ – including personal responsibility. (and call 911 when you see something suspicious)

PREPARATION – work together – put together Block Watches – make this work for you – if you do, “it’s going to make this a lot nicer place to be.

Thursday, May 2nd, is the next forum, location TBA, with a guest lineup topped, says NHUAC president Dobkin, by Sheriff John Urquhart.

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From the WCN Event Calendar: No North Highline UAC meeting this month

December 26th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on From the WCN Event Calendar: No North Highline UAC meeting this month

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council usually meets on the first Thursday of the month, but not this month. From president Barbara Dobkin:

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will not be holding a meeting in January. Please stay tuned for information regarding the February 7, 2013 meeting. See you all then.

NHUAC is online at northhighlineuac.org.

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1st North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting since annexation vote

December 8th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on 1st North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting since annexation vote

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Some differences Thursday night as the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council met for the first time since voters rejected annexation to Burien.

For one – Burien’s city manager Mike Martin wasn’t on the agenda; pre-vote, he had been a fixture for many months.

Someone who had been a previous fixture at meetings for some months did appear, unannounced, to start the meeting:

THOMAS BATES FROM THE U.S. ATTORNEY’S OFFICE: Bates was a figure at NHUAC meetings during the aftermath of “Operation Center of Attention – and he showed up tonight to reiterate the feds’ commitment to safety a year later, saying “We want everyone to know they can call me, call our office,” though the committee was happy to see him. He noted that guilty pleas continue to emerge (including one reported here last week). So far, he says 21 defendants have pleaded guilty or being convicted, and another trial is set for next week.

Bates invited questions, and was asked about the federal position on the marijuana-law change in our state; he pointed out the statement that was released saying the federal government “continues to evaluate” while reiterating that possession and distribution remains illegal under federal law, which cannot be changed by states. Overall, he said, if problems are noticed, talking to local law enforcement is still the best course of action if you have concerns about something.

CAPT. PATRICK BUTSCHLI, KING COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE: His appearance marked the first since the election of new Sheriff John Urquhart. He started by answering some questions he said he had received via e-mail – including one about the “14 deputies” staffing addition that was mentioned during the campaign. That involved filling vacant positions, not adding “additional deputies,” he clarified, much as he said they would like to. Most of the time, he said, the department carries about 20 vacancies – and they can’t start the process of filling a vacancy until the day the person who held the job departs. “It takes a year to (get) a deputy,” he said, including recruiting, training, and other parts of the process. Accelerating that process is what the campaign discussion was about, he clarified. As for how it’ll affect this area, they don’t know yet, he said, and they are waiting to find out from the new Sheriff about his plans for the agency – “no changes to the way you are staffed in this community … still two deputies 24/7 minimum,”he said, and during the day, usually more. He said he expected Deputy B.J. Myers to stay in the White Center storefront. Capt. Butschli also noted that Sheriff Urquhart spent a lot of time working in this area and feels warmly toward it – as well as understanding “the crime and disorder problems in this area” – so he expects the new sheriff will be a supporter of the area.

(In later questioning, the captain reiterated that it’s important to call for help if something happens – “PLEASE call,” he said. “You’ll be politely told if it’s not” (a police matter).

Regarding Club Evo, the club owner is still under injunction to prevent it from being put back into operation – and had to be “reminded of that,” as he put it, when a rave almost happened two weeks ago (as covered exclusively by WCN, here and here). “I think we’re still going to have a fight on our hands with Club Evo,” he warned – “the owners and operators are still paying taxes … and are going to try anything they can to legally get some income out of it.” The injunction has to do with sprinklers and no business permits, “and we’re going to continue to enforce that as we can … barring any legal maneuvering .. I think it’s going to be an ongoing tug of war.”

Regarding marijuana, he foresaw “some enforcement options if people are wandering the streets, lighting up.” He hoped that there will eventually be some clear law-enforcement guidelines. He reiterated what Bates had suggested – “I urge you all to continue to report that stuff. … You want to be the community that calls all the time. … If (sheriffs show up frequently) the people will move on to other areas.” .. “Our position has been to enforce what we know is still illegal, and to continue to agitate for clear guidelines on how to enforce the rest of it.”

(Speaking later, Deputy Myers said they weren’t made aware until the day before Thanksgiving [which is when we heard about it too, and published our first story] and it took a couple days over the holiday to get hold of anyone who could do something. Finally a copy of the injunction that prevented such events in the building was produced, and they spoke to the event organizers to make sure they knew about it – just an hour and a half or so before the event was scheduled to happen.)

Asked about crime trends, Capt. Butschli said the burglary problem continues to be “bad.” He said there’s a mini-trend of home invasions (though he didn’t mention it specifically, it appeared to include the Top Hat case). Deputy BJ Myers said there’s been some success this past month “catching burglars in the act.”

Casing typically involves knocking on doors and, if someone answers, making up an excuse to make it sound like they were legitimate. The captain said they definitely want to hear from citizens to whom that happens.

NHUAC member Jessica Stoneback asked what had brought out a significant KCSO presence near the Evergreen campus two nights earlier. The KCSO reps weren’t certain – surveillance, possibly.

METRO TRANSIT POLICE DEPUTY: Deputy Myers says there’s now a Transit Police deputy assigned primarily to the West Precinct – which includes Burien, White Center, etc. – and that he is spending a lot of time in White Center, especially 15th/Roxbury. “His presence out here is being felt a lot by us … it’s made a big difference,” said Myers.

COMPLAINT WITHDRAWN: President Dobkin noted that a complaint filed against NHUAC with the Public Disclosure Commission by a Burien resident accusing it of acting as a political action committee has been withdrawn, “and that’s good news for us.”

COUNCIL ANNOUNCEMENTS: NHUAC member Liz Giba says the North Highline Fire District Board of Commissioners, on which she also sits, will meet again on December 17 and talk about budget issues … Giba also clarified that NHUAC has long worked to have the new White Center Library built on the site where it is now … Speaking of libraries, the White Center Library Guild Holiday Bazaar is today, 11 am-3 pm with a magician performing at 2 pm … President Dobkin noted that the county is going to start having open houses for the new Community Service Areas, though none is planned in White Center – Renton is the closest …

DEALING WITH FINANCES: Since the county no longer funds unincorporated-area councils, NHUAC is funding what it does out of its own pocket. The county did invite grant applications related to the new “Community Service Areas” and NHUAC did get some grant money to continue its Public Safety Forums, but needs to decide how to financially handle regular meetings. “I think (the council) is more important than ever, since we are going to stay unincorporated, and stay unincorporated for a long time,” Dobkin observed, adding that NHUAC will maintain county connections such as those with County Councilmember Joe McDermott, who she says has assured them that he’ll continue to be responsive to concerns, issues, and inquiries.

OTHER NOTES ABOUT NHUAC’S FUTURE: Barbara Dobkin quipped that she didn’t particularly want to be “president for life” – but the council has to figure out how it will work going forward. It has a couple open seats, and another one as of now – she said Patrick Mosley is leaving the community and will no longer serve. They used to have community elections for NHUAC seats, but that costs money they no longer get – so they want to figure out how to open participation to other interested community members. They also want to keep their nonprofit certification, website and post-office box going – that means a near-term expense of close to $200 to cover the next six months or so. They intend to let their liability insurance lapse, though, since the county grant they applied for, to seek funding for continuing meetings, would have covered that, but was denied.

Council member Douglas Harrell wondered if quarterly meetings might be appropriate. “Given that we are a non-entity at this point, we can do whatever he want,” he observed, after wondering aloud whether Seattle might move to annex the area since the state sales-tax credit was only in effect for a couple years. Council member Giba didn’t think it likely. Dobkin also pointed out that the council actually is an entity – incorporated with the state.

Back to the money issue – Harrell (owner of Roxbury Lanes) thought they might consider a fundraiser at some point down the line. “I know a guy who owns a bowling alley,” he said, drawing laughter.

LIBRARY FUTURE: It was recapped that the King County Library System plan to build a new White Center Library has fallen into some turmoil – over where it would be sited. The committee’s position continues to be that it should be rebuilt “where it is.” NHUAC is hoping to have “a seat at the table” when the site is considered.

SIDE NOTE OF THE NIGHT: If you keep your registration info in your car, will that lead to burglary, with someone breaking into your car, seeing your address and heading there? Deputy Myers said that has not been a particular problem – but if you’re worried, register your car to a PO Box rather than your home address, as the law continues to require that you carry registration so you can produce it if pulled over.

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North Highline UAC meets Thursday for the first time since Election Day

December 3rd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline UAC meets Thursday for the first time since Election Day

Last time the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council met, the November election was still five days away, and there was a chance that the area’s unincorporated status wasn’t going to last much longer. Now the election’s in the rear-view mirror and the unincorporated status is continuing TFN. So the all-volunteer councilmembers are carrying on with their longtime focus on major area issues. Here’s the agenda for the next meeting, 7 pm this Thursday, December 6:

Please join us this Thursday, Dec. 6 for the monthly NHUAC meeting, when we will be hosting Captain Patrick Butschli, who will provide important updates on Club E, and King County Sheriff Dept staffing for North Highline. Deputy Myers, White Center Storefront Deputy, will be on hand to provide updates on crime stats as well as other issues impacting our community. All are welcome.

Agenda:

7:00 pm Call to Order – Flag Salute – Roll Call – Approval of Agenda – Approval of Minutes

7:05 pm Public Announcements
7:10 pm Public Comment
3 minutes for Individuals
5 minutes for Groups

7:15 pm Deputy BJ Myers

7:25 pm Captain Patrick Butschli – King County Sheriff’s Dept.

7:50 pm Treasurer’s Report

8:00 pm Committee Reports
1. Governance
2. Arts and Parks
3. Public Safety
4. Housing and Human Services
5. Public Outreach
6. Transportation

8:10 pm Unfinished Business
• King County Grants
• Withdrawal of PDC complaint filed by Chestine Edgar against NHUAC

8:15 pm New Business
• Graffiti/Illegal Dumping
• Planting site plaque stolen
• Council issues 2013
• Public Safety Forums
• King County Library

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Last North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting before the election

November 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in Annexation, burien, North Highline UAC, White Center news 4 Comments »

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Burien City Manager Mike Martin has spoken countless times at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meetings. Thursday night, however, each word seemed to carry added weight – not just because of additional scrutiny (a TV camera was rolling), but because this was the last NHUAC meeting until voters in the area decide whether to join his city or not.

So here’s how the meeting unfolded:

ANNEXATION VOTE – THE BURIEN VIEW: Martin started with something of a valedictory as the annexation-vote endgame approached – “the good fight is worth fighting for its own reasons regardless of the outcome.” He cited a “task list that would start .. the day after the vote … We’re ready to go, and ready to move swiftly.” He said he “transmitted my strong hope that the county can move as swiftly as Burien can.” (Negotiations on that “move” would happen after the election, Martin said.) If North Highline residents vote to annex, he promised to talk with NHUAC and citizens “a lot … to make sure our plans include everything that needs to get done.” He would hope for implementation around April 1st, saying “it seems fast … but we had an August vote (last time) and were prepared to (finalize it) in February” aside from one last-minute snag that erupted. “I really look forward to having this area as part of Burien,” he said.

Martin also noted that Burien’s finalizing its next budget on November 5th – next Monday -and insisted that his city is in good financial shape, refuting annexation opponents’ claims otherwise, and hoping to reduce the amount of supplementary “fund balance” it’s been using. He recapped the “radical rejiggering of revenue in this state” as a result of the recession and said cities will need 15 years to recover from it, though he contends Burien is “head and shoulders” above most of its counterparts, thanks to “small things” as well as bigger decisions.

What about the library situation? asked NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin. Martin said an “appropriate resolution to the library question” (the future of the White Center and Boulevard Park branches) is on his list too. She also asked Martin about various contentions that opponents have made, and various issues that have been raised. One was, which Burien business-advocacy group would represent the area if voters approve annexation and it takes effect? “It’s not about competing business districts, it’s about the synergy of having two business centers,” Martin noted, while saying the issue of who will advocate for who, on behalf of the city, has yet to be settled.

Elizabeth Gordon of White Center restaurant Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue rose to ask Martin questions. One was his prediction. He thinks it’s going to be close but “I really don’t know who’s going to win.” She also asked about services such as animal control. “Ours is a heck of a lot better than the county’s. A heck of a lot better,” he declared, with “a much higher level of service and a much lower cost.” NHUAC member Stephen Porter said that he has had his dog in the care of Burien’s service twice now and is happy with it.

Gordon also had asked about services for senior citizens and refugees, and Martin said that the former is “getting more active” while the latter would probably have to grow and evolve; he says the Burien council is “very committed to the diverse communities.” Her final question was about the Roxbury/16th intersection and how it’s affected by the marijuana businesses in the heart of White Center; Martin’s reply veered into whether statewide Initiative 502 would pass and what that would mean for city employees. (Right now, Burien does not allow dispensaries at all.)

Asked about claims that annexation would bring more bureaucracy to simple acts like cutting a tree at a person’s own home, another point annexation opponents have cited, Martin declared it “consummate b******t.”

KING COUNTY ROADS, THE TIERED SYSTEM: Jay Osborne returned to talk about the current situation with the county and how roads will be dealt with in the unincorporated areas. “In the county, we have a dedicated property tax that can only be spent on roads,” he explained. (He had made a presentation to NHUACback in xx.) It’s an “antiquated funding structure,” he declared – to deal with a system the county says would take $39 billion to build in today’s dollars and conditions. Road revenues have dropped about 20 percent in recent years, as the county gets less road tax and less gas tax.

As the county had said in the last briefing, they don’t have the money to care for the entire system, so they expect to close some roads and bridges in the years ahead. Right now, none in White Center are failing, he said – “you guys are lucky.” Some storm damage from previous years has not been repaired yet. They are working right now to look at where they will be able to plow if it snows: “In 2014 we will not plow any category 2 or 3 roadways” and they will only have the resources to plow half of category 1 roadways. (That means roads that are important for safety, he elaborated in response to a question later – saying that “in this area, that may only mean Roxbury and 16th get plowed.”)

“We are in the process of selling off a number of facilities, of properties we own … and we’re reducing service out there to balance the budget as we go forward,” he summarized.

He also said the road budget has lost some money to the King County Sheriff’s Office in the service of traffic enforcement, by decision of the King County Executive and Council. And he noted that the County Council could choose to propose a Transportation Benefit District fee and ask voters to approve it, though even a $20 fee countywide would raise only $4.5 million, while “our hole is $55 million.”

They will be asking the state for help. (But, one person in the audience asked, aren’t they having “the same money problems?” Osborne said the legislature would be mulling an excise tax that might help ease the problem – “if they have the political will.”

Will any roads really be left to revert to gravel? Dobkin asked. Osborne said the first are three roads in a rural area; in the future, “the pothole issue” would help determine a road’s fate.

Osborne says there might be a problem with the South Park Bridge – specifically with a caisson – when asked about its expected completion (fall 2013) – so “conversations” are happening now. In the meantime, he says, demolition of what remains of the old bridge is scheduled to start “soon.”

BOUNDARY REVIEW BOARD: Pat Price attended the recent Boundary Review Board meeting regarding the Duwamish Triangle annexation. She said the board will not deliberate until November 8th, hoping to hear by then how Burien annexation will turn out. She says that meeting will be held at Beverly Park School. It matters among other reasons because North Highline Fire District currently serves that area – which has “a big tax base,” as Dobkin noted.

TRANSPORTATION: The recent Metro bus changes are a concern here too, since White Center has been affected. There’s talk of setting up a focused discussion in the future.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets first Thursdays, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Thursday’s agenda

October 31st, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 2 Comments »

You’ve seen the preview – now, here’s the agenda for Thursday’s monthly meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, at North Highline Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th):

7:00 pm Call to Order – Flag Salute – Roll Call –
Approval of Agenda – Approval of Minutes

7:05 pm Public Announcements
7:10 pm Public Comment
3 minutes for Individuals
5 minutes for Groups

7:15 pm Mike Martin, Burien City Manager

7:25 pm Brenda Bauer, Division Director and Jay Osborne, Road Services Manager – King County Department of Transportation

7:50 pm Treasurer’s Report

8: 00 pm Committee Reports
1. Governance
2. Arts and Parks
3. Public Safety
4. Housing and Human Services
5. Public Outreach
6. Transportation

8:10 pm Unfinished Business
• King County Grants

8:15 pm New Business
• Metro changes route 560/120/125
• December Agenda

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Road reality and more, on the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda

October 25th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Road reality and more, on the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda

One week from tonight:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invites you to the monthly meeting, Thursday, November 1, 7 pm at the North Highline Fire Station (1243 112th Street SW). We are pleased to be hosting Brenda Bauer and Jay Osborne from the King County Department of Transportation, who will present an overview of current service delivery and “What to expect this winter and impacts from the diminishing budget”..

As noted at previous meetings by the County DOT, and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott at NHUAC’s Oct 4 Annexation Forum, the county has moved to a “tiered” level of service for unincorporated area roads. Under this plan, Tier 5 roads, 36 miles of which make up the residential streets in North Highline, will receive “virtually no storm and snow response. Maintenance will be limited and based on factors such as life safety and risk, resulting is a growing number of deteriorating roads. Users can expect to see some closures…these roads may also be downgraded to a gravel surface..”

Information on the new service levels can be found on the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council website, www.northhighlineuac.org. Follow the link to the DOT site and then the link under “Service Tiers”.

Hope to see you all there as we learn more about how this plan will impact our community.

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To be annexed, or not to be annexed? Standing room only @ NHUAC forum

October 4th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline UAC, White Center news 9 Comments »

(About two-thirds of the crowd)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

With just a month till the election, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s annexation forum brought a standing-room-only crowd to the NH Fire District’s headquarters tonight, for two hours of statements, questions, answers, and only a bit of the acerbic sparring that has on occasion marked discussion of the annexation issue.

We have all but the last 10 minutes of the forum on video, and will upload that once we’re back at headquarters. (Added – here it is:)

We will also add some links to the story, and a letter from King County Executive Dow Constantine, read aloud during the forum, urging residents to approve annexation. But for those who couldn’t be there – here are the highlights of the forum moderated by NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin, with a panel of six at the head of the room:

Karen Freeman from the King County Executive’s Office began with “how did we get here?” background. “We ended up with a Swiss-cheese map of some unincorporated areas like North Highline.” She explained, “The county has been really struggling to serve you – this patchwork of communities,” referring to the remaining unincorporated communities. “When you become a dense urban neighborhood, you need more services than (a rural neighborhood.” The county, bottom line, just isn’t set up to serve those “dense urban (areas)” including North Highline. The county started aggressively going out in 2004 and talking to areas about “where do you want to go?” Six annexations down – six to go, she said. She described the south North Highline annexation as “having gone really well.” She also mentioned the county’s low level of road service, blamed on budget cuts, and cuts in park funding. Cities provide such services really well, Freeman said, but the county does not. “Our focus is on providing … we run the regional jail, the public-health system, the court system … all these examples of regional services that we were designed to provide and that we are trying to fund …”

State Senator Sharon Nelson mentioned she had worked on annexation while on County Executive Constantine’s staff, and is continuing in the Legislature. The state Growth Management Act makes it imperative that these “urban growth areas” must be “transitioned… into cities where there is a better level of service and more appropriate local-government component.” She mentioned the annexation sales-tax credit having been designed so that cities could take on communities – increased because of the North Highline area and its “needs.” She called the sales-tax credit the state’s “carrot” to encourage annexation. She urged those concerned/interested to talk to those in the previously annexed “Area X” – and said she hasn’t taken sides in this.

Next, Burien City Manager Mike Martin, who said “Our best strategy is to answer questions,” and then said “Here are things we know to be true, despite what we have heard in other venues.” He noted that about two-thirds of the crowd were what he calls “annexation veterans.” He said Burien would become a city of about 65,000 if annexation is approved and outlined some other basic facts – annexation is voted on only in the area that would be annexed if passed. A common question, he said, is “Who provides the services?” subsequently describing Burien as “a contract city” – with five or six “junior taxing districts that provide everything from water to sewer to fire to library to school … none of those would change in annexation.” Then he went over the postal-address question, saying only the zip code matters.

According to Martin, annexation is “revenue-neutral” – has no cost to the city of Burien. “The fact of the matter is that we have more than ample resources to do this.” He said this annexation brings in 10 times the sales-tax credit of the last one, “radically different from any other annexation in the county,” because this area has more needs than other areas and “really needs to belong” to a city. He stressed, “There is no equivocation over whether we can financially do this as a city. We absolutely can, period, game over.” As for reconciling the way the area runs now with the way Burien runs now – he said they basically won’t do anything for about a year and won’t do anything “without consulting the community.” Then: “When it’s all said and done, the taxes and fees combined for the average house in the area will increase by about $140 a year.” Burien is doing a lot more of its own road work, he added, and has various efficiencies. As for the public parks – they will negotiate with the county, although he notes that Steve Cox is a regional facility. The previous annexation involved taking over half a dozen parks, he said, and Burien still does not have enough parks, he said, so parks are high priority.

So what DOES change – why do this? he said. His answer was the same as a previous forum – protection (though he didn’t use that word) from situations like the Puget Sound Park “debacle.” He said Burien deploys “aggressive intervention” when necessary, and “we punch above our weight.” He said people in the unincorporated area may not realize what it’s like to envision something and have it become reality. “When 18,000 people join a city of 45,000, you have a voice.”

Burien is also a fairly young city – and will celebrated its 20th anniversary next year, Martin noted. “That’s 20 concerted years of pursuing a vision. … We’re accessible, we’re committed to listening to people … and I’d say that’s our best pitch.” He also noted the city’s mayor, deputy mayor, and a councilmember were in the audience.

Fire Chief Mike Marrs followed Martin. “Since November of (last) year,” he said, he has been chief of the North Highline Fire District as well as District 2. He explained the department’s operations, including running 4 stations.

Sheriff Steve Strachan, on the sidelines (as were several other officials who participated, besides the six panelists), addressed the question “what would happen if annexation does NOT occur?” Burien, he reiterated, is the contract partner of the King County Sheriff’s Office. “If the decision is made to annex, your police department becomes the Burien Police Department” and they change uniforms, but little else. He said staffing won’t go down if annexation is rejected, but – it wouldn’t likely go up, either. The White Center storefront deputy would stay, he said.

Capt. Carl Cole, who is the assistant chief of Burien Police, then talked about operations. “Right now the way we staff White Center, we actually have an unincorporated pool of deputies responsible for Vashon, White Center, Skyway.” He said that means a 4-car minimum between White Center and Skyway. “The problem we have right now, we don’t have enough people to meet (that minimum) so we end up doing a lot of that staffing on overtime.” WC has Storefront Deputy BJ Myers and about a third of the Boulevard Park storefront deputy. Property crime investigation falls to two detectives who handle White Center, Vashon, Skyway, and an unincorporated area near Federal Way. There used to be 4 handling Skyway and WC alone.

He detailed other staffing, including the fact that “non-in-progress calls” in the middle of the night do not get responded to. He says they’ve figured out how the police department would work if the annexation goes through – an additional 12 patrol officers, but actual patrol numbers will likely stay the same. Property crime investigation might go up, though, as street-crime investigation likely would. Other areas would likely go up a bit in terms of policing power. Patroling strength would stay close to what it is now – but they always try to keep numbers up in the cities, he said, so “the availability of service will go up slightly – but the real difference is in investigations and followups.”

County Councilmember Joe McDermott started out by reading a letter that he said County Executive Constantine has sent to residents in the potential annexation area, urging them to vote in favor of it, and explaining why – as Constantine staffer Freeman had said earlier – governance would work better under a city than with the county.

See the entire letter (PDF) here.

Constantine’s letter said his support for the area being annexed had been consistent for years, and stressed that “King County can no longer afford to provide the level of urban services that residents … have come to expect.” The letter also mentioned Burien “actively and sincerely” reaching out to residents, and that it already shares a common school district and common police provider. After reading the letter – whose text we’ll add to this story later, when it’s e-mailed to us – McDermott said that some who had spoken before him had “stolen his thunder” but that he had worked on the sales-tax-credit issue when he was in the Legislature. Then he underscored some of the service deficiencies the county faces, particularly the “tiered” road-maintenance plan: “The brutal reality is that we don’t have enough money to maintain roads …” 36 miles of county roads, he said, are in Tier 5, and will eventually go to gravel.

He also talked about the Club Evo situation and how difficult it was to get that through the County Council – since the other 8 councilmembers do not represent this area – addressing it as a moratorium on certain types of clubs. Under Burien leadership, he said, there will be seven councilmembers solely focused on city needs. Under the county, budget pressures mean “we will not be able to sustain the amount of service you deserve.”

After about an hour, the forum switched to Q&A. The first question, was seeking a clarification of how the annexation sales-tax-credit works; Sen. Nelson handled it, saying that .8 percent of the tax that would usually go to the state would go to the city instead. Martin then said he is certain that the expected $5 million WILL be received by Burien. “We get the money. … We’ve been over this a zillion times.” Many have asked about the accuracy of that number and Martin says it’s been checked and rechecked. Burien Councilmember Jerry Robison added from the sidelines that he had the actual numbers – though not on his person at the moment. “Why in the world would we overestimate revenues?” Martin asked, after Sen. Nelson went through some of the Olympia logistics. He suggested those who questioned it were “conspiracy theorists.”

In response to another question, Sen. Nelson noted that the sales-tax credit offer did have an end date – January 1, 2015 – if no annexation happened. But if and when it does, it lasts for 10 years.

Would the libraries in the annexation area become Burien areas? was the next question. No, they would remain King County libraries, Martin said, while pointing out that the question of the current WC and Boulevard Park libraries’ fate remains unsettled – until after the annexation issue is settled, yes or no.

That led to a followup question about the concerns that the King County library system has expressed – whether the 116th/Ambaum library might draw too many non-taxpaying Seattleites, since it’s so close to another city. Martin says the council’s been arguing that the Boulevard Park library needs to be renovated and the White Center library needs to be rebuilt where it is or nearby.

Stephen Lamphear then pointed out from the sidelines that county reps who were on the panel do not represent the library system, since it has its own governance.

Freeman and McDermott both said they had been strongly lobbying the library system regarding the two libraries’ fate.

Someone then read from a flyer attributed to “Independent White Center,” wondering if its contention that home values would drop were true. The King County Assessor’s Office is accountable for dictating values, it was pointed out. Robison, noting he’s been in the real estate business for decades, stated flat out that “changing from White Center to Burien would not have any effect on property values.” Some services – such as roads – might have a minor effect, but otherwise, he said, “In real estate, it’s all location, and unless you pick up and move the house, it’s not going to have any effect.”

What about the concentration of low-income housing in the White Center area? “Consolidating it in one part of the county is a very bad idea for many reasons,” replied Martin.

Robison took on the specific topic of Section 8 subsidized housing and its effect on the tax base. “Even with the disproportionate level of public housing and subsidized housing in White Center (and environs), it still accounts for a very small percentage of the total housing stock,” he said. “My best estimate is that about 10 percent of the housing stock falls in that subsidized range and about 3 percent is public or subsidized housing that does not pay property taxes. … It’s not a crippling thing.”

The questioner then said that the presence of subsidized-housing tenants was affecting property values in his neighborhood. He and Robison had a back-and-forth about it, before Martin jumped in and said there’s certainly “a willingness to address the issue” that Burien “could bring to the table.”

Chestine Edgar then stood to express skepticism about “promises by politicians … that everything was going to turn out all right.” She said that property values in some areas had dropped – and annexation supporters tried to refute it. “If this does not work out, what is the safety net for (the area) after the sales tax credits work out – we would be in a deficit level,” she contended. “What is the state’s plan for bailing areas like this out?”

Sen. Nelson rose and acknowledged that a consultant’s report would show the city with a deficit at that point. But she said it was a “conservative approach” outlined during the recession. And then she said, “When you take a look at this annexation, keep in mind (what the county has said about being unable to afford services).” She said she has a daughter in Burien and sees a well-kept area. When she goes through Delridge in West Seattle, she said, “I see a slightly different picture.” Plus: Right now, the 18,000 people in the annexation area are among 1.8 million county cities – but in the city of Burien, they would be a substantial share, and would have those aforementioned seven councilmembers as representation.

Freeman then added, that the conversation about annexation has continued in this vein – “showing their work” for many years.

Next, Elizabeth Gordon of Uncle Mike’s Superlicious Barbecue in White Center asked how annexation would change things for business owners. “One of the things that has been missing, in my opinion, is a cohesive vision for that area because all of us are working day and night running our businesses,” she explained, making it difficult to “bring positive attention to the area.”

Martin replied, noting that Burien does have a business tax. As for “code enforcement,” he said Burien goes with what the community tolerates – but that does not include for example “public drunkenness.” He said “You can expect to see that gone,” adding, “We’re very aggressive about graffiti removal.” He envisions likely adding a full-time employee “to be present up here, for things that need taking care of.” Added Martin, “We’ve had a great deal of discussion about what it would mean to have two business districts … we would expect the same level of decorum in both.”

Then Martin pointed out, “The department that handles permits [DDES] in the county is moving to Snoqualmie next month. So if you want a permit, you have to go out to Snoqualmie … If you come to Burien, we’re going to take care of you the best way we can.” Streets like 152nd in Burien, he said, are most valuable as “a sense of place.” He said he believes Burien can help White Center and Top Hat with that. Capt. Cole added, “Cities are so much more nimble than the county in dealing with problems … Coming into the city you’ll get a much-better, faster response on these things.”

Martin then warned that the day after the election – if annexation is chosen – problems won’t be solved overnight. “It’s a war of inches.”

Robison added that Burien would require business licenses – which the county cannot do – and compared the cost of its B&O tax to Seattle (favorably). He contended that Burien has become “a friendlier place for businesses … you’re less likely to find someone at the counter telling you no.”

The county would continue to provide public-health services for restaurants, McDermott added.

What if annexation fails – can the area be forced to join one of the cities? it was asked.

Freeman replied that there are a lot of different ways to annex but the county has not talked about using any forcible means of annexation. “If folks decide not to annex to Burien, we’ll get together as a community and decide what to do next.”

(Editor’s note – Our video will run through that point; our camera stopped running there, for reasons unknown – might just be time for a new video camera.)

Robison elaborated on an annexation method that could be carried out without a vote of the people. “You’re one percent of the county.”

“Can’t we get annexed by Medina or Bellevue?” someone asked, drawing laughter.

Another question went back to the topic of property values and the County Assessor’s recent declaration that values might seem lower in this area because people were waiting to see what might happen with annexation.

The next question dealt with card rooms and where they existed and where they did not. “Casinos are allowed in the city of Burien, and we have one,” replied Martin, who added that they keep “very close tabs” on them with the police. “They’ve been a good neighbor, we haven’t had any problems. I’m concerned with them having problems but … they are a significant contributor to our revenue stream.” But there is not a functioning casino in the area east of 99.

Marcia Wollam from Friends of Hicklin Lake then asked about their advocacy for floating lakes and the county Parks Department planning to put one or two into its budget for next year. How would that align with possible annexation, and could the city of Burien stipulate that the funding would proceed, as one of the prerequisites for annexation? Yes, we could, said Martin, though he said they hadn’t decided yet. “I think there’s another problem with Hicklin Lake which has to do with the way drainage occurs,” he said. “We would definitely be talking to the county …”

At that point – 8:53 pm – Sen. Nelson had to leave to catch her ferry. And a notable group of audience members left; it was clear the forum was starting to wind down (and NHUAC president Dobkin acknowledged that).

One person said she wasn’t sure whether she was in the annexation area or not – Martin pointed out there’s an online tool that will tell you.

“Simple question for Joe – and complaint,” began the next questioner. “My absentee ballot for the primary election arrived three days before a voter’s pamphlet – is the county putting one out, and will it arrive before the ballot?”

McDermott said he’d check but he believes the state is putting out the general-election pamphlet.

Next: What about assuming the debt for the North Highline Fire District and pension funding? Chief Mike Marrs said the latter would become Fire District 2’s liability, if Burien annexes.

Dobkin concluded by saying – make your decision based on facts, and offered those who had participated – among others – as resources for facts. “The important thing is to be a knowledgeable voter, know what you are voting on, and vote.”

This forum replaced the regular monthly NHUAC meeting, which is on the first Thursday; next month, they will be back to their regular meeting time, 7 pm on November 1st. And if you still have annexation questions – the City of Burien has one more informational session scheduled before the election, two weeks from tonight, 6 pm October 18th, at Cascade Middle School – just a few blocks east of where tonight’s forum was held.

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Annexation vote ahead: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council announces details of October 4th forum

September 26th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Annexation vote ahead: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council announces details of October 4th forum

We had mentioned previously that the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council was planning an informational forum on annexation before the November 6th election, and now we have details:

Interested in the facts about the North Highline Annexation – then mark your calendars for Thursday, October 4, at 7 pm, and join us for an Annexation Information Forum at the North Highline Fire Station (1243 112th Street, SW).

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is pleased to host this event with Washington State, King County, and Burien City Representatives, who will be on hand to provide information, and answer your questions about this important issue that will be on the November 6 ballot. We look forward to seeing you there.

Here’s the official flyer.

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Video: Sheriff’s candidates headline North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Public Safety Forum

September 13th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Election, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Video: Sheriff’s candidates headline North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Public Safety Forum

The two candidates for King County Sheriff on the November 6th ballot came to White Center tonight and spent a spirited hour trying to win votes. They are current Sheriff Steve Strachan – appointed when Sue Rahr resigned – and challenger John Urquhart. The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invited them for a forum-within-a-forum at tonight’s quarterly Public Safety Forum, and we have it all on video.NHUAC’s Richard Miller introduced them.

The agenda for tonight’s forum also included disaster preparedness and a crime update, delivered by White Center’s storefront deputy BJ Myers, whose 12-minute appearance is also on video. Among other things, he talked about the strong-arm robberies that led to recent arrests (as reported here):

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Reminders for tonight: Annexation-info session; NHUAC public-safety forum

September 13th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Annexation, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Reminders for tonight: Annexation-info session; NHUAC public-safety forum

Both happening TONIGHT (Thursday):

*Burien’s monthly pre-election annexation information session: Beverly Park Elementary, 1201 S. 104th, cafeteria, 6 pm

*North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s public-safety forum, featuring crime/safety updates as well as a forum with the two candidates for King County Sheriff, 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th

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Three days till sheriff candidates and more @ NHUAC Public Safety Forum

September 10th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off on Three days till sheriff candidates and more @ NHUAC Public Safety Forum

We’ve mentioned this Thursday’s event before – but now it’s just three days away. Here are the full details from the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

NORTH HIGHLINE UNINCORPORATED AREA COUNCIL

Invites you to a

PUBLIC SAFETY FORUM

Thursday – September 13, 2012 – 7pm
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
White Center

Meet the King County Sheriff Candidates:

Steve Strachan – was a police chief, city-council member and state
legislator in Minnesota before he became chief in Kent for more than
four years. Sheriff Sue Rahr named him chief deputy in January 2011.

John Urquhart – a resident of King County for 54 years, served as a
commissioned police officer for over 36 years, the last 24 full-time with
the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Police Reports/Neighborhood Concerns:

BJ Myers, King County Sheriff Deputy, White Center Storefront,
will give an update on crime trends in the North Highline area. Deputy
Myers will also take questions regarding neighborhood concerns.

Community Emergency Response Team – CERT:

Mechee Burnett, King County Community Service Officer, will give
a presentation on the CERT program, Emergency Preparedness for
your community and sign up for fall classes.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

Additional information is available on the NHUAC website:
www.northhighlineuac.org

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets Thursday, will hear from county assessor

September 3rd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets Thursday, will hear from county assessor

Labor Day’s here, summer’s over, and meetings resume for local community councils and other organizations. In this area, that starts with Thursday’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – and the agenda’s up on its website:

7:00 pm Call to Order – Flag Salute – Roll Call –
Approval of Agenda – Approval of Minutes

7:05 pm Public Announcements
7:10 pm Public Comment
3 minutes for Individuals
5 minutes for Groups

7:15 pm Mike Martin, Burien City Manager

7:20pm Deputy BJ Myers

7:30 pm Lloyd Hara, King County Tax Assessor

8:00 pm Treasurer’s Report

8:15 pm Committee Reports
1. Governance
2. Arts and Parks
3. Public Safety
4. Housing and Human Services
5. Public Outreach
6. Transportation

8:20 pm Unfinished Business/Old Business
· Flower Bed Planting (100 ST & 16th Ave, SW)

8:30 pm New Business
· NHUAC Annexation Information Forum

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Working through the summer, and through uncertainty

August 5th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 3 Comments »

(NHUAC’s booth at Jubilee Days two weekends ago)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Summertime often brings a much-needed break for volunteer community councils. Their meeting calendar skips a month or two; council leaders might take a vacation without a neighborhood crisis summoning them back to action.

No rest for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – despite the fact they’re working in a sort of limbo.

Two weekends ago, you might have seen NHUAC members volunteering at their White Center Jubilee Days booth. Its table was full of information about myriad community issues. That included crime prevention, an issue of special focus for the council – which has sponsored two public-safety forums (in February and in May) and has another one scheduled for September 13th, with not only crime updates, but also a forum featuring the King County Sheriff candidates, appointed incumbent Sheriff Steve Strachan, and recently retired longtime sergeant John Urquhart.

The council also has long worked on issues of community blight and beautification. At 16th and 100th, they worked for months to arrange for a planting area, but the actual planting wasn’t the end of the work – it was in ways only the start. The area is not irrigated, so it has to be wandered by hand – and that requires a major “bucket brigade” sort of effort:

The big barrels are filled at NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin‘s home every few days, loaded onto a pickup truck, and carried over to the site.

One recent evening, we stopped by as Dobkin, with help from NHUAC’s Christine Waldman (not pictured), watered and weeded the site.

They also patrol nearby areas for litter (which recently, Dobkin mentioned, included roadkill – a dead raccoon, left for somebody unspecified to handle). No grant money or donations for this – NHUAC members are doing it out of their own pockets, and on their own time, as community volunteers. NHUAC used to have a modest operational budget from the county, but that ended last year, as the county decided it would stop supporting the unincorporated-area councils, and move into a different sort of system, focusing on “community service areas.”

Though county material touting the “community service area” approach uses the language of “expand(ing) opportunities to seek input, listen, and respond to residents,” the new plan will offer only annual meetings for each “service area,” while councils such as NHUAC – one of six councils that the county had recognized – meet monthly. (We’ve covered NHUAC most months since WCN’s launch four years ago, as we have done with community councils/associations in West Seattle since launching our site there five-plus years ago; our WCN reports on NHUAC meetings and other activities are archived here, newest to oldest.)

North Highline will now be, in the county’s view, simply part of the “West King County Areas,” a collection of non-contiguous chunks of unincorporated land – see them on a county map here – pending approval of the boundaries proposed by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

While that system was supposed to be implemented about the same time as the end of funding and support, there’s been a lag which has left NHUAC in more of a limbo than ever. This has all been trickling out for almost a year; last October, a county rep came to NHUAC’s meeting to discuss the concept, and as we reported, that didn’t go very well.

Since then, there have been related announcements here and there – in April, for example, the county announced a “point person” for the new Service Area program. A grant program (for some of the types of work NHUAC is currently doing, unfunded) is described online, with a deadline in September.

Then last month, the boundary proposal, which also seeks to further remove NHUAC and the remaining UACs from any sort of official advisory involvement in county matters. From the news release:

A companion ordinance also proposed today would amend several sections of the King County Code to change or remove references to the participation of unincorporated area councils on various County advisory bodies – to help ensure representation by unincorporated area residents without limiting it to specific organizations, and to expand the pool of residents who can engage in County volunteer opportunities.

The CSA program will enable the County to engage with community-based organizations and provide regular opportunities for those organizations – and all residents outside of those organizations – to meet with King County elected officials and senior management.

The point made at NHUAC’s discussion last October of the county “Service Area” change – with those making it including a Burien City Council member – is that until the area is annexed, which, pending this November’s election outcome, could be sometime next year – another interim change in the community-engagement process was confusing at best.

But this council isn’t stopping, county support or no county support. At the Jubilee Days booth, for example, they were discussing a new petition to get something done about what just might be the biggest eyesore in White Center, the overgrown, graffiti-vandalism-coated former restaurant on 16th north of 112th:

It’s been years since that property’s last incarnation as a Peruvian restaurant, preceded by a fried-chicken restaurant and a fast-food joint. The graffiti – long a NHUAC-tackled issue – and weeds have continued to grow. Will its owners, or the county, do anything about it? Nobody else has shown up to take it on, NHUAC members say, so they’re circulating a petition.

As for their own future, they’re just doing what they’ve been doing – volunteer community advocacy. Keep an eye on northhighlineuac.org for information on upcoming meetings and ongoing issues. We’ll also be tracking the county service-areas proposal; the County Council is just now starting a two-week summer break, so nothing’s listed regarding any upcoming meetings at which it’ll be discussed.

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Reminder: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s NOT meeting

July 3rd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Reminder: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s NOT meeting

A reminder from North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin – NHUAC is *not* meeting this month, so if you show up at the fire station on Thursday night, you won’t find anybody but, well, the Fire Department crew. You will, however, find NHUAC at the Jubilee Days street fair!

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Video surveillance for White Center, and other updates at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

June 8th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

(Looking north through 98th/16th intersection, after last night’s meeting)

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Will surveillance cameras enhance safety in White Center – and residents/visitors’ perception of it? Two are on the way, and that was the biggest news from Thursday night’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council:

SHERIFF’S OFFICE ANNOUNCES VIDEO SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS FOR DOWNTOWN WC: Deputy BJ Myers announced that the King County Sheriff’s Office has purchased two video cameras for installment in White Center, a first for KCSO. But they aren’t meant to be secret; Deputy Myers described them as “overt” cameras with “signage indicating this area is being taped, to let people know this is an area we are watching.” He said it’s an “investigative tool” – both to look back at recorded video if needed, and to potentially deter crime. They’ll be installed “on county light poles, high enough that they hopefully won’t be vandalized,” and can be moved if necessary. The initial locations will be 98th/16th and Roxbury/15th (the latter is where Sweetheart Failautusi was murdered last August, and near the scene of a deadly May 2010 shooting). The recordings “will be kept for a reasonable amount of time, to look back and see if there’s anything worth investigating,” he said.

After the meeting, we asked a few followup questions: He says they not only will transmit live as well as record, they are remote-controllable – he will even be able to access them by computer. The timetable for installation is “sometime this summer,” possibly as soon as a few weeks, as the procurement process is well under way. The cameras will record only video, not audio (recording audio without consent is against state law).

OTHER SHERIFF’S OFFICE UPDATES: Deputy Myers started his briefing by mentioning how KCSO is looking into concerns regarding the Northwest Cannabis Market in downtown White Center; he said he had worked with Code Enforcement to see what they might look at, as well as noise complaints (for which they are pursuing equipment that’s required). “We’re working on it .. so I hope that within weeks and months we’ll be able to enforce some of those noise ordinances we have for the commercial district.” … NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin brought up a problem she had while calling 911 to report something recently, and getting a dispatcher who insisted she was in the Seattle city limits, though she had given a specific address; KCSO’s new area Capt. Pat Butschli – who now runs this zone – apologized. … More than half a dozen businesses are giving “great cooperation” to the voluntary initiative not to sell single-serving alcohol products between 6 am and 1 pm, Deputy Myers replied when asked by council vice president Pat Price, but … “It’s been a little challenging over the last week to keep those businesses on board” since other businesses aren’t participating and are still selling those products during that time frame. “We’re trying to encourage them and encourage the distributors to keep asking for more participation.” He says the fact those larger stores – which are the ones still selling, generally – are now selling liquor (like Super Saver Foods), and that has added to the pressure. Council member Ron Johnson requested a list of those that are participating, so they can be supported. … Capt. Butschli discussed KCSO’s recent reorganization in the unincorporated areas; there are no longer “precincts,” he said. “Because of annexations and budget cuts,” he said, they can no longer operate like four separate police departments, so now staff is “being shared between all four zones” when personnel challenges require it. (North Highline is now in Zone 4.) “The police buck in this region stops with me,” said Capt. Butschli. He elaborated on the marijuana-sales concerns, saying the current state of the law, or lack of same, has put law enforcement in an difficult position, waiting “for some clear direction … about how we’re supposed to go about enforcing this.”

HICKLIN LAKE: Dick Thurnau and Marcia Wollam from Friends of Hicklin Lake took the podium for an update on the “floating islands” system his group has been recommending to handle the lake’s water-quality problem. Wollam said that in April, they took questions to Floating Island International, and then in May, had a meeting including Burien city government rep Nhan Nguyen. A county water engineer pointed them to yet another company, said Marcia, and they met with a rep last night . They’re getting cost estimates, she said, adding that they also have contacted a state Ecology Department person who suggested a research project involving both “floating islands” and a system based on aquatic plants, to see which one would clean the water better. Wollam said they’re hoping to move quickly, because if they don’t do something by fall, “we’ll be out another year.” The “floating islands” are made out of recycled bottle plastic, according to Wollam. They passed around a sample of the material:

(That’s president Dobkin examining the sample, with council member Ron Johnson at right.)

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: State House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon mentioned that redistricting next year will lead to him representing “more of North Highline.” He joked, “So, you’re stuck with me.” On a more serious note, he said it seems the state budget crisis is “under control,” which allowed legislators to avoid slashing the annexation tax credit, as had been proposed by Governor Gregoire at one time. “We were able to keep it … with help from our friends in other cities that have annexation issues, Renton, Kirkland,” he said – a big deal since Burien had said that the loss of the tax credit would end its bid to annex the rest of North Highline. He says he “doubt(s)” that will be revisited in future sessions. “If it survived these last couple years, it’s hard to imagine the situation in which it comes back on the table.” In particular, he said, if annexation is passed by voters, it would be politically even more difficult for legislators to take it away. … Rep. Fitzgibbon said Capt. Butschli’s comments about the marijuana law, or the lack of it, were right on the mark; the legislature had hoped to “set up a regulatory framework” but, because of the legalization measure that’s on the ballot, “the feeling in the Legislature was that it wasn’t an opportune to take another crack at the issue …” – they will instead wait to see what happens with the legalization measure, and then potentially try to resolve the problem in January. It’s not just a North Highline problem, he said; other jurisdictions are grappling with it too. … He says they’re hopeful that next year’s legislative session will NOT start with “what are we going to hack away at this year?” … In Q/A, Rep. Fitzgibbon was asked about cuts in higher education; he said unfortunately, it’s one of the few educational areas where legislators CAN cut if needed, since there are constitutional protections on K-12 funding.

TRASH TROUBLE? Q/A WITH KING COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH: Yolanda Pon from the county talked about solid-waste rules, requirements, and complaint processes, as well as how the complaints are investigated. There’s a new number for reporting problems – 206-296-SITE (provided you have collected all the necessary information, including complete addresses – all the way to whether it’s a S. or a SW – and the type of property, whether owner-occupied, renter-occupied, etc. – also, she notes, you cannot file an anonymous complaint). The process starts with a letter, then moves on to a notice of violation, and fines. Pon noted that “everyone seems to call Public Health first” and they “triage” it from there, to figure out whether they or some other agency is accountable for handling a complaint/problem. According to Pon, weekly trash service is required, so if curbside service has not been contracted by, for example, a business, they need to haul it themselves to the transfer station. (P.S. They do NOT handle rat complaints.)

BURIEN CITY MANAGER’S UPDATE: Mike Martin joked that they’re worried about the Wild Strawberry Festival because of the cool, gray weather – though he also noted it’s “30 degrees colder” in Eastern Washington, where his wife is currently visiting. … There’s new play equipment up in Puget Sound Park, he noted, and “the park looks great,” with other new components of a $125,000 renovation project including new benches and tables. “It looks better than low-income housing, than a fire station, than a library,” Martin said, alluding to past discussions about the site’s future … Regarding annexation, he said “I don’t have a lot to add week by week or month by month,” but he did mention the upcoming 6 pm June 21st forum at 3.14 Bakery in downtown White Center. He said the forum will start with some remarks from him, from Burien’s police chief, and then move on to public questions. “Please encourage people to come and get facts – they seem to be in short supply these days.” Back within the current Burien boundaries, he said they are embarking on “aggressive redevelopment” of the Burien Town Square property, and believes it “signals the next phase” for downtown Burien. Might it include a theater complex? asked council member Doug Harrell. Martin mentioned “they had been approached.”

PUBLIC COMMENT/ANNOUNCEMENTS: Mikel Davila from the White Center Community Development Association talked about the 470-plus people who participated in WC Spring Clean on May 19th (WCN coverage here, and photo above from the post-cleanup celebration) – his first with WCCDA. He’s hoping to hear directly from people about addressing ongoing litter/trash issues in WC, since so much – more than 100 bags – was picked up during the event, and is welcoming ideas. He introduced WCCDA’s new community builder Marquise Roberson … Community member Gill Loring talked about the 40-plus REI volunteers who came to North Shorewood Park recently (WCN coverage here) to do maintenance, cleanup, and planting work; he said, among other effects, the trails feel safer now, and suggested community members go take a look for themselves: “It’s a little pocket park for this area but it’s a really nice place.” … Alan Homestead, a 30-year White Center businessperson (the Vision Source eye clinic) and 60-year resident, spoke to the group.

He said he was at first glad to hear about the new White Center website at visitwhitecenter.com, but expressed concern that it includes the longtime nickname “Rat City” and a stylized image of a rat. “I was ready to support it as a business owner but I have difficulty being associated with rats,” he said, suggesting it might be the “biggest PR blunder” he has seen, and that rats have a “filthy connotation” that a website cannot change. “Is this our finest effort?” He worries that newcomers will not choose to do business in an area using a rat as a mascot, and urges anyone else concerned to contact the White Center CDA and White Center Chamber of Commerce to voice their opinion. He also suggests that those concerned attend the next WC Chamber lunch (June 12th, noon, Salvadorean Bakery on Roxbury). President Dobkin noted, “It’s unfortunate that this council is not included on that website and has not been invited to participate.”

COUNCIL’S SCHEDULE THIS SUMMER: At meeting’s end, council member Richard Miller suggested the August Public Safety Forum be postponed in favor of a later meeting when, for example, they’d be able to get the King County Sheriff candidates to come, and his fellow council members agreed … NHUAC will again be at Jubilee Days, and is putting together informational material to have available … Their next regular meeting will be the first Thursday in September, but they will call a special meeting in the meantime if something has to be addressed.

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Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon to speak at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s June meeting

June 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon to speak at North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s June meeting

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin, the announcement of next Thursday’s meeting, and its agenda:

We are pleased to have Rep Joe Fitzgibbon join us for the June 7 meeting, when he will provide information on the 2012 Legislative Session. Bill Lasby and Yolanda Pon from the Environmental Health Services Division of King County Public Health will be on hand to answer questions regarding yard waste, trash, and other general environmental concerns facing the North Highline Community. As always, all are welcome.

7:00 pm Call to Order – Flag Salute – Roll Call –
Approval of Agenda – Approval of Minutes
7:05 pm Public Announcements
7:10 pm Public Comment
3minutes for Individuals
5 minutes for Groups

7:15 pm Deputy BJ Myers

7:20 pm Dick Thurnau – Hicklin Lake Update

7:25 pm Joe Fitzgibbon

7:40 pm Bill Lasby & Yolanda Pon
King County Public Health, Environmental Health Services

8:00 pm Treasurer’s Report
8:05 pm Committee Reports
1. Governance
2. Arts and Parks
3. Public Safety
4. Housing and Human Services
5. Public Outreach
6. Transportation

8:10 pm Unfinished Business/Old Business
• Flower Bed Planting (100 ST & 16th Ave, SW)
• Jubilee Days

8:20 pm New Business
• August 2 Public Safety Forum

The meeting’s at the usual time and place = 7 pm Thursday (June 7), North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th.

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NHUAC: Public-safety forum tomorrow; video/toplines from May meeting

May 9th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on NHUAC: Public-safety forum tomorrow; video/toplines from May meeting

Tomorrow night is the next quarterly public-safety forum presented by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – 7 pm, NH Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th), with guests including the Metro Transit Police Chief, Lisa Mulligan. The full meeting announcement is in the calendar listing, here.

And today, we’re belatedly publishing video and toplines from NHUAC’s regular meeting last week, covered by co-publisher Patrick Sand for WCN. County Councilmember Joe McDermott was a special guest, both speaking to the council and answering Q/A, such as whether the “temporary” moratorium on venues such as White Center’s ex-Club Evo will stay in place:

NHUAC also heard from Burien City Manager Mike Martin, who usually presents a briefing; he said that the city is about to begin outreach for this November’s annexation vote. And there was an extensive discussion about animal-control services, with discussion of how to handle problems, as well as how-to advice on dealing with missing pets and animal-abuse issues. We recorded that section of the meeting on video too:

Toward meeting’s end, there also was a discussion of the rundown condition of the former Wendy’s/Ezell’s/El Chalan property on Ambaum – it’s fenced off, but the weeds and tagging keep worsening. No specific action was discussed but NHUAC members agreed to discuss it again later. Their regular meetings are on the first Thursday of each month, 7 pm, at the NHFD HQ.

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White Center beautification: New plants, courtesy of NHUAC & community volunteers

May 5th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Gardening, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

That’s the “after” photo from the south side of the heart of downtown White Center! The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council shares the photos and the before/after explanation:

Concerned with the two large neglected planter beds on 16th and 100th, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council obtained a permit from King County to dig up the beds and put in new plants.

With good weather this morning, council members Steve Porter, and Barbara Dobkin, as well as community members, Eric, Gill, and Alex, the bed on the west side of 16th was dug up and new soil added as well as drought resistant perennials (picked out specially for us by Vera at Village Green Perennial Nursery).

Next up for NHUAC – their next quarterly public-safety forum, this Thursday, May 10, 7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ (1243 SW 112th).

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