(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.