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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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):

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Reminder: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s NOT meeting

July 3rd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

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!

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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

May 9th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

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.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

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).

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Safety Forum on May 10th

May 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off

The first one was a hit – dozens of attendees – and the second edition is days away. From the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, here’s the agenda for the May 10th Public Safety Forum:

Thursday – MAY 10, 2012 – 7pm
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
White Center

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.

Guest Speakers:
Major Lisa Mulligan, Metro Transit Police Chief, will discuss safety aboard Metro Transit and at North Highline area bus stops.

Doug Reynold, King County Sheriff Deputy, Community Crime Prevention Officer for the City of Seatac. Deputy Reynolds will discuss crime prevention techniques to reduce the opportunity for crime in your neighborhood. Deputy Reynolds is the past president of the Washington Crime Prevention Association and is recognized as an International Crime Prevention Specialist(ICPS) by the International Society of Crime Prevention Practitioners.

Block Watch Program: Join or renew the program in your neighborhood.
Discussion of the National Night Out Against Crime-August 7, 2012.

ALL ARE WELCOME!

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

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Next Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

April 27th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin:

Please join us for the May 3rd meeting, when our King County Council Representative, Joe McDermott, will be on hand to provide updates regarding county issues, and take questions from the community. We are also pleased that Officer Tim Anderson of King County Animal Control, will be in attendance to answer any questions regarding King County Animal Control Services. As always, all are welcome.

Here’s the full 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 Mike Martin, Burien City Manager

7:20pm Joe McDermott, King County Council

7:30 pm Ellie Weiss – DubSea Bikes

7:40 pm Aaron Garcia, Student Services Specialist
South Seattle Community College

7:50 pm Tim Anderson, King County Animal Control Officer

8:10 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)
• Bylaws
• Jubilee Days

8:30 pm New Business
• June Agenda

The May 3rd meeting is at 7 pm at North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 112th SW.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

New point person announced for county’s ‘Community Service Areas’

April 4th, 2012 Tracy Posted in King County, North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

There’s new information today about the outreach program that the county announced when it cut money for Unincorporated Area Councils (North Highline UAC, for example, is operating wholly under its own power now, without county support). Here’s the news release we received:

King County Executive Dow Constantine has named one of his top advisors to lead the opening of new channels of communication with residents of the county’s unincorporated areas through creation of Community Service Areas.

“This reform will harness the work of County employees who already have good connections with residents in the unincorporated areas, so that residents can have a single staff link to specific projects in parks, roads, land use, public health and public safety,” said Executive Constantine.

The Executive has named Alan Painter as Manager of the Community Service Areas (CSA) program for unincorporated King County, consolidating three staff from other agencies to improve public engagement in the unincorporated areas.

“Already we’ve brought together staff who have been working with residents in the same area of the county but had never met,” said Painter.

Painter said the interdepartmental teams will hold public meetings at least once a year in each CSA, in close collaboration with the King County Councilmember for that district and with other countywide elected officials.

The CSA program was approved last fall by the County Council to reach out to residents in the areas where they live, and better reflect the diversity of the county.
The Executive will send a proposed ordinance to the County Council later this month to formally define boundaries for the CSAs that encompass all of unincorporated King County, including areas without previous representation by an Unincorporated Area Council.

The new program provides a conduit for greater participation by all residents in an annual work program for each CSA, and enables County staff to work closely with an expanded group of community councils and civic organizations.

Under the new program, community organizations in each CSA can apply for grants of up to $5,000 to promote the engagement of local residents in community or civic activities.

As Manager of the Community Service Area program, Painter and his group will:

· Develop a schedule for annual public meetings in each CSA,

· Develop CSA work programs that are linked to the annual budget cycle, and

· Establish the new community grant program.

“I look forward to listening to residents, solving problems, and help them to play an active role in shaping the future of their communities,” said Painter, who reports to the Executive’s office.

Painter previously advised the Executive on human services, health, and housing policy, and is a former director of the Department of Human Services for the city of Seattle.

The first open house for the new program is set for the Vashon-Maury Island CSA on Tuesday, April 10, from 6:30 – 8:00 p.m. at the McMurray Middle School Multi-Purpose Room, 9323 Cemetery Road, Vashon Island. At the open house, residents can offer feedback on the draft Vashon-Maury CSA Work Plan and the new CSA program, discuss community priorities, speak with program staff, and obtain information about County programs and services in general.

Open houses for other CSAs will be announced throughout the year.

For more information please contact Alan Painter, manager for the Community Service Areas program, at 206-296-8734 or alan.painter@kingcounty.gov.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Get a Technology Access Foundation update at Thursday’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting

April 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in Lakewood Park, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin, looking ahead to NHUAC’s Thursday night meeting (7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 112th SW):

NHUAC is pleased to have Sherry Williams, Deputy Director of TAF (Technology Access Foundation), provide updates on the soon to be operational Community Learning Center at Lakewood Park. Please join us to hear the exciting news and updates of this new addition to White Center.

Here’s the 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 Mike Martin, Burien City Manager
7:20 pm Deputy BJ Myers

7:30 pm Sherry Williams, Deputy Director
Technology Access Foundation

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

8:05 pm Unfinished Business/Old Business
• Flower Bed Planting (100 ST & 16th Ave, SW)
• Flag Pole and Flag at SCMP
• Bylaws
• Jubilee Days

8:10 pm New Business
• May Agenda
• May 10 Public Safety Forum

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invites you to a special meeting Thursday

March 24th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin:

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will hold a special meeting on Thursday, March 29, at 7 pm at the North Highline Fire Station, 1243 112th Street SW, to discuss how the changes to the King County Citizen Participation Initiative and the new framework for public engagement will affect the council and community. As always, we welcome community participation.

(Have a meeting or event announcement? E-mail whitecenternow@gmail.com any time!)

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

North Highline UAC announces special meeting for next Tuesday

March 2nd, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

Received this afternoon:

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council will conduct a special meeting on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 at 7 pm to ratify changes to the Bylaws. The meeting will be held at the North Highline Fire Department meeting room, 1242 SW 112th St. The public is welcome.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

This Thursday: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council tackles traffic

February 28th, 2012 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off

What’s up with the 16th SW divider in downtown White Center, and other road-related questions, are at the heart of the agenda for this Thursday night’s meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council. You’ll also hear about local crime/public safety concerns and trends from Storeront Deputy BJ Myers, and Burien City Manager Mike Martin is scheduled to deliver his latest briefing – which usually includes an update on the annexation process’s status. If you have something to say, there’s a public-comment period too. To see the full agenda, check it out on NHUAC’s website; the meeting starts at 7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 112th SW.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Tonight’s the night: NHUAC’s public-safety forum in White Center

February 9th, 2012 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off

What’s the truth about gangs – more active? Less active? And what are the trends for other types of crimes? What can you do to protect your home/business? Tonight’s the night that North Highline Unincorporated Area Council has organized the first in a series of public-safety forums, and you can come get some answers. Guests include King County Sheriff’s Office/Burien Police Detective Joe Gagliardi with the gang-activity overview, and updates from other law-enforcement leadership including: Captain Joseph Hodgson – and Deputy BJ Myers from KCSO, plus Metro Transit Police Chief Maj. Lisa Mulligan. Hear from them all, and bring your concerns, to North Highline Fire District HQ, 1243 SW 112th.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button