Next NHUAC public-safety forum one week from tonight: Learn about registered sex offenders

September 26th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, North Highline UAC, safety, White Center news Comments Off on Next NHUAC public-safety forum one week from tonight: Learn about registered sex offenders

One week from tonight – the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hopes to see you at its next public-safety forum:

Save the Date

Thursday, Oct 3
North Highline Fire Station
1243 112th Street, SW
(entrance in the back)

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is pleased to be hosting a Public Safety Forum

Want to know more about the King County Sex Offender Registry and Community Notification Program? Then plan on joining us for an informative presentation and discussion with Detective Michael Luchau of the King County Sheriff’s Department Sex Offender Unit.

Share your concerns regarding community safety with White Center Storefront Deputy, BJ Myers and Deputy William Kennamer of Metro Transit Police.

All are welcome!



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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: New member; health-care changes; crime trends; more

September 6th, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: New member; health-care changes; crime trends; more

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Community councils are back in session for fall, and last night, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council resumed its meeting schedule at NH Fire District HQ in White Center.

NEW MEMBER: The council has a new member! Since it is no longer county-sanctioned, its past process of community at-large elections no longer applies. For the first time since that change, a proposed new member appeared: Dr. Elizabeth Gordon from Uncle Mike’s Superlicious BBQ in White Center asked to join, and was approved by unanimous vote. She talked about her business’s concerns with the community’s well-being and said she perceived that NHUAC was a place to voice concerns and get things done. She believes it’s “important to be part of the council that carries …concerns” to county government, since North Highline has no direct government representation. Gordon took a seat with the council at the start of the meeting, participating immediately after she was voted in. Before the meeting ended, president Barbara Dobkin reiterated that they’re interested in adding other community members to the council – if you’re interested, contact her at

HEALTH-INSURANCE CHANGES: Erika Nuerenberg from the Seattle-King County Public Health Department came to talk about the coming changes in health insurance – that department is leading enrollment efforts in the area. There aren’t specific rates for the unincorporated area but they estimate somewhere between 20 and 30 percent are uninsured – area rates for cities range from 15 percent in Seattle to 30 percent in Seatac. They are hoping to get the uninsured percentage down to four percent countywide, but are worried about people who will choose not to enroll even though the costs will be low, such as people under 30. There are two ways to become insured under the new system that starts open enrollment next month: One is Medicaid, which will be expanding eligibility. The other is through the “exchange” system, which will include subsidies for people whose income is up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level (currently around $11,000/person).

Right now, they’re working on education; next, “targeted enrollment,” which will focus on people with barriers such as culture or income that might keep them from getting enrolled. You can read all about the upcoming changes by going to this special county webpage.

COMMUNITY HEALTH INFO: Zachary Howard from the Puget Sound Regional Council talked about another aspect of health – trying to support healthier lifestyles through information that will be provided in an online toolkit meant to be especially useful for planners. A $120,000 grant is being used for this; it’s part of a bigger Community Transformation Grant program. The “grant intervention area” includes North Highline as well as South Park, Georgetown, Beacon Hill, and Southeast Seattle inside Seattle city limits, plus Auburn, Burien, Des Moines, Kent, Renton, Seatac, and Tukwila. New member Gordon suggested that the toolkit include information specifically helpful to community volunteers, as well as elements that will ensure the information is presented in a lively manner, and reflects the community.

CRIME TRENDS: “Crime continues to be high as we often see in the summer,” began Deputy BJ Myers. Burglaries and car prowls have been running high all summer long, he noted. “We have more than usual going on in the Top Hat area, particularly,” so if you live there, you will want to make extra sure there’s nothing in your car, and you might also want to be sure that there are no overgrown bushes or ladders that would provide access to your house. “We think we know some of the suspects,” he added, and they are checking them out, “and we’re also trying some other more proactive methods to catch these burglars in the act or before they commit these crimes.” He believes numbers will start dropping soon since summer’s over, among other factors. Taking questions from the council and attendees, Deputy Myers was presented an item that he explained was a security cap from a liquor bottle.”There’s been a high dollar value of liquor theft since it’s been in the grocery stores,” he noted. When you find one, contact the store – which will usually be mentioned on the device – and law enforcement. There was also a discussion of evidence of drug use and camping at some local parks. Deputy Myers said KCSO detectives are looking closely at increased heroin use in the area.

SW ROXBURY SAFETY: Chris Stripinis visited from the Westwood-Roxbury-Arbor Heights Community Council and talked about their request to the Seattle Department of Transportation for a study. They’re still awaiting a response from SDOT and expect it sometime this month. Their original announcement of the request can be seen on the WWRHAH website. Council members and attendees asked about the 16th/Delridge/Roxbury intersection in particular, and noted the crash two years ago in which a woman was hit by a bus.

NORTH SHOREWOOD PARK GRAND OPENING: The new play equipment will have an official ribboncutting on September 17th. NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin joked that it’s so busy now, she can’t play on the equipment any more!

FIELDHOUSE’S 75TH ANNIVERSARY PARTY: As reported earlier this month on WCN, a big event is coming up on September 14th to mark the 75th anniversary of the Fieldhouse at Steve Cox Memorial Park.

HICKLIN LAKE: Dick Thurnau from Friends of Hicklin Lake was asked for an update now that the first “floating islands” have been installed. He says another grant is being sought, and the deadline is September 15th, but otherwise, it’ll take a while before they know for sure what the newly installed floating islands are doing to help the water-quality help.

NEXT MEETING – PUBLIC-SAFETY FORUM: That’s the next NHUAC-presented community meeting, set for Thursday, October 3rd, 7 pm, at the North Highline FD HQ. Sex offenders will be one topic, because residents have voiced concerns about how many offenders are living in this community, and how they are monitored. KCSO’s new Major for the area as well as a local Metro Transit deputy are expected, as well as Community Service Officer Peter Truong.

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Reminder: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets Thursday

September 3rd, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Reminder: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets Thursday

More details on a big event this Thursday:

Please join the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council on Thursday, Sept 5, 7 pm (North Highline Fire Station, 1243 112th SW), for two very important presentations.

As previously noted, we will be hosting representatives from Public Health who will provide information about eligibility for Medicaid and the Health Benefit Exchange. This is a great opportunity to get information about the new health-care laws that go into effect January 1, 2014, with enrollment starting October 1, 2013.

We are also pleased to be hosting Zachary Howard, Assistant Planner for the Puget Sound Health, Equity, and Sustainability Toolkit Program. Mr. Howard will present information regarding housing affordability, economic opportunity, land use and environmental justice as it relates to the Puget Sound Region and specifically to the unincorporated North Highline community (White Center, Boulevard Park, Top Hat, Glendale, Beverly Park). There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion.

Chris Stripinis, Infrastructure Committee Chair for the Westwood/Roxhill/Arbor Heights Community Council, will discuss the joint community proposal the council has been working on related to traffic-calming issues on Roxbury.

As always, BJ Myers, White Center Storefront Deputy, will be on hand to answer questions regarding community safety issues.

There will be plenty of opportunity for discussion. All are welcome.

And here’s the full agenda:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council agenda, September 2013

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You’re invited: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hears about health care on September 5th

August 22nd, 2013 Tracy Posted in Health, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on You’re invited: North Highline Unincorporated Area Council hears about health care on September 5th

Announced today by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – a big topic at the next NHUAC meeting, in two weeks:

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council is pleased to be hosting representatives from Public Health at the Thursday, September 5 meeting. Information will be presented regarding the outreach and enrollment campaign, “Coverage is Here King County”. This is a county wide effort to enroll 180,000 newly eligible King County residents in Medicaid and the Health Benefit Exchange (WashingtonHealthPlanFinder) once enrollment starts on October 1, 2013. Coverage begins January 1, 2013.

All are welcome to this important presentation.

When: Thursday, Sept 5, 7 pm
Where: North Highline Fire Station (1243 112th Street, SW)

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Metro, libraries on agenda for next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

May 31st, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Metro, libraries on agenda for next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Next Thursday, two big topics are on the agenda for the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s meeting. From NHUAC president Barbara Dobkin:

North Highline Unincorporated Area Council – Monthly meeting
Thursday, June 6, 7 pm – North Highline Fire Station, 1243 SW 112th

Please join us on Thursday, June 6 when we will be hosting Bill Ptacek, Director of the King County Library System (KCLS), who will provide updates and answer questions regarding the status of the White Center and Boulevard Park Libraries.

In 2004 the voters of North Highline, along with all voters in King County served by the King County Library System, passed a Capital Bond Levy to rebuild, expand, and improve aging libraries. We have been paying on this bond levy since its passage and work has been completed on most of the libraries throughout the county, but the promises made to the voters of North Highline and North Burien, which included a new 10,000 square foot White Center Library at its current location, and capital improvements to the Boulevard Park Library, have yet to be fulfilled. There are many questions surrounding the most recent decisions by the KCLS Board regarding moving and building a new White Center Library on 107th. We also have not heard any plans for the promised improvements to the Boulevard Park Library. This is a good time to find out how and when our precious tax dollars will be used and invested in OUR community.

We are also pleased to have DeAnna Martin, King County Dept of Transportation, Community Relations Planner who will provide information about proposed drastic cuts to Metro Service, many of which will impact North Highline.

“Without additional revenue, Metro will have to reduce up to 17 percent of bus service. A reduction of this magnitude would be felt by all riders, employers, and drivers in the region. An estimated seven out of 10 riders would lose some or all service and might have to go farther to get to the bus, take a longer trip, or transfer more. Riders throughout the system might have to crowd onto packed buses or wait at the curb while full buses pass by. A reduction of this size would add 23,000 trips every day to our freeways and arterials – or the equivalent of one lane of traffic on the I-90 Bridge during an average weekday.”

Please join us for this important community discussion – See you there! NHUAC will not be holding July and August meetings – Meetings will resume September 5.

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Online petition launched to keep White Center storefront deputy

May 13th, 2013 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center news 9 Comments »

Want to help convince county leaders to keep the White Center Storefront Deputy position in the King County Sheriff’s Office budget? At the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council‘s recent public-safety forum (WCN coverage here), Sheriff John Urquhart warned that, while he supports continuing to fund the position, budget pressure could mean trouble – so he urged citizens to voice their support to leaders including County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Joe McDermott. And they in fact are the leaders to whom NHUAC’s petition on is directed. You can sign it here.

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Video: King County Sheriff, North Highline fire chief @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

May 3rd, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, Video, White Center news Comments Off on Video: King County Sheriff, North Highline fire chief @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s public-safety forum

That’s our video of last night’s North Highline Unincorporated Area Council public-safety forum, featuring King County Sheriff John Urquhart and North Highline’s Fire Chief Mike Marrs. One of the hottest topics: Whether the KCSO White Center Storefront Deputy position will continue to be funded. Sheriff Urquhart said he was committed to keeping it – but budget pressure could trump his intentions, so everyone who wants it to be kept should contact their representatives, particularly King County Executive Dow Constantine and County Councilmember Joe McDermott. (Their e-mail addresses: and … we’ll keep you updated on the county-budget process and potential touchstones along the way for this issue.)

The storefront deputy himself, Deputy BJ Myers, briefed attendees on current area crime trends – biggest news was an arrest of three alleged serial burglars.

White Center’s continuing-to-grow marijuana industry also was brought up, particularly the reported plan for the former Club Evo site to go into that line of business. It was noted that the injunction covering the site remains in force, so no one can open any kind of nightlife business there.

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Just two nights till North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s next Public Safety Forum

April 30th, 2013 Tracy Posted in Crime, fire, King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline Fire District, North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on Just two nights till North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s next Public Safety Forum

Questions about crime prevention and crimefighting, fire prevention and firefighting? Here’s your reminder that you’ll want to be at the North Highline Fire District HQ this Thursday night (May 2) for the next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council Public Safety Forum. From the original announcement:

We are pleased to be hosting King County Sheriff John Urquhart and North Highline Fire Chief Mike Marrs.

Sheriff Urquhart will be here to take our questions, and listen to community concerns about public safety and the sheriff’s department staffing levels for the North Highline area.

Once again our White Center Storefront Deputy position is in jeopardy, as the special funding allocated in 2011 expires at the end of 2013. Will the 2014 budget include funding for this essential position?

The North Highline Fire District, which is funded solely by property tax money from North Highline, is facing critical financial challenges. Chief Marrs will discuss the history of our North Highline Fire District, operational status, and future challenges and options.

Storefront Deputy BJ Myers is scheduled to be there too. The forum’s set to start at 7 pm Thursday, 1243 SW 112th – everybody welcome.

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Sheriff, fire chief to headline next North Highline Unincorporated Area Council public-safety forum

April 22nd, 2013 Tracy Posted in King County Sheriff's Office, North Highline UAC, White Center news 4 Comments »

From North Highline Unincorporated Area Council president Barbara Dobkin, word of the slate for NHUAC’s next public-safety forum:

Mark your calendars.

The North Highline Unincorporated Area Council invites you to a Public Safety Forum:
Thursday, May 2, 7 pm at the North Highline Fire Station (1243 112th Street SW).

We are pleased to be hosting King County Sheriff John Urquhart and North Highline Fire Chief Mike Marrs.

Sheriff Urquhart will be here to take our questions, and listen to community concerns about public safety and the sheriff’s department staffing levels for the North Highline area.

Once again our White Center Storefront Deputy position is in jeopardy, as the special funding allocated in 2011 expires at the end of 2013. Will the 2014 budget include funding for this essential position?

The North Highline Fire District, which is funded solely by property tax money from North Highline, is facing critical financial challenges. Chief Marrs will discuss the history of our North Highline Fire District, operational status, and future challenges and options.

Also on hand will be our White Center Storefront Deputy, BJ Myers.

Please plan on attending and being part of this very informative and important conversation about life in North Highline.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council: Evergreen Aquatic Center’s pitch; illuminating the light problem; more

April 5th, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news 1 Comment »

(2009 White Center Now/West Seattle Blog photo from rally to save Evergreen Pool)
By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Evergreen Community Aquatic Center, born three years ago after the county shut down three years ago, is behind on its gas bill and facing cutoff in a matter of weeks, the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council was told Thursday night by two ECAC representatives – who stressed they weren’t trying to sound “alarmist,” though council and audience members advised them to start making noise.

NHUAC took on several other topics during its two-hour meeting, but this was the most dramatic; as noted during discussion, the council had taken a leading role in marshaling support to save the pool last time around.

ECAC board member Brian Hastings and center manager Joel Schweiger did not immediately hint at the pool’s dire straits, first recapping the aquatic center’s history since the county closed it in 2009, more than half a year before the community effort’s success led to its reopening almost exactly three years ago. The pool is popular and busy, they said, offering programs that serve Highline Public Schools, the Whitewater Aquatics swim club that led the fight to save it, public swims, and”pretty much all-day activities.” More than 3,300 children have taken lessons there in the three years since the reopening, they said.

Hastings said they’re falling behind on utility bills, and they want to keep serving the public – with more than 3,300 kids getting lessons in the past three years – but they’ve lost $15,000 a year since reopening, which he says is “remarkable” given that the pool was costing the county $172,000 a year before it closed. “And we’re getting squeezed substantially by (Puget Sound Energy), which will only carry a delinquent bill for so long.”

It would be even worse if they hadn’t replaced the old boiler with a system that has cut the bill by about a third, Schweiger noted, and they’re working to use its surplus heat to heat the locker rooms, and to eventually put a solar-power system “on the sunny side of the building,” which would mean they wouldn’t need to run the boilers at all. A glitch in that: The roof needs some work, tracing to a county upgrade that never happened, and a school district project that’s not likely to happen.

They say they’ve worked too hard to let this die – “we’re close, we’re really close,” said Hastings – but not close enough without help. And this is a pivotal time because their three-year lease is expiring, and they have to decide whether to renew.

Answering questions from NHUAC members and the audience, one was: Could increased attendance help? Only to a degree, said Schweiger. There are many hours of the day when the pool is jampacked. During the middle-of-day hours outside of summer, they are saving money by not staffing the pool during what would be a low-attendance time. “So you’re looking for a sustainable funding mechanism?” asked attendee Elizabeth Gordon. “Yes,” they replied. “I’m not looking for handouts,” clarified Hastings, just more of a contribution from the community, because they are doing so much – as attendee Rachael Levine noted, teaching kids to swim means lives saved, among other attributes. Levine recalled the NHUAC campaign to save the pool, and suggested pressure on King County leadership to help. “You have done a great job maintaining that facility and keeping it open,” she told the guests, also mentioning specific programs such as the women-only swims. “It’s worth putting all kinds of pressure to keep it open,” and get the repairs done, she declared.

It’s not just a White Center-used facility – private teams from miles around come to use it, including from Seattle and Tukwila. And community involvement also means “getting members from the community who would like to sit on the board,” said Schweiger, noting that Whitewater Aquatics parents have made up most of the board so far.

So what do they need? asked attendee Gill Loring, trying to get to the heart of the problem. About $25,000 a year, said the guests. “We’ve proven over 36 months that this can work,” but now they are learning how to reach out to get what they need to keep it working. They also need somebody to do public relations and outreach.

But most urgently, they revealed when we asked from the audience – they need $17,000 by mid-May or Puget Sound Energy will cut off service. You should be able to donate soon through the Evergreen CAC website.

CRIME? QUIET! Storefront Deputy BJ Myers reported that violent crimes are down from the preceding month and about the same as a year earlier, and property crimes are down, which brings them to previous levels. Mail theft isn’t much of a problem as it had been, but Myers still says locking mailboxes can be helpful. Campers are turning up “in the space between Greenbridge and downtown,” he said, and Greenbridge’s storefront deputy is working on that – with clearing out planned soon, since that “did seem to work for several months” previously. He mentioned the KCSO Storefront’s participation in the Rat City Art City art walk last month, and said they’ll do it again this month.

LIGHTS FOR DOWNTOWN WHITE CENTER: Herban Legends owner Chris Cody is organizing a Local Improvement District to “brighten up the downtown core of White Center” with added lights. He’s also asking that supporters call their legislators about the DSHS building, to get exterior lights added and/or “get businesses into the empty spaces that are right now (a place for people) to hang out and get loaded.” He also is hoping to walk through Roxbury to 102th and 17th to 14th with a King County Sheriff’s Deputy. And pressure on the building’s owner might be welcome too, he noted. It’s been quiet in White Center lately in general, he noted.

Later in the meeting, NHUAC members decided to write a letter to the building ownership to urge lighting.

EX-EL CHALAN CLEANUP: This was mentioned – per our previous story – because of the recent paintover and weed-pulling; here’s our photo from March 26th:

Though it was noted wryly that the property still isn’t attractive, it was agreed the cleanup represented a massive improvement.

METRO CUTS: President Barbara Dobkin brought up the potential cuts mentioned by Metro GM Kevin Desmond earlier this week (here’s coverage from our partner site WSB) and said that NHUAC will have a guest from Metro at its June meeting.

NHUAC ON NICKELSVILLE: Dobkin wondered if any of the people hanging around downtown White Center during the day were coming up from the encampment; Deputy Myers said he “didn’t know that (he has) seen that.” In addition to our partner site WSB‘s coverage, a new story from The Seattle Times (WSB partner) was cited. Deputy Myers said he visited Nickelsville recently and didn’t recognize anyone – indicating it isn’t home to any of the loitering regulars he has seen. Before meeting’s end, NHUAC decided to write a letter in support of Highland Park Action Committee‘s efforts to get the City of Seattle to agree to sell the site to Food Lifeline, among other efforts.

WHITE CENTER SPRING CLEAN: Marquise Roberson-Bester from White Center Community Development Association explained the new plan for Spring Clean – not just one big day, but one day a month, as previously reported here. The first one is coming up fast – April 13th.

COMMUNITY SERVICE AREA MEETING: King County’s new outreach system via “Community Service Areas” is launching a series of open houses. Since North Highline and West Hill are one CSA, the one for the area is happening April 17th in Skyway, with this area’s County Councilmember Joe McDermott in attendance. President Dobkin urged her fellow councilmembers to attend, and anyone else interested.

NORTH HIGHLINE FIRE DISTRICT COMMISSIONERS: Next meeting is 7 pm April 15th, said NHUAC member Pat Price.

PUBLIC SAFETY FORUM: NHUAC’s next one is May 2nd, with guests including Sheriff John Urquhart and Fire Chief Mike Marrs.

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North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets tonight

April 4th, 2013 Tracy Posted in North Highline UAC, White Center news Comments Off on North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meets tonight

7 pm, North Highline Fire District HQ, you’re invited to tonight’s meeting of the NH Unincorporated Area Council – here’s our previously published agenda preview.

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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.


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:


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

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).


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.


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


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.


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.”


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

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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.


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, 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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