Council Roundup: January 23, 2023

Community Response Team, Racial Equity Committee, Levy Lid Lift, Code Updates
Posted on 01/31/2023
Burien Police Badge next to the co-responder logo depicting a hand holding a heart symbol.

The Burien City Council was introduced to the new Community Response Team and heard an update on the internal staff-led Advancing Racial Equity committee. They were also introduced to planning efforts on the levy lid lift committee and placed on consent agenda for the next council meeting adoption of housekeeping updates to the Burien Municipal Code.

Police Community Response Team Introduced

The Burien City Council was introduced to Detective Scott Mandela and title Daisy Espinoza, members of the Burien Police Department’s new Community Response Team Police Co-responder Team. The Community Response Team is part of the City’s new collaborative approach to public safety, combining expertise in emergency response, policing, social work, and behavioral health. King County Sheriff’s Office is providing the funding for the detective and the mental health professional positions. Burien Police Department and Burien Human Services Division are providing the funding management, data collection, and day-to-day supervision of the program.  

Detective Mandela, an officer with the Burien Police Department, has served in the Crime Reduction Unit for five years. Espinoza was hired as the Mental Health Provider in October 2022 and she will accompany police response to calls where mental health is potentially a contributing factor to the police response. Espinosa has a social work background and is a native Spanish speaker.

They shared some examples of early successes of the program including a more effective response and investigation of a domestic violence incident because a mental health professional was able to help support the victim through the emotional trauma, freeing the responding police officer to focus on investigation of the criminal components of the incident. Another example was when she was able to assist victims of a car accident so the responding police officers could focus on investigation of the scene. The City Council will be receiving regular reports on the new program.

On July 19, 2021, the Burien City Council approved a $450,000 boost to Burien’s collaborative approach to public safety. The new funding pays for a neighborhood care coordinator, storefront resource officer for downtown Burien, and a Community Response Team following a “co-responder” model with King County Fire District No. 2.

Co-response pairs specially trained first responders (including police and fire) with mental health or social work professionals. There are two co-response teams serving Burien. King County Fire District No. 2 has a firefighter EMS and mental health professional who work together to respond to calls and Burien Police Department has a police officer with behavioral health training paired with a social worker.

Council Reports and City Manager’s Report Highlights

During the Council Reports section of the agenda, several councilmembers reported on recent activities relevant to the community:

  • Mayor Sofia Aragon and Deputy Mayor Kevin Schilling reported back on what they learned at the US Conference of Mayors, including how other cities are responding to the fentanyl epidemic, relevant communications and community engagement strategies, and how other cities are investing in technology solutions and using their federal COVID recovery funding.
  • Mayor Aragon testified on SB-5120, which would allow 23-hour crisis relief centers anywhere in Washington state.
  • Councilmember Jimmy Matta reported that he testified on SB-5268, a small business bill. He also spoke about a City-supported pre-apprenticeship program.
  • Councilmember Hugo Garcia reported that he testified on SB-1110 “missing middle housing”. He also shared that he will be participating in a Spanish-language rental housing educational workshop with Para los Niños.
  • Councilmember Sarah Moore reported that she is volunteering at the Empty Bowls event on January 27, 2023. Empty Bowls raises money for local food banks.

The City Manager Report highlighted the “Know Before You Cut” communications campaign designed to raise awareness of the City’s new tree regulations. The city manager also provided an update on recruitment efforts for open advisory board positions, encouraging councilmembers and community members to share the opportunity with their networks. The report also shared how many people have signed up for the City’s low-income utility tax rebate program. Read the full report.

Staff Committee Working to Advance Racial Equity

Two leaders of the internal, staff-led Advancing Racial Equity Committee presented progress on the committee’s work. The committee, started in late 2021, was formed to pursue racial equity and take action to ensure that all people in Burien can benefit equally from City services, processes, and investments. Staff from across the organization participate on the committee. Over the last year, work has been focused on forming the committee’s purpose, structure, and communications norms. Staff members have attended trainings and formed subcommittees to tackle specific topics. They are now focusing on developing an action plan and equity impact tool in support of the racial equity goals in the City’s new strategic plan.

The City Council will be able to weigh in on the equity impact tool and participate in trainings in the future.  

Levy Lid Lift Committee Update

In the City’s long-range financial plan first shared with the City Council in 2019, it was identified that a structural deficit (expenditures exceeding revenues) is forecast to begin in 2025 if no action is taken to address it.

One option, among several presented in the long-range financial forecast, is to ask Burien voters to decide on a “levy lid lift”.

The City Council has expressed interest in exploring this option. The city manager provided an update on progress that has been made on developing a plan to present options to the City Council to consider for a possible ballot measure, and the community engagement needed.

City Council Supports Minor Updates to the Burien Municipal Code

The City Council placed on the next meeting’s consent agenda adoption of several minor updates to the Burien Municipal Code related to code enforcement. Specifically:

  • Changes auditing officer from Administrative Services Director to Finance Director
  • Corrects address from previous City Hall address to current City Hall address in section of code addressing where to send claims
  • In code related to the transfer of ownership on properties with code violations, updates broaden language to include “real property” (land and structures), and updates notice requirements

Consent Agenda and Planning Calendar

The City Council approved two agreements on their consent agenda.

  • Annual Waste Reduction and Recycling Grant Agreement: Each year, King County provides non-competitive grant funding to implement waste reduction and recycling programs in jurisdictions. For more than 20 years, the City has combined our grant funding with the City of Normandy Park to host recycling collection events, with the City of Normandy Park handling the management of the grant funding for the last decade. The City of Burien is now taking over the grant management process for the waste reduction and recycling grant. The funds will be used to host recycling collection events as well as develop and implement an education and outreach program on city and state solid waste laws. The grant funding cycle runs from January 1, 2023 until December 31, 2024.

The City Council added the following topics to the planning calendar for future discussion:

  • Exploration of a sister city for Burien
  • Briefing on status of actions resulting from Boulevard Park Flooding Study
  • Briefing on history and future plans for Eagle Landing Park
  • Briefing from Black Home Initiative
  • Exploration of options for law enforcement service that could include partnering with a neighboring city or potentially creating a separate Burien Police Department
  • Briefing on use of opioid lawsuit settlement funding