[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The B-Town Blog nor its staff:]
If we want responsible representative government, we need to be responsible informed voters. With 65+ years of voting experience behind me, I would like to share some ideas on what has helped me in the past, to learn more about the candidates and things to consider in deciding who to vote for. Please remember this is an opinion letter by one very seasoned voter.
- The Voters Pamphlet is an invaluable tool. But remember it provides very limited information since the candidates are allowed to write only 150 words about who they are and what they stand for in their platforms. Read and use it.
- Look at the person’s length of residency in the City to get an idea of how much they really know about the City; its operation, condition of the City.Have they served on City boards, committees, commissions? From these kinds of city government experiences do they understand the type of government their city has? Have they volunteered or worked on City events (Clean Sweep, Strawberry Festival, Arts Aglow, The Boo, Winter Festival, Block Watch, neighborhood community clubs, etc.), or with any of the 34+ City supported non-profits like Discover Burien, Transform Burien, etc. Are they a property owner, city business owner or a renter? Property and business owners tend to have a greater vested interest in the responsible operation of the City because they have invested their monetary future in the City. While renters and especially apartment renters pay taxes in the City, their tax contributions do not cover the amount of services they require from the City. Renters, like I was before I became married and responsible for more than just myself, typically move around more. There is a lot of freedom in not having a mortgage to pay off. For the first time in the City’s history, there are five renters running for Council in this election. Although a renter may be highly qualified to hold a council position, I would like to see more of a commitment to City residency.
- Education and Work Experience is a critical item to consider. A Council position requires about 20 hours or more of work per week and a willingness to serve on groups outside of the City. There is an extensive amount of materials that require reading and comprehension skills. Council members frequently have to read, research and analyze up to 600-1000 pages of Council packet materials in 3 days to be prepared for a meeting. They have to be able to understand the issue’s historical context, budgets and the requirement to balance them. What special skill does this candidate bring to the Council; formal business budgeting experience, successful public and private grant writing experience, successful (more than 5 years) business running experience, a solid continuous work and physical attendance record on the job, land use and/or land development experience, public or private agency management or policy development experience (5 years or more), experience in law enforcement or military sector, extended experience in real estate and contracts, storm water and critical areas management, experience and ability to meet timelines for a job and a successful record of working and collaborating with others to get long term projects done. A minimum of a high school diploma or greater is needed to successfully do this job along with a strong understanding of the form of government Burien has and a strong understanding of basic U.S.A. Civics, local government and Washington State law. A willingness to swear an oath and follow it. The City Manager runs the City. Council meetings are for getting the required work of City done and there are specific rules, guidelines and timelines that Council is required to follow. The role of a Council member is to be a policy maker and not a protester. Does the candidate under consideration have the skills and educational experience and training to handle the task. Consider the candidate’s skills before voting for him/her.
- Look for the candidates’ platform for why they are running for Council. Is this person promising things that can’t be accomplished by a small, poor City like Burien or that Burien taxpayers are not willing to or can’t afford to pay for like sidewalks for everyone? A single city block of new sidewalks costs over $1 million dollars per block. Are they saying that they are just going to spend council meeting time listening to constant streams of citizens and protestors? This is not the purpose for Council meetings. Are they claiming that they are going to give over the entire City budget to Human Services (homelessness) which is not even a required service for the City to provide? Are they claiming that they going to violate their oath by not following State or Federal Law? Are they unwilling to work with the City Manager and other Council members and just demand to do their own thing? Are they going to push the agenda of some outside the City agency, corporation, political group or Union? Council positions are supposed to be non-partisan. So does this candidate keep talking about political parties and their affiliations-Socialist, Communist, Libertarian, Labor, Democratic, Republican and why? Are they making racist comments about citizens, the police and existing Council members? Are they promising more affordable housing in a city that already has more than enough affordable housing? Are they telling you they are going to mandate or take over parts of the local school system’s job which is not legal for the Council to do? Have they told you why they are running for Council; what things they hope to support that improves the economic development and tax revenues of the City of Burien and improves or at least maintains services and the infrastructure for citizens? Does it seem that they even understand the broad role of a Council member rather than just narrow topic personal pet issues? Do they understand the financial short-fall the City will face in two years and possible ways to handle it? Do they understand the issues with Port and the FAA and how to balance that with NERA development? Do they understand what environmental protections are required in the City to manage critical areas and the shorelines? Do they know what master plans the city and Council have to follow? Remember these candidates are asking for your valuable vote. Check their knowledge on City issues and their platform before voting for them.
- Use the Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) website to learn who is giving money to these candidates. Type in PDC and when the page comes up: hit Browse, Search data base, Candidates, Local and go to pages 13 and 14 for the Burien Candidates. Look at how much Contributions have been taken in and their Expenditures. Is the candidate getting a lot of money from outside of the City and what are these contributors hoping to get back from this candidate for their contributions? Particularly watch the IND SP column and the Independent Expenditures for a candidate in the last 2-3 weeks of the election race. This is where typically outside PAC (Political Action Committees) start dumping outside money into a City’s election race to control who they want in office. This is where you can see who is really trying to buy and put candidates on your Council for their outside purposes. In the last Burien election, there was one outside the City PAC that dumped in $14,600 in the last two weeks of the campaign to try to get 3 candidates elected. In Sea-Tac in 2011, two outside the city Union PACs put in $64,000 in the last three weeks to get control of two Council positions. Those two Council members ended up causing the city of Sea-Tac significant financial problems. Look at who and which PACs, Unions and big corporations are trying to buy seats on the Burien City Council and ask why? Candidates that show $0 Contributions have elected to file a Mini Report and promise to spend $5000 or less on their campaigns until November. These are candidates who typically are depending on Burien residents and business for their financial support and are not supported by PACs or big money. Do candidates have campaign violations against them for not following State fair campaigning rules? This information is also available on the PDC website and the candidates to watch are those who have elected Full Reporting. The PDC website is one of the least used sites by voters to find out about who the candidates really are and who is financing them. To be a smart voter, learn to use it.
- Use your computer to do internet searches on the candidates’ names. For example, see the Teamster 117 endorsement video link. It is long but gives a good picture of three of the candidates. Teamsters 117 Burien Candidate 2017 Forum – Mat… Visit their campaign sites. Read your local media sites for information. Don’t just depend on local gossip or snarky comments on blogs; go to forums and meet them. Check the voting record of incumbent Council member candidates. Have these candidates even bothered to regularly attend Council meetings, write or present on issues to the Council? Ask questions to check their knowledge of City government.When I know little about the candidates, I save voting until the end of the election campaign because I want to learn as much as I can about the candidates who are going to get my valuable vote.
– Robert Howell
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