Burien City Council Special Meeting on Sanctuary City Status 7/31

Last night we had a packed house at Burien City Hall. By far, the majority of the crowd, nearly 50 of whom spoke publicly during the meeting, were in favor of Burien remaining a sanctuary city. The special meeting was required because the organization “Respect Washington” (led by Craig Keller, a Seattle resident) filed an initiative with just enough signatures by July 21st, to force the Council to either rescind the sanctuary ordinance or put it to a vote by the people.

While a few people argued in favor of the sanctuary repeal, the speakers showed overwhelming support for Burien to remain a sanctuary city. With this show of support, why were three of the councilmembers reluctant to let this repeal get on the ballot in November? Shouldn’t we as a city be able to make this kind of decision ourselves?

After hours of public comment, the Council started their discussion.

Debi Wagner moved to put ordinance 651 on the November ballot, stating that we should listen to the people who signed the initiative, and let the people vote. Debi herself signed the initiative.

Steve Armstrong was in favor of having a vote on this in November, but showed strong support for the police doing their job, not the job of the Federal government.

Lauren Berkowitz reminded us that ordinance 651 is about more than immigration status; it’s also about protecting religious groups who may be targeted. She said Burien’s sanctuary ordinance went further towards protecting civil rights than King County’s, and was therefore not redundant.

Austin Bell stated that it’s the Federal government’s job to police immigration, and that Initiative 1 is a barrier to justice since people would have to have proof of citizenship before reporting a crime.

Nancy Tosta stated that this initiative is hate language, and discussed whether it was too late for people who mistakenly signed the petition to withdraw their signature. She worried that it would be too short of a window to educate voters before the November election.

Lucy Krakowiak simply wanted to put it to the voters.

Bob Edgar, same.

Berkowitz, who was the most vocal opponent to letting this get on the ballot, stated that we should not be voting on civil rights. She also said if it was proven that enough people signed the ballot under duress, the initiative could be thrown out- and it will only take 6 people successfully removing their signatures. Berkowitz argued to do nothing at this time, to “stand our ground”, to give time for invalid signatures to be removed.

When the audience clapped loudly for Berkowitz, Mayor Krakowiak called a 10 minute recess, due to disorderly conduct. Berkowitz reminded the mayor that clapping is a first amendment right. Berkowitz, trying to stop the council vote, moved to adjourn the meeting, to move the council’s decision to a special meeting on the 7th of August so that the community could discuss the new possibility of invalidation of Initiative 1. After that, the crowd got very loudly supportive, irritating the mayor to such a degree that she called a 30 minute recess. At this point, Krakowiak, Edgar, Wagner, and Armstrong left the room. The crowd began chanting, “No decision behind closed doors!”

During this break I asked Craig Keller, who does not live in Burien, what’s in it for him if ordinance 651 is repealed. He responded only that he thinks it should be voted on by the people.

After the 30 minute break, the mayor asked the police to escort everyone from the Town Hall, and not let them in until explaining rules of conduct to each of us. This was done, and the meeting continued. The rest of the night was taken by the Berkowitz filibuster, as she pleaded for enough council members to vote to adjourn the meeting and thus force a delay in the decision that would ensure the repeal is not on the November ballot.

For more info, here is the Stranger’s coverage of the meeting, as well as King 5’s coverage.

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