Issues & Opportunities
The issues we face in Burien are not unique to our city:
There are issues that need our attention, but I don't believe Burien is the wasteland some make it out to be... and I don't think you do, either.
Whether the faith community, educators, students, parents, advocates, homeowners, renters, landlords, business owners, workers, or those experiencing homelessness and the worst of discrimination, I am committed to working together, building coalitions and bringing the best ideas forward.
Read on to see what I've been working on , and where I think we can go, together.
What causes people to lose their homes differs from individual to individual; sometimes it's job loss, sometimes it's substance abuse, leaving an abusive relationship, eviction, aging out of foster care, or many other reasons.
The residents of Burien are demanding action be taken regarding the homeless population in our city; they want a plan, and to know that it is being moved forward.
I believe in the Housing First approach, wherein emphasis is placed on providing permanent housing to people experiencing homelessness, thus ending their homelessness and serving as a platform from which they can pursue personal goals and improve their quality of life. This approach is guided by the belief that people need basic necessities like food and a place to live before attending to anything less critical, such as getting a job, budgeting properly, or attending to substance use issues.
More important than my personal beliefs, however, is the importance the residents of Burien are placing on finding a solution for those sleeping outside, and their dissatisfaction with the current level of attention it is receiving.
During the last four years, I have helped to pass a full suite of tenant protections to keep people in their homes and free from unjust evictions or overly burdensome move-in requirements. I have advocated diversion services in public safety that don't make the travesty of sleeping in the cold even more difficult to overcome. And as someone who experienced homelessness when I was just eight years old in Grays Harbor, Washington... I bring my lived experience to work with me every single day.
According to the most recent report by the Washington Association of Sheriffs & Police Chiefs (WASPC), Burien has the second lowest crime rate out of all South King County cities. I believe that is directly related to Burien's commitment to "leading with services".
Why "services" and not "more jail time"?
Burien already spends nearly half of our general fund budget on items policing.
Arresting, prosecuting, jailing, releasing, re-offending, arresting...
The costs add up. 'Business as usual' costs hundreds of thousands of dollars that the residents of Burien never see the benefit of.
Burien has the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program. LEAD diverts people who have committed certain misdemeanors into community-based treatment and support services—including housing, health care, job training, treatment and mental health support—instead of processing them through the traditional criminal justice system. This allows those who committed a crime to focus on the root issues that led to the offense in the first place, whether drug use, homelessness, prostitution or something else, all the while under the discretion of the Burien Police Department.
I was elected on the promise of looking into programs such as LEAD, and am proud to have brought it forward.
This program is funded, primarily, through the King County Council - something I have advocated for on behalf of our city. I believe this shows a commitment to working regionally, and saving our city the much needed money.
Whether you're a homeowner or a renter, you should be able to afford to live in Burien.
Some of the barriers people face when moving to our city are the limited supply of available housing, and units that are outside of their budget. Property taxes keep escalating, utilities grow more costly, and being able to afford first + last + deposit when the average rent in Burien is $1,579 for a two-bedroom apartment is becoming more and more the exception, instead of the rule.
In October of 2019, I worked with the faith community, educators, students, tenants and landlords to champion a full suite of tenant protections. In this ordinance, we created the second ever Just Cause Eviction law in Washington state, as well as required landlords to accept deposits in installments, all paperwork should be presented in the tenant's native language, and providing for the creation of a Housing Ombudsperson who would act as a mediator in landlord-tenant disputes. Why? Because keeping people housed is the most basic means of addressing housing affordability.
In February of 2021, I worked with the grocery workers' labor union to pass $5/hour hazard pay in the City of Burien. This was a crucial issue that came up during the COVID-19 pandemic, where some of lowest paid and hardest working individuals were being asked to subject themselves to ongoing risk of contracting the virus, bringing it home to their families, and/or missing time (and pay) at work. Helping our workers to afford taking a sick day to care for themselves or an ill family member helps keep Burien's economy running... and, more importantly, values the dignity of their labor and personhood.