After mass resignations, Burien CM criticizes ‘activist mindset’

Jun 21, 2023, 9:45 AM | Updated: 10:12 am

burien encampment...

Burien encampment near City Hall (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

Eleven city leaders representing Burien have resigned after a tumultuous special meeting on their handling of homeless encampment sweeps late last week.

City Planning Commissioner Charles Schaefer was let go after being accused of overstepping his authority when assisting in the relocation of unhoused people to the corner of 6th Avenue SW and SW 152nd Street.

“I honestly wasn’t expecting it,” Burien Councilmember Stephanie Mora told Jason Rantz on AM 770 KTTH. “But as soon as we started getting the emails, person after person after person saying they’re resigning in support of Charles Schafer, it honestly was kind of sad. But I also thought if they agree with him, then I guess maybe they do have to leave as well. We’re just going to have to have another opening to have people interviewed to see who will fit our parameters.”

According to the B-Town blog, of the eight volunteer members the city’s planning commission had, just one remains.

From Saturday: 5 Burien city leaders resign in protest over homeless crisis

Homeless members of the Burien encampment located near City Hall were forced to move out earlier this month as the camp became the central focus of frustration among the city’s residents. But, despite the relocation, residents feared the people living in the recently-defunct camp will simply move just up the street a few blocks away with no resolution.

Mora called for the special meeting after Schaefer told the occupants of the encampment that they could camp at a new encampment he installed at a nearby park.

“One of the witnesses I called on was Debra George, who is the director of Burien C.A.R.E.S., and she spoke about how the sweep went and she explained that everyone that was at that encampment was offered services,” Mora said. “And yet, Charles Schaefer still went and told everyone, hey, you don’t have to take the services, you can go camp somewhere else. And I think Thursday’s meeting just was a notice to everyone watching that we will not tolerate this behavior. I was very pleased that the rest of my council supported me in the decision of removing him.”

Burien previously requested help from King County but was denied, according to KIRO 7, with the county citing the lack of a plan in place to safely house the people being moved. The county stated Burien is responsible for the unhoused within city limits as there is no obligation from the county to intervene, furthering frustrations over the homelessness crisis.

But the city currently has an offer from King County that would give them $1.3 million in addition to 35 pallet shelters, all at no cost to Burien, to provide space and services for the homeless.

“One of the things that I found ironic was everyone on the committees that have been resigning said that they felt that we were bullying Charles Schaefer, and I’m thinking, well, what did you guys think Charles was doing by allowing all these encampments and helping everyone set up an encampment?” Mora asked rhetorically. “He’s bullying the city into saying you need to do a sanctioned encampment, and I’m not going to tolerate that.”

Burien encampment cleared, but long-term solutions remain minimal

A statement from the City of Burien listed multiple reasons for firing Schaefer, including violating city ordinances and undermining the council.

“I am the mom of Burien right now trying to tell everyone to be quiet, calm down, and clean up your mess,” Mora said. “It’s just so absurd what’s going on. But like we say, what happens in Seattle spreads. And I think Burien is a great example of the activist mindset that has helped to destroy parts of Seattle, but we’re rebuilding and we will rebuild.”

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After mass resignations, Burien CM criticizes ‘activist mindset’