‘I have authority:’ Burien City Council member confronts homeless outside condo

Feb 24, 2024, 12:00 PM

Burien camping ban...

Across the street from City Hall, tents line one side of 152nd St. The other side, campaign signs. (Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Sam Campbell, KIRO Newsradio)

Burien City Council member Linda Akey is facing scrutiny after a video was posted online of her confronting homeless people outside the building where she lives.

She is heard in the video telling the people to move their tents away from the edge of the building, threatening to call the police and demanding they pack up and move by the following morning.

KIRO Newsradio and MyNorthwest have not been given permission to republish the video. However, as of the morning of Feb. 24, it still is available for public viewing on YouTube. The video posted online also includes several faces being blurred out. Also note that viewer discretion is advised due to coarse language.

“I have authority,” Akey is heard saying in the video while raising her voice and moving closer to a man. “I live here, and you do not belong here.”

Tensions rise throughout the several-minute-long confrontation. Eventually, a woman tells her, “Get away from my tent.”

“Get out from under where I live,” Akey responds.

As Akey moves closer, reiterating her commands to leave, the woman says, “Don’t touch me, b****.”

More from Burien: City facing lawsuit over ordinance banning homeless encampments

It’s not clear in the video if any physical contact was made.

The argument continues, with people living on the sidewalk telling Akey they have no where else to go. Akey tells them she wants to help, but repeatedly tells them they need to move by 6 a.m.

It’s apparently a reference to the anti-camping ordinance passed November in Burien, which allows tents to be erected but only between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. and only if no shelter space is available.

Akey claims later in the video that the people staying in tents have been up against the building and lighting fires nearby.

Akey responds to the video

She declined a KIRO Newsradio request to interview, but issued a written statement instead. It reads in full below:

Clarifying my recent interaction:

First, This is a pressure point of a year of stress and work to balance the needs of the community.

I was not acting in any capacity as a government official, but as a homeowner.  I want to work toward positive solutions.

I recognize I may look angry and I apologize for raising my voice.

As a (council member) and resident, I understand the complex issues surrounding homelessness and residents’ safety concerns. I’ve been in communication with both parties regarding unauthorized belongings on private property.

On the night in question, I approached individuals camped on the sidewalk, informing them of condo policies and city ordinances. While I empathize with their challenges, ensuring everyone’s safety is a top priority.

My primary concern is the well-being of all involved. I believe a multi-faceted approach involving residents, social services, and relevant authorities is crucial to address homelessness and addiction.

One promising strategy is diversion programs, which often become more readily available when existing laws are enforced fairly and consistently. These programs offer individuals struggling with addiction the opportunity to receive treatment and support instead of facing criminal prosecution. While not a cure-all, they have shown potential in helping individuals overcome addiction and rebuild their lives. By enforcing existing laws, we can ensure a safer environment for everyone in our community while also providing pathways to support and rehabilitation for those experiencing homelessness and addiction. This approach recognizes the complex needs of all individuals involved and aims to promote long-term solutions.

Working together to address everyone’s needs is crucial. This includes advocating for resources for individuals experiencing homelessness, exploring diversion programs, and promoting collaboration and understanding.

How long the people have been camping on the sidewalk beneath Akey’s condominium is unclear.

Cydney Moore clarifies what she told campers

Former council member Cydney Moore, who lost reelection to Akey and since leaving office has served as president of the Burien Community Support Coalition, says she herself has instructed campers where they can stay, which includes the downtown area where Akey lives.

“I’ve shown multiple people the areas in downtown that have wide enough sidewalks and people chose to congregate in that particular area on that side street.”

More from Sam Campbell: Scammer steals $1,300 from Skyway shop using fraudulent refunds

Moore said she did not tell them to purposefully setup underneath her former political opponent.

“I didn’t direct people specifically to stay in that spot under her building. But (that is) the spot people opted to go to for several different reasons.”

Those reasons, according to Moore, include wider sidewalks, compliance with local ordinances and proximity to the Burien Library for bathrooms.

KIRO Newsradio is working to verify the identity of the person who took the video in question. Check back later for more updates.

You can read more of Sam Campbell’s stories here. Follow Sam Campbell on X, formerly known as Twitter, or email him here.

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