Jerry Gay
Opposing signs provides food for thought in front of a small White Center grocery. North Highline residents are voting on the issue as part of the Nov. 6 election. Burien residents can not vote on annexation.

Opinion: The pros and cons of annexation

We asked a handful of White Center residents who have been active lobbying for or against Burien's proposed annexation of North Highline (residents can vote on this until Nov. 6) to send in their opinions.

What follows are (in no particular order) a pro-annexation argument from Barbara Dobkin and Liz Giba with the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, and an anti-annexation argument from Mark Ufkes, representing the Independent White Center PAC. All three are North Highline residents.

CON: Protect Independence
By Mark Ufkes, Independent White Center PAC

Annexation should improve White Center and increase our property values. Burien annexation will do neither. The sky will not fall if we don’t annex to Burien. Fairwood did not annex to Renton two years ago, remains unincorporated today, and their roads are fine.

The NHUAC claimed that state law forces us to annex. King County then admitted that there is no state law that can force us to annex to any city.

The NHUAC then claimed that if we do not annex to Burien, Seattle will take us without a vote. Seattle City Councilmember Jean Godden responded to this claim by stating that Seattle will not be taking an annexation action on White Center now (if ever) and would never do so without a yes vote of its residents. The NHUAC then claimed that our libraries will be closed if we do not annex to Burien. The King County Library System responded, “At no time has the King County Libraries stated that libraries would close as a result of annexation.” The NHUAC then claimed that police coverage would decline if we stay unincorporated. This was followed by a statement from King County Sheriff Steve Strachan announcing that he will add 14 more sheriff deputies for unincorporated areas including White Center starting this November.

The real facts include:

1.) Burien will not expand police coverage in White Center
We need a two-officer, walking patrol in the downtown White Center business district from 6 p.m. through 6 am, 365 days a year, in addition to keeping our storefront deputy, our community service officer, and our regular car patrols. This on-the-street police presence will solve much of our crime problem. Yet Burien has a $1.3 million budget shortfall in 2013, and actually cut $430,000 out of the police contract with King County, reducing the equivalent of three Burien police officers next year. And remember, Burien already has fewer officers per resident when compared to other cities its size.

2.) Burien will not improve services, but will add seven new taxes and fees
We will see increased utility, cable, water, and sewer taxes, and significant B & O taxes on our businesses. We predict that for Burien to maintain police and parks in 2014, Burien will need to pass two additional levy taxes. Burien repeatedly states, “Nothing will change.” Many of us fear that with Burien annexation, nothing will improve.

3.) Burien will add parking tickets and permits to prune your trees
Did you know that Burien issues parking tickets in downtown Burien now, and has a $206 tree-pruning permit? Burien staff can come to your house and inspect the tree too. Seattle isn’t even that intrusive.

4.) Burien will control White Center
White Center is not Burien. Burien can never allow White Center to outshine Downtown Burien. Just like the two constantly fighting business districts in Bellevue, downtown Burien and White Center will be fighting each other over limited city resources. Burien gave Town Square owners a ten-year property tax exemption. If we annex to Burien, our new Burien property taxes will help pay for failing Burien Town Square and its ten-year tax break.

Seattle has made it clear that they do not want to annex. Clearly, Burien can’t afford to annex us. As Mr. Levine stated here last week, “we have the best of both worlds now – A Seattle address, but no city taxes for either Seattle or Burien.” Stay unincorporated. Protect our independence. Vote Against Burien annexation!

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PRO: Finally have a voice
By Barbara Dobkin and Liz Giba, North Highline Unincorporated Area Council

Dear North Highline Neighbors, Vote YES to annex to Burien.

A small group of individuals that have worked for years to make us a part of Seattle now want us to believe that we can remain unincorporated and that nothing will change if we do not annex to Burien.

Neither is true. In reality, King County government makes the policies that affect our community and those decisions are determined by the King County budget.

For instance, due to budget constraints, King County adopted a 5 Tier Road Service Program for unincorporated areas that went into effect early this year. Under this program, 36 miles of North Highline roads will not receive any maintenance or repairs, resulting in deterioration of our residential streets.

The Sheriff's Department is also impacted by King County's budget. Previously, due to budget cuts, the White Center Storefront went without a deputy for over a year and a half. Only after much community effort led by the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC) was this necessary position re-instated.

As King County Council member Joe McDermott made clear at the Oct. 4 NHUAC annexation forum, there are no guarantees about the future of this position (the video can be accessed on the NHUAC website northhighlineuac.org).

In 2004, we overwhelmingly approved a bond levy to rebuild the White Center Library and improve the Boulevard Park Library. In 2009 after our neighbors to the south voted to annex to Burien, King County nearly finalized a deal with the King County Library System (KCLS) to sell Puget Sound Park (128th & 1st Ave S), with plans to build a consolidated library there. Burien delayed the planned annexation until an agreement was reached, and ultimately saved the park, and for the time being, the two libraries.

KCLS has made it clear that if we do not annex to Burien they will not go forward with the promise made to our community in the 2004 bond levy. Instead, they will close, consolidate, and relocate these two vital community resources, making access difficult for the current users, many of whom are children, who depend on these libraries for after-school study and much needed Internet access.

For those who wonder what remaining unincorporated or annexing to Seattle would mean, the answer is simple: The only library in North Highline would be the 2,300 square foot limited use library at Greenbridge. Those opposing annexation have suggested that we do not need our libraries.

However, they have expressed concern that with annexation the "Marijuana Farmers Market" in White Center may have to close -- a business that contributes nothing to the well-being of our community.

One of the many rumors being spread is that Burien is going broke, and cannot afford an annexation. This is blatantly false. Like every city, there are difficult decisions to be made in this tough economic time. Burien has made wise choices and is in a far better position than many surrounding cities.

Additionally, think about it, we are taxpayers and we will be contributing tax dollars to Burien. Our taxes, which will increase on average about $10 per month, will stay in our community. The state of Washington has committed to pay up to $5 million dollars a year for 10 years to help make the annexation successful. Money that will come to our community only if we annex by 2015. Don't we deserve it?

Right now we are less than 1 percent of the population of King County. We have no voice. When we join our neighbors who annexed to Burien in 2010, we will be more than 50 percent of its population. We will finally have a voice and the power to impact our future.

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