Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Voters seem to support Burien City Council's homeless camping ban

A hand holds a pen while filling out a ballot with a return envelope and voter's pamphlet nearby.
King County Elections
Burien, Wash., is a suburb of Seattle located in King County. Three out of seven city council positions were up for election in 2023.

This month feels like a climax to a divisive year at Burien City Hall, where the question of what to do about a local homeless encampment has split the city council. Now, election results are communicating a picture of where voters stand in this suburb of Seattle.

Last Monday, police cleared council chambers after attendees demanded the mayor and city manager resign because they’ve yet to accept 35 tiny houses and a million dollars that King County government offered in June. The county says the deadline for an answer is November 27th.

This weekend, as a new law the city council passed in September went into effect, Councilmember Cydney Moore joined demonstrators who set up tents outside Burien City Hall to protest.

But Burien’s voters appear to appreciate the tough approach: With most ballots counted, Councilmember Kevin Schilling, serving as deputy mayor, voted for that camping ban. He is leading in election results with almost 59% of the vote.

In other races, Moore — who voted against the ban — is trailing at 42% behind her challenger, nonprofit consultant Linda Akey. Former city councilmember Krystal Marx, who lost reelection in 2021 but ran again this year, and has been critical of the anti-camping ordinance, garnered about 44% of the vote and is losing to Alex Andrade, a small business owner.

"When you have tents and public safety issues, I think voters – whether they're left or right – are saying, 'is this person doing the basic functions of government well?'" said John Wyble, a Democratic political consultant and South King County resident.

Earlier this year, Wyble briefly worked for Burien Mayor Sofia Aragon’s campaign to represent the surrounding area, up to downtown Seattle, on the King County Council. In that race, the mayor lost to Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. Since she didn't run for re-election, Aragon's city council term will end in December. Aragon voted for the camping ban.

"The voting bloc are incredibly frustrated at the conditions that they are witnessing in public," said Roxana Pardo Garcia, who runs a food bank in Burien. "The issue of homelessness is not a new issue in Burien. It is not a new issue in our region."

She said since pandemic-era supports have dropped off, homelessness is much more visible in Burien. Pardo Garcia feels "angst" for the people she serves going forward.

Scott Greenstone is a former KNKX reporter. His reporting focused on under-covered communities, and spotlighting the powerful people making decisions that affect all of us throughout Western Washington.