Assessor's Office

A City is the wealth manager for its residents. It is tasked with creating the conditions where property values and net worth rise. When housing prices fall, it is the City Manager's responsibility to engage all blights, without exception. They have at their disposal the Municipal Code which provides all the tools necessary to make any town vibrant and desirable.

The numbers I chart are only the percentage of change in value. Richer and poorer Cities' management performance can be compared equally using this method. Later on in the Bell Curve section you will see that wealthier Cities do not always outperform less wealthy communities.

I chart the data over a four year period. A distinctive pattern will emerge showing how well the City Manager is navigating these troubled times. It is not unusual for Cities to fluctuate wildly from year to year. Some of the circumstances causing this are:

  • A City becomes popular. Their house values will rise faster than those of other Cities.
  • Certain economic groups become more active. The housing segment they buy will rise appreciably quicker than others.
  • A major employer joins or leaves the community. Prices rise or fall in these Cities.


Using the Data

I have highlighted four Cities that I will be discussing over three presentations. They are: Burien, Kent, Mercer Island, and Sammamish. Displaying information graphically takes under two hours to tabulate. This provides the community a unique perspective to view the City Manager's performance.

March 18, 2013: There are three communities that surround Burien that have comparable housing inventories. They are: Des Moines, Sea-Tac, and Tukwila.

The percentage of change is as follows: Burien -13.9%, Des Moines -9.1%, Sea-Tac -9.2%, and Tukwila -9.3%. This information is found in the far right hand column of the King County chart below. The difference in performance shows that Burien is falling faster than: Des Moines by 34.6%, Sea-Tac by 35%, and Tukwila by 35.1%.

May 6, 2013: I will be showing Burien and Kent's performance over a four year period. Burien's City Manager came from Kent. I will also be showing the performance of Kent with a new City Manager.

If your City Manager is from a different County, I believe you can still show the performance of their preceding City. This methodology shows only percentage of change. You will be comparing apples to apples.

June 3, 2013: I will be referring to the performance of Mercer Island. I chose this City over Sammamish due to its proximity to Burien. Burienites were likely to be more familiar with Mercer Island's well run City.



Interpretation of Data

The graph below is designed to give you an insight into interpreting the data that you plot from your County Assessor's Office.

  • Above Average Performance (AAP) will tend to trend above the median line.
  • Average Performance (AP) will fall in midsection of the chart over time.
  • Below Average Performance (BAP) will trend below the median line.



Plotting the Data

On the far right column you will see a % AV Change 2011 >2012. These yellow numbers come from the highlighted yellow column in the Assessor's document that follows this chart.

Filling out the chart is as easy as paint by numbers. The results can be a real eye opener for: the Community, the Council, and the City Manager.








(Area highlighted with yellow is the data to be charted)



The Bell Curve

The Bell Curve will help you understand and convey what your chart's data mean. The numerical data for the Bell Curve come from the King County Assessor's Office Chart above. Plotting this information will show your City Manager's performance accurately.

The statements I made during my May 6th presentation were based on charting the assessed value only. Had I had used the Bell Curve data, I would have known that my City was already at the bottom; not 5th from the bottom as I indicated.

The data is easy to calculate: add the City's annual ranking for each of the four years to get a total. That number is then compared to the rest of the Cities in your County to get a ranking. In the event of a tie; I look at which City performed better over the four years and awarded them the higher position.


Each of the Cities below have their four year cumulative score in parenthesis:

Charting the Bell Curve will allow you to make sense out of the squiggly lines that will show up on your chart. A four year moving average will wash out the year to year fluctuations Cities experience. It gives a better read on how your City is actually doing in comparison with the rest of the County.

Below are six Cities from King County that show that the management of the City is more important than the underlying house values in determining their ranking.

4 Year Performance
Average Assessed Value
Hunts Point
Clyde Hill
Beaux Arts

I have integrated the Bell Curve information into the Assessor's data. Each of the below average performing Cities in King County is charted with notes on the right hand side. These notes show the four year cumulative annual placement score, and their rank in comparison to the rest of the County.

* Both Burien and Pacific have the same cumulative score. Pacific's performance has some upward tendencies whereas Burien does not. Pacific is awarded the higher performance position.



A Tale of Two Cities

Two divergent anomalies appear in the full King County graph above:

  1. Burien is at the bottom and is trending downward.
  2. Sammamish is above average and is trending upward steadily.

I believe the quality of the management to be the deciding factor between these two Cities' performance. In many ways Burien had everything going for it; yet failed to take advantage of its core strengths:

  • Good location. It has easy access to all the major freeways in the Puget Sound region. A connection via downtown Burien to the Puget Sound network of the Light Rail is under active study. Commuting for work and pleasure will become progressively easier, and cheaper by 2020.

These two transportation systems appeal to both the urban lifestyle and the outdoor enthusiasts. Urbanites enjoy Seattle and Sea-Tac Airport's close proximity to the arts, entertainment and travel. The recreational lifestyle enjoys the closeness to the mountains, the ocean, and the desert via the freeways for year round activities.

  • Great views. Burien is built upon a forested glacial moraine with large green belts. Spectacular views: the Olympic Mountains form a backdrop to Puget Sound with its numerous islands to the west; Mt. Rainier to south; Cascades to the east; Mt Baker to the north are all common sights throughout Burien.

  • Diverse and affordable housing inventory. The housing inventory spans a hundred years. Large lots are common. It was last logged over a 100 years ago. Second growth Douglas Fir trees approaching 100 feet are common. Housing prices are some of the most affordable in King County.




Showing the unvarnished truth from the Assessor's Office to the Community and the Council is the first step towards a better tomorrow. This kind of presentation calls into question the City Manager's performance.

Three weeks after this presentation, the Banks were actively cleaning up their abandoned REO's throughout Burien.