May 6, 2013
40 HOUR ABATEMENT

FORTHOUGHT
INTENT: To show how the City can be turned around without increasing taxes

I am going to be acknowledging the City's due diligence report I asked for in my first presentation. I am going to continue to shape the conversation on this matter. I will share where we agree, and I will provide more information on topics where we disagree.

This is the presentation where I start adding more information for the community to evaluate the continued tenure of the City Manager.

 

The new Norm

A City's performance shows up electronically at the County Assessors Office. There is more information than just losing another13.9% in property values. This section also shows the performance of the management team of the City itself. This is an overlooked component, that will open peoples' eyes as to why things are the way they are.

I will be showing how to plot and interpret it so that people can understand it, in the ASSESSOR tab. An average City will experience up and down swings. This is normal, it shows the management reversing the downward dips by taking corrective action. What isn't desirable is a City consistently below the median line, or worse yet; a City in free fall, like mine.

 

What it takes

Empowering employees to excel at their job is one of the attributes of a great manager. Every day, Burien's employees are driving the City roads doing their job. What is lacking is a means of communication when they see something that needs attention.

In the previous presentations, I have been talking about a 40 hour abatement program. Here I am going to propose using the City employees as the eyes and ears of the management. There will be no need for new taxes. The employee will use their camera phone to capture the problem, and email it to Code Enforcement.

This proposal breaks down the complete enforcement process: from being initially seen all the way through abatement.

 

Designer Buttons

I coined the phrase, “Designer Buttons” to describe how I keep my click through campaign fresh and enticing. In just a few words they describe the essence of what I will be sharing in the presentation. They only run on the Blogs busiest days – Tuesday through Thursday. Then its back to “What is the 200 Million Dollar Problem?” button.

 

TEXT OF SPEECH

I appreciate the City Manager and City Attorney sharing the staff's position on the properties I have been talking about lately.

I believe the issue is reactive enforcement vs proactive enforcement.

The City Attorney was correct in stating that most cities use a reactive approach.

The real question is, “Why be like the rest of the cities when we can create something better?”

I don't believe that cleaning up Burien's $200 million dollar problem has to be expensive at all. In fact Burien already has all the tools it needs:

  • A well defined Municipal Code that is easy to understand.
  • A workforce that covers most streets at least once a month.

I propose that when City employees spot a problem house that they use a simple camera phone to send a picture to the Compliance Officer. From that point on it is largely an administrative issue.

All of the costs associated with abatement are fully recoverable, including staff time. This makes it revenue positive.

In becoming proactive, Burien and the neighborhoods will no longer be victimized by these trashy homes and the problems that come with them.

I don't believe we can wait to the next budget cycle to become proactive. The King County Assessor says we are now 5th from the bottom on assessed value change. If we continue to do nothing, in four years we will be at the bottom.

These houses are like graffiti. If they aren't promptly dealt with then they tend to multiply. I don't want to see that happen.

I want the Council to work with the City Manager and City Attorney to find ways of implementing the BMC so that the City can flourish and our neighborhoods are desirable.

I propose a 40 man hour abatement program that I have attached to the City Clerks copy. If the City disputes these numbers, they should bring their own numbers to the Council for discussion.

 

 

I propose that Burien adopt a proactive approach to Code Enforcement like this one:
I am allocating 4 hours for each step.

1. City worker sees a problem and sends camera phone picture
    to the Compliance Officer.
4 hours
2. Compliance Officer examines photo and BMC 4 hours
3. Compliance Officer visits site and takes additional photos 4 hours
4. Admin prepares letter and file for property 4 hours
5. City reviews response from property owner 4 hours
6. City responds with abatement demand 4 hours
7. If no action City contacts appropriate companies for abatement
    such junk removal companies, landscape contractors, etc.
4 hours
8. City reviews bids from abatement companies 4 hours
9. City issues purchase order for abatement 4 hours
10. City oversees abatement. 4 hours
   
  40 hours

  1. Over the course of a month I believe most if not all streets in Burien are driven by Burien employees while on the job. It is likely that the employee reporting the problem will be called back to take followup pictures. Thus the 4 hours.
  2. Having the camera phone picture sent to the Compliance Officer's computer will facilitate a rapid response as well as enabling it to be put in a folder for transferring to other individuals such as the City Attorney or Admin.
  3. I believe this line item can be significantly reduced in hours by visiting more than one property at a time.
  4. Template type letters can reduce this hourly amount if they are prepared by the City Attorney.
  5. City Attorney reviews response from property owner against applicable statues.
  6. City Attorney directs Admin to write abatement demand letter.
  7. If property is not cleaned up, than the City contacts appropriate abatement companies from the City's approved vendor list who have the necessary bonds, insurances, and expertise. I don't believe City employees should be involved in the actual clean up of private property.
  8. Purchasing Department reviews bids and selects company to abate property.
  9. Purchasing Department issues purchase order for clean up.
  10. An individual from the City oversees abatement.

If the City has issues with any of my assumptions, I only ask that they bring their numbers to the Council for discussion.

Burien Municipal Code provides full recovery for all of the above expenses including time spent by the City employees and contractors performing the abatement.

 

Below is a chart that shows Burien's performance over the last several years from the King County Assessor's Office website.

These numbers are taken from the King County Assessor's Office website. In the 2008 > 2009 time period, Burien was in the bottom 30 percentile of the 39 cities in King County based on assessed value change. This also was the current City Manager's first full year on the job. In the 2011 > 2012 period Burien was close to the bottom 10 percentile. The figures for 2012>2013 are not yet compiled by the Assessor's Office.

I have also included the numbers for Kent, WA. Our City Manager was the City Manager of Kent prior to coming to Burien. You will note that a different management style has a significant effect on property value performance in Kent. Areas are highlighted in orange for easier viewing.

If the same City Council policies continue with the same City Manager, it is a mathematical certainty that the trend downward will continue. The consequences will be dire if this trend is not reversed immediately through Council directives.


 

RECONNAISSANCE
May 6, 2013

The information that I refer to about statements from the City Manager and City Attorney are found in both the previous Council Packet and the Council video from April 22nd.
Building on where we agree points the situation towards solution

The graph showing Burien's decline was gleaned from the King County Assessor's Office information. It covered a four year period. It is perfectly normal for a City to experience up and down swings. What is unhealthy is seeing a steady trend downward.
See the ASSESSOR tab for more information on graphing your City's performance.
Shows the consequence of not doing their job as specified by law.

The reference to being able to recover costs associated with clean up can be found in the Municipal Code tab.
Showing the costs are recoverable (BMC) calls into question their management of the City.

The information on a 40 hour abatement program involved all the steps necessary to complete the process. I chose to present it on a one house at a time basis. A more efficient use of staff time would involve cleaning up multiple houses at a time. I allowed generous numbers.
Showing that clean up can be done in 40 hours creates the question, “Why isn't this being done?”

 

 

AFTERTHOUGHT

Presentation Issues

You will note me coughing twice and then excusing myself. What has happened is an unexpected burst of adrenaline. My lung diaphragm has locked in the exhaled position. To compensate, I release the last bit of air out of my lung with the two tiny coughs. I am now able to manually tell myself to breathe, at which point I share “excuse me” and continue.

The first one caught me off guard, and seemed like 5 seconds to restart breathing. The video shows less than a second.

There will be countless times through the campaign you will hear me saying, “excuse me”. Each of these times will be adrenaline related. With the exception of one, in September, there is no noticeable ripple in my presentations.

 

The Persuasiveness of Solution

If you want different results, you've got to do things differently. Tearing things down is easy. However, a campaign based on solution will standout from the reactive din that is common in today's politics.

Offering solution, gives something for people to ponder – it calls into question the City Manager's performance. Offering solution – be it an action step, or a more extensive proposal, shapes the conversation. It communicates to peoples better side. There is nothing Pollyanna about this, especially in an election year.

 

Not about flipping houses

I am not a fan of house flippers. They do create money for themselves, but they don't create the foundation of wealth in the community for a sustainable tomorrow. Sustainability requires a longer viewpoint. Flipping is like today's financial sector mentality – cash and dash.

We have to have access to our net worth, to take advantage of opportunities. The house is one of the biggest nest eggs most people have. A banker is unlikely to view negative net worth approvingly, no matter how enticing the proforma business plan looks.

Neighborhoods that are desirable have tremendous value. They cost the City next to nothing to initiate and maintain. All enforcement and abatement costs of the City are fully recoverable. It is only the City watching our backs that is necessary. The residents are the ones putting in the sweat equity. As one part of the neighborhood starts to improve; the rest soon follow. Our Cities and the Nation will prosper as all of us become involved in the rebuilding process.

 

Reaching for Sustainability

Municipal Code is far reaching. If your City is in continued decline – code is not being used to the advantage of the neighborhoods, the businesses, or even the City itself.

Who is at fault (blame) doesn't matter. What does matter is turning the situation around through action. The easiest action to take, is to speak with solution as a major component. People will listen and things will happen.