Seattle Met, the monthly magazine first published in 2006, recently released an online article analyzing the current situation in the unincorporated portion of the Highline area which is currently voting on whether or not to annexed by Burien on November 6th.
The article interviewed a number of White Center business owners, Burien’s City Manager, Mike Martin, the President of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council (NHUAC), Barbara Dobkin, and White Center Chamber of Commerce, Mark Ufkes. Each of the interviewed had different reasons for supporting or opposing the annexation.
Some business owners said that a more present government would help minimize the problems that have been created by the neighborhood cannabis dispensaries. And Dobkin claimed that the City of Burien would have incentive to see unincorporated north Highline do well and would help make up for the lack of investment that King County has made in the community for a number of years. The opposition in the article sat primarily with Ufkes who claimed that annexation would ultimately be the downfall of both Burien and north Highline and that the city of Burien would bring too much regulation and too many taxes. It’s worth noting that the author of the article sited a number of reliable sources to refute each of Ufkes’ apocalyptic claims.
“Taxes for North Highline residents will go up over $400 per year, Ufkes says. (Burien city manager Mike Martin says the number is closer to $140.) The neighborhood has $77 million in deferred maintenance needs that Burien can’t afford to address, he says. (Dobkin, of NHUAC, says that number represents a wish list of infrastructure improvements to the area similar to what any municipality has. But if the area remains unincorporated, the county has said that it will stop maintaining its roads, even allowing them to revert to gravel if they degrade too much.) All of that, Ufkes says, and the level of police service will go down. (Again, Martin refutes this and claims police service will be at least as good as it is now.)
Ufkes laughs a lot when he talks about annexation and the people who support it. It’s a sneering, sarcastic chuckle, and it gets even more sarcastic at any mention of NHUAC. He used to be a member and thinks it’s toothless: “I got seven of my neighbors, I promised them an ice cream cone, and they elected me to it.” But really, he just doesn’t like the people, several of whom now say he only opposes annexation to Burien because he’d rather that White Center became a part of Seattle, where zoning laws would allow him to develop high-density, low-income housing. That claim? “It’s pathetic,” he says.
That’s the irony of the annexation vote: An attempt to bring together two communities has bitterly divided one of them. And all the while, people like Uncle Mike Gordon are left to twist in the wind, hoping for some kind of order to be restored in White Center, a sense that someone—more police; maybe another code enforcement officer; anyone, really—is minding the store. Because if it doesn’t come, he’ll have to consider closing the restaurant and going somewhere else. “I would go somewhere where there’s going to be some regulations around,” Gordon says.”