December 01, 2006
Nickels' Push For White Center Annexation = Power Politics

The Seattle P-I reports this morning that Mayor Greg Nickels' operatives are putting the squeeze on the city council to approve a financially-losing proposition to annex unincorporated White Center to Seattle. It's a bad idea and the council, clearly concerned about the estimated $5 million annual city budget drain that would result, should hold firm against the idea. As a North Seattle communuty activist tells the P-I, increasing Seattle's police manpower should far and away be a higher priority. This is actually an incumbent protection racket. One day again, Nickels will have strong competition for mayor, as in 2001 when he barely nosed past conservative law-and-order candidate Mark Sidran. Just as when he was on the King County Council, Nickels masterfully wields the power of incumbency, especially with feel-good symbolic initiatives directed at minority communities such as White Center. Which in fact was part of his county council district, and where he remains well known and popular.

With its heavy minority population, low incomes, and heavy presence of public social services, White Center is a strong voting constituency for a Big Government Democrat like Nickels. He's invested years there already in constituent relations, and he wants White Center in Seattle for re-election insurance. Plain and simple. And it's not like he's offering any real alternative rationale.

When he asked the mayor's office why Seattle should take in the area, (city council president Nick) Licata said he was told simply it's "the right thing to do. Being a liberal, I said, yeah, sounds good. But then, you know, you look at the numbers," Licata said. "To do the right thing is very costly to the city on an ongoing basis."

Yeah, it's the "right thing." The right thing to ensure Nickels can continue to avoid gainful emplyment in the private sector, where doing the "right thing" involves net-positive cash R.O.I., not red ink spilled at taxpayer expense. The suburban city of Burien is showing a strong interest in annexing White Center. Let Burien have it. Seattle can't afford it.

Posted by Matt Rosenberg at December 01, 2006 09:45 AM | Email This
1. He has to pay for that tunnel somehow.

Posted by: Cato on December 1, 2006 09:44 AM
2. It looks like another *Bundy Republican has brought shame to all Republicans.

Larry Corrigan, a well-known activist in local Republican politics as a backer of U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert and King County Prosecuting Attorney Norm Maleng, was arrested Wednesday in an Internet sting for allegedly trying to arrange sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Corrigan was the director of financial operations at the prosecutor's office for more than 25 years and was deputy treasurer in Reichert's 1997 and 2001 runs for King County sheriff. He was also a supporter without an official role in Reichert's congressional campaigns.

Is this really "mainstream" behavior. It is certainly liberal behavior but most people in America aren't liberals or sick perverts for that matter.

The so called mainstream republicans lack character. Sure they aren't all pedophiles like Foley and Corrigan but since they don't care about morality they are unable to recognize evil when it is staring them in the face.

Norm Maleng knew this guy for 25 years. You would think that in all that time he would have sensed that something was wrong with him.

But like Dan Evans and his crew, since liberals see things in 'relative' terms, they don't develop the ability to sense people out, and evil people are attracted to them.

*When I refer to Bundy Republicans I am really referring to those who call themselves "mainstream" Republicans or in this state known as the Evanites in reference to Dan Evans, an extreme leftist politician in this state who nonetheless was a Republican. Serial Killer Ted Bundy worked for Dan Evans on his Governor's campaign and made quite a positive impression on Evans and his ally Ralph Munro. They even got Bundy on a Seattle anti-crime commission (no joke). It kind of makes you wonder who Sam Reed has on staff doesn't it.

Posted by: CnR on December 1, 2006 09:49 AM
3. CnR: If we have learned anything, it is that there are bad people out there of every political persuasion. Get a grip and get on topic of the thread.

Posted by: katomar on December 1, 2006 10:09 AM
4. If grandee Nickles thinks that White Center will contribute resources to the city money bag, he may be sorely wrong. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are way more riders than rowers in WC. It would be a net loss for Seattle.

Politically, I believe it is a Democrat stronghold. But maybe that's the point.

Posted by: G Jiggy on December 1, 2006 10:27 AM
5. Greg Nickels should devote his time and energy to fixing the problems in Seattle (crime, roads, utilities, etc) before trying to acquire more property for Seattle not to maintain

Posted by: Green Lake Mark on December 1, 2006 10:36 AM
6. really not in a profit-making business," Nickels said

Balderdash. Nickels is looking at the potential tax revenue from property development. The Nickels machine of property developers, realtors, construction companies, and construction unions – the same machine that keeps him over-fed like a goose for slaughter - will bring a tsunami of condos, apartments, and mixed-use buildings to “New Seattle.”

Someone had better be looking at what current MLK KingCo costs are – especially Sheriff’s and emergency services’ costs. Those costs aren’t going away and as the population grows more dense will only increase – and increase sharply in certain ZIP Codes.

Posted by: Tyler Durden on December 1, 2006 10:53 AM
7. CnR @ 2 It kind of makes you wonder who Sam Reed has on staff doesn't it

Excellent point CnR! Dean Logan was once on Reed's staff.

Said Tyler as he spat CnR's trolling hook, line and sinker

Posted by: Tyler Durden on December 1, 2006 11:02 AM
8. Doesn't the Sound Transit light rail go through White Center somewhere? I think Tyler is right. I smell some condo development and tax revenue that Nickels is eyeing in addition to the vote buying.

Posted by: Palouse on December 1, 2006 11:25 AM
9. When you give the Party money here in WA you are only ensuring tha the Reeds, Evans', Munros, finkbiners etc are there to dry shave you at the first opportunity. ONLY give to candidates you have personally vetted. You are still taking a risk, but the State Party not only does not have your interests at heart, they cover for these degenerates.

Posted by: DJH on December 1, 2006 12:01 PM
10. Do the Feds own all of the project housing in WC? If so, then WC moving from unincorporated KC status to incorporated status likely wouldn't change anything with regard to those properties.

But if the housing properties would somehow come under control of the City of Seattle as a result of annexation, or if there is a significant amount of undeveloped property, then this proposed annexation may be something other than merely a bid to prop up Nickels' political support.

Seattle doesn't have many options for growth, and control of awarding contracts for development (or redevelopment) could be a way to reward Nickels supporters.

Posted by: ewaggin on December 1, 2006 12:39 PM
11. Let Burien have White Center. It is not a nice area, riddled with crime and properties considered too "contaminated" for any reasonable business to want to even try to develop in that area. This would just be another financial black hole for Seattle. Green Lake Mark is right--we need to hire more police for the current city limits, not spread the existing force even thinner. Political motive is the ONLY reason Nickelbag is even considering this move.

Posted by: Burdabee on December 1, 2006 12:58 PM
12. No Palouse, There is no ST light rail planned to White Center.

Have any of you ever been to White Center?


Posted by: kate on December 1, 2006 01:08 PM
13. this is the same greg nickels who thinks he is going to shake down the state for Key Arena money after the Sonics leave.... what a jerk

Posted by: eric on December 1, 2006 01:10 PM
14. Having spent the fist 14 years of my life in White Center, I have rather mixed emotions about Rat City being fought over like the carcas of a dead gazelle.
They better not tear down the giant Top Hat sign.

Posted by: Reporterward on December 1, 2006 01:12 PM
15. Annexation means keeping pace with El Paso, Austin, Charlotte, Memphis, Nashville, Las Vegas, et al in the middle of the TOP 50 populated US cities--its all about census numbers and federal dollars per the count. It is a bad idea; look at the non-sidewalked areas north of 85th that Seattle annexed in the '50's--just more turf for the electeds to ignore as they concentrate on the 4-5 square miles adjoining and including downtown. Too bad secession is all but legally impossible.

Posted by: Alan Deright on December 1, 2006 02:09 PM
16. Seattle, take White Center, PLEASE. I live in Burien and most residents want nothing to do with it. The city council and city staff are ignoring the Burien residents while greedily daydreaming about what doubling Burien's population will do for them financially and politically. They won't even allow residents to vote on whether they want annexation, because they know the answer will be heavily against it.

Posted by: Patrick H on December 1, 2006 02:26 PM
17. Sherwood Forest Grows! Taxpayer coach service suspended.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on December 1, 2006 03:13 PM
18. As one who knows little about Seattle, having spent little time there sober), I am curious about the etymology of the name White Center.

Also -- why all the dissin'? Does it describe a slightly tackier Tacoma, or what?

Or is White City to Seattle as northern Idaho is to Eastern Washington, Daly City to San Francisco, or Kawasaki to Tokyo?

Posted by: Rey Smith on December 1, 2006 03:53 PM
19. I'm not sure where the name "White Center" came from though people used to call it "Rat City". Much of it is low income homes and apartments with a large number of immigrants from Southeast Asia (lots of Cambodians, some Vietnamese and Laotian) and Mexico. It has a reputation for high levels of crime and gang violence. ACORN is active there if that means anything to you.

Posted by: Patrick H on December 1, 2006 04:10 PM
20. annex now!!!
it's an FTC* Mandate!!
(*for the children)

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on December 1, 2006 04:39 PM
21. Seattle can't afford it -- MY ASS!

Seattle has an excellent tax base -- very high per capita property values, excellent retail sales, as well as a strong city B & O tax base.

White Center is a very poor area, that will cost more in tax revenues by far than what it generates.

Burien isn't too bad off, but it isn't nearly financially as strong as Seattle.

It is much more appropriate for a poor area like White Center to be annexed to a rich city like Seattle.

Or is this just a NIMBY game? Why not deport all the residents of White Center to Mississippi, so that no taxpayers whatsoever in Washington have to pay for their social problems any more?

Posted by: Richard Pope on December 1, 2006 05:09 PM
22. SSB 6686 (Ch. 361, laws of 2006) was enacted in the last legislative session, effective June 7, 2006; and it would give a city like Burien a nice revenue boost in return for annexing the area being described.

The city would be authorized to collect a sales tax of 0.1 percent within the city limits for 10 years after the annexation of an area that has a population of at least 10,000. The tax would be offset by a credit against the state sales tax, so there would be no increase in the aggregate tax rate. In effect, revenue which would have gone to the state would go to Burien instead.

The purpose of this additional tax revenue is to pay the additional costs associated with providing urban services to the newly annexed area. If the tax equals the cost before the end of the fiscal year, the tax collected for the rest of the year would go to the state -- so the city wouldn't "profit" but wouldn't take a loss either.

The city's general fund now gets sales tax revenue from a 0.1 percent sales tax. (Additional local sales taxes for transit, emergency communications, or whatever would be in addition to that basic 0.1 percent.)

So, for 10 years Burien could double the sales tax revenue going into its general fund by annexing an area with a population greater than 10,000. (Of course, if a doubling isn't needed to meet the costs of annexation, the city would get only what is needed to offset those costs.)

Is that really not enough to make it worthwhile for Burien to annex the entire area?

Seattle is too big to benefit from this new law. It applies to cities of populations less than 400,000 in counties of populations greater than 600,000. (Only King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties have populations greater than 600,000; so all other counties and their cities are cut out of this new law. What a surprise.)

If Nickels really wanted to annex some of the developed areas in unincorporated parts of the county, why didn't he push to get the same new revenue for Seattle? Seattle is the only city in the state with a population greater than 400,000; so it's the only one cut out of the deal. (That's more than a surprise. How did that happen?!!)

Posted by: Micajah on December 1, 2006 08:25 PM
23. Oops -- make that an increase of 10 percent in Burien's general fund sales tax revenue. The basic tax rate for the city is 1 percent, not 0.1 percent. With the annexation, it would be 1.1 percent. Maybe that isn't enough to offset the costs of serving the annexed area. Has anyone seen an estimate of the costs, rather than a statement of the net "loss" from annexation?

Posted by: Micajah on December 1, 2006 08:59 PM
24. Micajah @ 23:

It's here.

Posted by: ivan on December 1, 2006 09:51 PM
25. Ivan @ 24

Thanks for the financial impact statement link on the "North Highline Potential Annexation". (North Highline? PC name for White Center?)

Anyway, I was looking at the "No Burien Annexation" option. Basically, that option means that Seattle annexes the entire area and Burien gets none of it.

The statement says that option -- where Burien's area and population remains the same -- would actually cost the City of Burien a net loss of $2.2 million per year. Presumably in comparison to the present situation, where "North Highline" is unincorporated area, not part of Burien or Seattle.

How could this COST Burien money? Would they be required to pay some of the costs of services for the newly annexed area, even though it would be legally part of Seattle?

Of course, maybe that is the LAW. Burien might otherwise be required to annex the area under some growth management/urban boundary type of law, and might get severely penalized financially if it doesn't step up to the plate.

What do politicians and activists in your neck of the woods think about all of this?

Posted by: Richard Pope on December 1, 2006 10:14 PM
26. Thanks, ivan. Table 3 in that memo seems to show Burien is over a barrel. If Seattle annexes the entire area, the impact on Burien is a gap of $2.2 million between their revenue and costs. If Burien annexes the entire area, the gap shrinks to $950,000 -- even with the additional sales tax revenue from SSB 6686.

I didn't realize the population in the entire area exceeded 20,000 -- which makes the additional tax for Burien 0.2 percent, not 0.1, under SSB 6686. But, even with twice the extra tax revenue, they still fall short. And, of course, they have to figure out what they would do in 10 years when the extra tax goes away -- assuming the diversion of tax revenue from the state to cities doesn't become permanent in the meantime.

If one of the partial annexation options in that table fits with what Nickels wants to do, I assume that's what Burien would choose. Their gap is smaller than $950,000 with either one of those options.

No matter what they do, Burien faces a gap, according to that table. It's biggest if Seattle annexes that entire area, but it doesn't go away no matter what happens. Burien had better hope Nickels isn't able to move first, unless his move leaves them with one of the smaller gaps.

Posted by: Micajah on December 1, 2006 10:24 PM
27. Richard, the PI article indicates that Burien would lose out on more efficient police and fire services -- now provided under contract with the county (and I suppose a fire district).

Here's what the article says:

The costliest scenario for Burien would be if Seattle took the whole area. One reason for that is Burien contracts with the King County Sheriff's Office for police services. The same deputies who patrol North Highline for the county share duties with those within Burien.

If Seattle annexed the area, Seattle police would take over. That would mean Burien would have to add deputies, at a cost of more than $2 million a year. Also, Burien is currently served by two fire stations in North Highline.

Posted by: Micajah on December 1, 2006 10:30 PM
28. All of North Highline (it's more than White Center) and most of Burien are in the 34th District, so obviously I have some interest in the subject.

Burien is nuts if it doesn't annex the whole thing, and the home and business owners who oppose annexation had better wake up, because they have been sold a bill of goods. Look at the zoning. The lot sizes are a zoned a lot bigger in Burien, and Burien could stave off a whole lot of density right on its doorstep by annexing.

I am told there is federal money already appropriated for cities of more than 50,000 that would more than make up the shortfall in the study on the city's Web site. I can't lay my hands on the source of that information right now, but I know the City Council is aware of it. If Burien annexes the entire area, it will be over 50,000 and will qualify.

Now look at the map again. North Highline includes land zoned industrial on the Duwamish, including the Machinists' Hall, which is just over the Seattle city line in South Park, and the site of the former Rascals casino. This area is a potential gold mine for industrial and commercial development. Imagine the Port of Burien!

Despite what you might hear, most people in North Highline do *not* want to go to Seattle, and I wouldn't if I lived there either. They could be 5 percent of Seattle, or they could be 50 percent of Burien. It's a no-brainer.

Savun Neang and I are on the same side of this one. The people who want to go to Seattle are in the welfare/dependency mindset. The White Center area indeed is social-service dependent for now, but the business district has terrific potential, and should be allowed to create private sector jobs and family businesses.

This is an issue that cuts across the usual ideological boundaries.

Posted by: ivan on December 1, 2006 11:00 PM
29. Thanks, Micajah.

Posted by: Richard Pope on December 1, 2006 11:03 PM
30. I'm white, and a centrist. I choose to find the name "White Center" highly offensive! I demand that it be changed to Caucasian-American Moderate! Or I'll . . . I'll . . . compromise and surrender . . . huh. Not much in my war-chest here besides this little white flag . . .

Posted by: starboardhelm on December 1, 2006 11:08 PM
31. Thanks, Ivan. Your analysis makes a LOT more sense than Matt's. Both of you reach the same conclusion, but for FAR different reasons. When I looked at Matt's analysis, I reached the conclusion that Seattle should annex the area -- since I disagreed strongly with most of his reasoning. Nice to see you and Savun agreeing on something.

Posted by: Richard Pope on December 1, 2006 11:15 PM
32. White Center has many strong attributes. They have some wonderful new elementary school buildings, the 1960s era public housing is being replaced by privately owned housing (increasing the tax base for whoever annexes), and it has a great location. Driving around recently, I saw a number of teardowns. The tax base could go up much more quickly than anyone has been willing to forecast.

However, it would be very hard to put in the type of businesses that generate a lot of sales tax revenue.Also parts of White Center, namely the Boulevard Park areas, are heavily impacted by airport noise. This limits the potential for growth in that area.

The Burien City Council is definitely between a rock and a hard place when it comes to annexation, unless King COunty can somehow kick in a lot of money to make Burien whole.

My personal opinion is that Nickels does see the residents there as a base of support.

Polls and surveys reported in the Highline Times, a local paper, seem to imply a lot of residents are undecided or do not consider themselves knowledgeable enough to make a decision.

Posted by: Stuart Jenner on December 1, 2006 11:17 PM
33. White Center?! What the hell is there in White Center that could possibly be worth annexing? Perhaps our monumentally-stupid Seattle Mayor believes that he can fund the tunnel by shaking down crack-whores. Maybe he just wants a piece of the action.

Either way, he's a fat, bloated victim of self-inflicted craniorectal impaction who should have his fat arse laughed off the planet. Seattle mayor, indeed.

Posted by: ERNurse on December 2, 2006 01:55 AM
34. White Center was named after George White who earned the honor after winning a coin toss. He beat out Hiram Green who wanted the area named Greenville (if I remember my White Center Heights school lesson correctly; the asbestos may have affected that part of my memory)

Posted by: Reporterward on December 2, 2006 03:15 AM
35. Can't think of a better marriage than Rat City and Greg Nickels. Move in a couple million in Self flushing crack houses to beautify the area to boot.

Posted by: gs on December 2, 2006 08:02 AM
36. Why the annexation?

It's another "vast LEFT-wing conspiracy" to eliminate any references to "white" in our society. A creeping diversity & history re-education plot.

Proof? Note Seattle public schools' recent definition of racism. And the renaming of King County. Of course, we can't call it Yellow Center, Brown Center or otherwise for obvious intolerant reasons. Plain old Seattle is more pc the argument would go.

To turn history around to a left-centric tilt, Seattle is the 'bad Western settler' taking land from the peaceful & happy White City Natives.

so libs?--see how the above arguments sound when conservatives hear the incessant non-factual drumming of 'evil corporations,' 'culture of corruption' and 'right wing religious zealots' tossed about? Same silly posturing. Cuts both ways.

Personally? Seriously? I think it's the future development potential. A local Kelo-like taking "for the good of the many--from the few." Out go the current residents. Up go the condo$$$$ and Seattle tax coffers.

Posted by: jimmie-howya-doin on December 2, 2006 08:12 AM
37. Nickels real intentions at annexation are answered in a roundabout way in today's Timewaster: High-rises for South Lake Union, Northgate?

"reduce parking requirements for apartments and condos or allow more units per project"

"developers are already providing public benefits including additional tax"

Nickels could care less about building a voting base. He has that sewn up. He and his machine are looking at every opportunity to squeeze every cent they can through dense development in the name of "housing shortage." Every cent possible for developers and taxing jurisdictions (don't forget the sales tax on new construction).

When you look at the for sale sign on that "mid-century" single-family home next door think about it. It just might become a brand-new fourplex giving you eight more cars parked on your street.

Articles such as today's can give all the to-do they want to such things as developers paying into funds for affordable housing and requirements for energy efficiency. It all boils down to fattening the pockets of developers such as that struggling Vulcan company and fattening the tax coffers. The only thing missing from the article is "It's for the kids!"

Posted by: Tyler Durden on December 2, 2006 12:28 PM
38. Reporterward @ 34:

White lost the coin toss.

Posted by: G Jiggy on December 2, 2006 07:52 PM
39. As a White Center resident, and an active voice in the discussions on annexation, Seattle is the much better choice on annexation. By far. And the comment that Burien is preferred is from someone who is not from the community. Claims of big bad city and mean old mayor run shallow. Neighborhood oriented development in Seattle is excellent, (unless you are not involved, and spend your time instead bantering about how bad Seattle government is on blogs like this) Go to some meetings and learn something about it folks. Then you can complain all you want, but only if you are part of the solution.

But for us residents, who have attended dozens and dozens of meetings, read study after study, and discussed this issue with literially hundreds of residents, pardon our laughing at some of you and your theories.

And the shallow, and somewhat racial overtones from some of you, are not worth a response.

I would invite you to a meeting of some from our community (where 56 langauges are spoken) but they would hear your whining and make you feel small and insignificant, when they shared their stories. Seattle is absolutely the better fit and will lead the investment needed to add jobs, increase the small business climate, and encourage development, all factors in reducing crime in every city on earth. Burien's own studies show that White Center will compete with downtown Burien businesses, so they will accept the status quo, and over 2,500 Burien residents have signed a petition against annexation. And these are all voters, out of a Burien voting population of 11,000. Annexation will rip the Burien budget apart, and has already torn the fabric of the community to shreds. And once the noise of the 3rd runway comes on line, with a plane leaving every 30 seconds, lets see how great life will be in Burien. No wonder the real estate values in the core Burien areas are over $100,000 less than similar homes in modest areas of West Seattle.

The ramblings about big bad government,especially from Richard Pope are expected. (Hey Richard you lost again. Remember coming over to my house for dinner after the port race, when we both lost. You got more votes, because people thought they were voting for the real Pope. At least I got the endorsement from the Seattle Weekly and the Stranger. My wife rolls her eyes every time you run for office. I just laugh and think about how many sincere candidates have lost because so many people have no idea who to vote for, and vote for you becasue, well because . . . .

At least Mike the Mover is doing it to advertise for his business.

Enough, I am going to bed. And if any of you want to debate any of these issues in a public forum, with a crowd who expect facts and sound policy considerations, give me a call. (206) 595-7124.

Mark Ufkes
White Center Resident

Posted by: Mark Ufkes on December 7, 2006 10:21 PM
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