By Jack Mayne

The Washington Legislature helped dwellers of mobile homes and gave the city more money to house prisoners in the Des Moines jail, and the big issue appearing to be the study for a possible second major westside Washington airport, the SeaTac City Council heard at its regular meeting Tuesday night (June 11).

The Council also approved an update of the shoreline master plan that only affects Angle Lake.

New airport study
City-hired legislative consultants told the Council that House and approved legislative bills submitted by state Rep. Tina Orwell and state Sen. Karen Keiser would create a state commercial aviation coordinating commission. That commission is to “review existing data and conduct research as needed to determine the state’s long range commercial aviation facility needs and the site of a new commercial aviation facility” and make recommendations on “a preferred location for a new primary commercial aviation facility.”

In other action, city consultants said the Legislature also extended the due date for the State Route 518 Corridor Study so as to complete a more comprehensive study. The consultants said SeaTac did very well with the Legislature amongst their city clients, which include most cities in the state.

The city’s legislative consultants in addition told the Council that the Legislature approved increased money for housing SeaTac inmates at the South Correctional Entity, better known as the SCORE jail in Des Moines.

Mobile home help
The Council heard a report on issues affecting SeaTac at the recent session of the Washington Legislature. Gordon Thomas Honeywell Vice President Josh Weiss and Gordon Thomas (pictured above), a lobbying firm SeaTac has hired as the city’s legislative lobbyists.

The approved Mobile Home Park Relocation Assistance bill will allow qualified manufactured and mobile home park tenants to use a relocation assistance funds to find housing that is not a manufactured or mobile home.

SeaTac’s support of mobile home park relocation assistance moved forward this year in a Washington state Senate measure sponsored by Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue and House Bill 1033 sponsored by Rep. Cindy Ryu, D-Shoreline. Both passed.

Also passed was the transportation legislation that accelerates the Puget Sound Gateway project and authorizes the necessary tolling.”

They gave comments on the session in 2020 when “he Legislature will consider making adjustments to their biennial budgets,” said their written report. “The 2020 session will be followed by the November 2020 elections …. The ever-changing political climate requires adaptive and consistent advocacy. We look forward to working with the city throughout the interim months to continue advancing the city of SeaTac priorities.”

’Ton of dollars’
Mayor Erin Sitterley said that while some issues facing SeaTac were of benefit to the city, such as money to assist mobile home residents to pay relocation costs, the money has to come from somewhere.

“Don’t forget, all of this costs money,” Sitterley said. “$25 billion in taxes were raised. That is a stunning lot of money in one legislative session. I’m happy that SeaTac got lots of wins, but, boy, that’s a ton of dollars that people around the state are going to have to absorb.”

Shoreline plan renewed
Planning Manager Jennifer Kester told Council a review of the Shoreline Master Plan is required every eight years, Because Angle Lake is the only body of water in the city, the shoreline requirement only applies to the lake and 200 feet up from the lakeshore. To do the update, the city hired the Watershed Co. of Kirkland with a $20,000 grant from the state Department of Ecology.

The Council approved the update by unanimous voice vote.

New employees
The Council confirmed the appointment by Mayor Sitterley of Savio Pham and John Paul Oden to the city’s Airport Advisory Committee. The Council also was introduced to new permit parking compliance officer Adrian Presa, a recent emigrant from Romania.

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council heard more McMicken parking restrictions complaints and approved fixing Des Moines Memorial Drive at its regular City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 23.

During public comment time, Doris Mole, 81, a longtime McMicken Heights resident, told the Council of concerns about the prohibition of cars parking on her street for more than three hours because of street crime in the area.

Grandkids can’t visit?
“I know some of those people” who have been having problems in the neighborhood, “but that is not applicable in our street and I am furious to think that SeaTac can tell me where to park,” she said. “What’s happened to my neighborhood? I don’t understand my own grandchildren can’t come to spend the day because they be there three hours.

“I am just asking for some clarification as to why we are getting it in the neck,” Mole told the Council. “Why is there a problem? Why are you making a problem? And I really think that you are.”

Mayor Erin Sitterley said she would have someone from city staff talk with her “because this is not the first time I’ve heard comments like yours from folks along your road.”

Then Steve Pinto of the Senior Citizen Advisory Committee told Council of “the amount of refuse or garbage that is now being strewn on streets, our residential areas, it’s getting bad. Lot of it is in the residential areas. It is getting worse.” He suggested it could lead to a rodent problem.

Des Moines Memorial Drive to be fixed
Council approved awarding a $1.8 million contract for the 2019 Street Overlay Project contract to Miles Resources Inc. of Sumner.

Council was told the 2019 Overlay Project will repair and overlay approximately 2,800 lineal feet of disintegrating pavement along Des Moines Memorial Drive South, from South 128th Street to South 136th Street. The project will also install new water quality treatment facilities. Intersection improvements consist of replacing curb ramps, a pedestrian signal, pedestrian pushbuttons, and a new traffic signal detection system will also be constructed.

Councilmember Peter Kwon suggested such an amount of money might influence changing the name of the road to SeaTac Memorial Drive but was told there was a lot of history to the name extending back to World War I, but the Council did have the power to make such a change. The issue was laughingly dropped after it was suggested people watch the Des Moines Council on the issue.

Council also initially authorized a utility relocation agreements with CenturyLink, Comcast, Zayo Group and Seattle City Light as part of the Military Road South and South 152nd Street improvement project with final approval slated for May 14.

In other action, the Council confirmed Mayor Sitterley’s Re-Appointment of David Korthals and Kathleen Brave to the Sidewalk Advisory Committee.

By Jack Mayne

The SeaTac City Council unanimously approved the 2019-2020 biennial budget of $220.9 million with an estimated ending fund balance in 2020 of $78.3 million, which retains the city’s current service level. The current budget will have a reserve of $25 million to carry over to the new biennium.

The budget contains no increase in its property tax levy which Finance Director Gwen Pilo (pictured above) said the city decided again not to increase.

Councilmembers lauded the city staff for its hard work controlling budget excesses.

Could have increased tax
Legally it could increase the tax up to 1 percent. Councilmember Rick Forschler asked if any other city did not take the increase, Pilo said “I am not aware” of any other city in the county that had a policy to not take the tax increase.

Councilmember Clyde Hill said it was good not to take the 1 percent increase, but noted that expenses are raising for the city and suggested the “void is getting larger and larger,” likely making an increase necessary in the future.

Pilo said the city is banking the capacity so “if we were to find ourselves in a bind, we could take that.”

Property taxes could decrease
Any actual decrease to property owners is dependent upon the actual valuation of their property, she said.

Pilo said the levy will produce $17,114,888 based on a rate of $2.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, “a zero percent increase.” The actual levy amount will be determined after the county assessor certifies SeaTac’s assessed valuation in December.

Pilo said the assessed valuation rate from King County set SeaTac at $6.6 billion, an 8 percent increase over the 2018 rate. She said that was a preliminary rate not including the “airplanes at the airport” which the state provides to the city later.

That means the city levy rate is $2.58 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a decrease of about $17 per $100,000 of property tax valuation “so that is a decrease to our property owners.”

‘A very long road’
Councilmember Peter Kwon said he wanted to point out the soundness of the budget process the current council has maintained.

The balanced and maintained SeaTac tax level has been “a real struggle, a very long road to get here,” said Kwon.

“Over the last three years, I have watched other cities in our area raising taxes, imposing new taxes in order to cover shortfalls in their budgets,” Kwon said. “Meanwhile, SeaTac hasn’t and we’ve also actually eliminated the utility tax, promoted economic development and returned money to the public to improve parks, hire more cops, install sidewalks, all of that. The real credit for this is due to our staff, our city manager, our finance director, our department heads. They really did all of the work. Over the last three years I have watched things change so I wanted to make sure that the recognition is that is very well deserved is recognized here.

“I wanted to thank all of you,” Kwon added. “All staff for stepping up to the plate and making this happen. This is just nothing short of a miraculous recovery for a small city like SeaTac. When we explain this to other cities, they just don’t believe it. I think we all should be really proud of this.”

Kwon’s comments were supported by the other councilmembers, plus a comment from newly appointed Councilmember Amina Ahmed, “healthy budgets leads to healthy services.”

City Manager Joe Scorcio said “undoing decades of OK budgeting to put a very aggressive performance based budget in place … that is the thing for the next two years to keep your eye on.”

The Council also passed by unanimous voice vote an updated schedule of license, permit and other fees for city services, plus updated other basic finance policies.

Convention Center?
The Council approved a request by City Manager Joe Scorcio to refer study of a potential convention center to the Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, an issue being pushed by City Councilmember Rick Forschler. Scorcio said the proposed study would cost up to $50,000, the level up to which he can approve expenditures. He said the study should be able to clarify wether a convention center would be feasible in SeaTac.

“We don’t know whether or not it’s worth pursuing until we can get a sense from the market whether or not it’s viable here,” Scorcio said. “This will get us the initial analysis by people who know the business. I think it is a critical first step if we want to ask the question. Otherwise we are just guessing.”

Scorcio said SeaTac has a “very unique physical area” with all of the hotels and three light rail stations but the study would not be site specific. “If the market is not there, it doesn’t matter where it’s located.”

Councilmember Clyde Hill asked whether the study would recommend a site for such a facility and Scorcio said the city isn’t trying to focus on specific sites or site criteria. He said the study can show if “we are way off base.” He said he favors a study.

“We’re really talking about is the market in SeaTac,” but only if there is sufficient demand here considering the city has the hotels, the airport, the transportation.

Councilmember Joel Wachtel said he generally supported a potential convention center.

“My caveat is that I don’t want the building of this project to impact the city budget one iota,” he said.

Councilmember Pam Fernald said she has basic questions, “why, who wants it? Do the citizens want it? Do the businesses want it? Somebody asking us to do it? Is there a need? That is what I want to know.”

Other business
The Council was introduced by City Manager Joe Scorcio to two new employees in the community and economic development, permit coordinator Lisa Rawls and plans examiner Joseph Szpek.

By Jack Mayne

Former SeaTac Mayor Michael Siefkes can never again practice law in Washington state, or seek a law license in any other state in the nation following his resignation from the Washington State Bar Association that he chose instead of seeking a hearing before the Review Committee of the Washington Supreme Court.

Shortly before he suddenly resigned as mayor and announced he and his family were moving to Fairview – a suburb of Nashville, Tenn. – he signed a statement agreeing to be disbarred.

His mayoral and council resignation came as a big surprise to other members of the SeaTac City Council.

Disciplinary Board
His resignation as mayor and SeaTac Councilmember, followed by his resignation from the Washington Bar Association “in lieu of discipline” was effective Sept. 2, 2018.

Siefkes had testified before a disciplinary board counsel of the Washington Supreme Court in May 2018 and a decision was issued on Sept. 20 (download PDF of court documents here).

He had for some years represented a mother, who has since died, and her son. The now-deceased mother “suffered from dementia,” the disciplinary board said, and her son “suffers from an autistic disorder … and social phobia.” The SeaTac Blog is not naming the mother nor her son, both once represented by then-lawyer Siefkes, because of their diagnosed difficulties.

The son was the one who filed a complaint with the state about the ineffective legal representation of Siefkes.

Siefkes was interviewed by the Supreme Court disciplinary counsel last May and when asked about the son’s “cognitive or social abilities,” the former mayor “invoked his 5th Amendment rights.” Then Siefkes was asked if he “ever took out a loan from a client” and the “respondent testified he had ever taken out a loan from a client.”

Testimony untrue
The disciplinary counsel said “respondent’s testimony was not true,” because Siefkes took out a loan in September 2009 (from the couple) for $3,600. “The loan was memorialized in a promissory note prepared by the respondent (Siefkes) and when he was asked about it he claimed he did not remember taking out the loan. Respondent’s testimony does not appear credible,” court documents said.

Siefkes, said the disciplinary counsel, noted that the client bought three new vehicles for Siefkes, a new Toyota Tundra, valued at $40,000, a new vehicle from Acura of Bellevue for $31,000, and a third vehicle for $26.600.

“Respondent (Siefkes) said ‘all the funds he received from (the son) were for services rendered and that he was never given gifts other than token Christmas and birthday presents.”

“Respondent’s testimony does not appear credible,” the disciplinary counsel wrote in the report.

Also, “contrary to deposition testimony, respondent told a police detective and a forensic accountant” that the vehicles were gifts, but the disciplinary counsel said “respondent did not perform $297,313.50 worth of work for (the mother and son) … at the very most, respondent (Siefkes) actually provided $206,575 in legal and other services ….”

By taking the $297,313.50 rather than a $206,575 fee, Siefkes violated the law. He also violated several rules of professional conduct.

The disciplinary hearing in May was followed by his quitting as a lawyer.

“The lawyer (Siefkes) agrees that he is aware of the alleged misconduct in disciplinary counsel’s Statement of Alleged Misconduct and rather than defend against the allegations, he wishes to permanently resign from membership in the Association,” wrote Kathy Jo Blake, who acted as disciplinary counsel.

Be a lawyer elsewhere?
Siefkes acknowledges that he cannot ask his new home state, Tennessee, to become a member of the bar there and practice law.

Or any other state.

“I understand that my resignation is permanent and that any future application by me for reinstatement as a member of the (Washington state) association is currently barred.” Siefkes says he agrees to “notify all other states and jurisdictions” of the resignation. He also agreed to “disclose the resignation in lieu of discipline in response to any question regarding disciplinary action on the status of my license to practice law.”

“I agree to be subject of all restrictions that apply to a disbarred lawyer.” It is generally acknowleged that other states will not give Siefkes a license to practice law.