Gary Wood for Burien City Council Position 1

Let me thank my supporters during the 2017 primary election as you made a difference.  I can see some of my platform being used by the other candidates.   We did really good and I’ve got a lot of complements from some of the seasoned political sources that I was able to connect with a large group of voters. 

I’ve learned it’s difficult to run a non-partisan campaign when elections in Burien are nothing close to being non-partisan; they may seem spontaneous, but in reality are well thought out and planned.  The primaries are really structured for the two party system where having just 500 highly motivated  Democrats or Republicans showing up easily swings the election toward nominating one of these two parties.

On a month-by-month basis you and I will watch the accomplishments of the new Burien City Council in the areas I’ve noted in my platform.   I have a really hard time articulating solid accomplishments by the members of the City Council looking back 2-3 years.   We really need to have higher expectations of what can and should be done in Burien.

I’m honored to have earned your vote.


I’m not a member of a political party, a union organizer, community activist, a single issue ideologue, a lifelong politician, a libertarian, nor looking for a higher future political office.  I want to give back my decades of business experience, knowledge and passion to make Burien a better community for our residents.


I am married to my wife Mika and have two children from a previous marriage, my daughter Erin who is married and has two daughters; my grand children; Jacee and Hannah. My son Jeremy is married to Missy and they live in Georgia. I have lived in Seattle area since 2000 when I came to work for Microsoft and we moved to Shorewood on the Sound neighborhood over 3 years ago.

I grew up south of a small town in the Arkansas Ozarks, Heber Springs, Arkansas with a population of 2,500 living in a double-wide trailer on 25 acres where my mother had a love for horses.   I graduated from Heber Springs High School with a small class of only 25 girls and 25 boys.   I was the only one in my family that went to college and I graduated with a degree in Accounting and Quantitative Analysis from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This is where I started my life of problem solving as accounting and computer science is nothing more than solving unanticipated issues.

I wanted to work in the software industry because my father was an engineer for Western Electric and I naturally enjoy solving complex issues and creating solutions.  I managed the creation of the public employees and teacher retirement software systems for State of Arkansas.  I helped develop the banking systems still being used for processing checking accounts for Bank of America and was an international development manager for Alltel Information Services (aka Fidelity National Financial) where I spent over 8 years traveling around the world from London to Singapore installing banking software, supporting customers and talking them at regional conferences.

I’ve continued growing my expertise and was recruited by Microsoft to Seattle in 2000.   I still work at Microsoft as a engineer building systems that analyze telemetry coming from Windows 10, and providing recommendations on how to improve Windows reliability and customer experience.   Maybe, a background in analyzing data, coming up with solutions and excellence in execution is something that’s needed in local government?

Some of my passions in life have been coaching children’s soccer from ages 5-12 when my son was playing soccer.  I created swimming software for children’s recreation swim teams that is marketed as WinSwim Meet Software and have volunteered for music festivals in the past. I like to acquire vintage amplifiers and rebuild them to like new condition as a hobby.

Why Am I Running?

Burien is going to be rapidly growing in the next few years.   The population and economic success of the greater Seattle metropolitan area is expanding into Burien increasing economic growth and higher population density that brings with it both new opportunities; job opportunities and businesses, and problems; such as gang violence, crime and homelessness.

It’s going to be extremely challenging for city leadership in the next few years where politics as usual isn’t going to work in the residents interest.   Therefore, I’m getting involved to apply my years of creating innovation in the software industry to the Burien City Council and give back to the community.

I’ve lived in a few Seattle area neighborhoods and found Burien to be very special and close knit evolving community that I love like many of you.  I have lived in other Seattle neighborhoods that have had uncontrolled economic and population growth through gentrification; displacing lower income residents, creating urban sprawl, lining neighborhood streets with cars, attracting more crime and increased homelessness.

I just couldn’t sit back any longer and see Burien represented by right-wing, left-wing, union and single-issue ideologues leading and polarizing Burien’s future.  It’s time we start choosing leaders that are qualified and can represent all residents of Burien without allegiance to political parties, alliances & union organizations.   So, I decided to step into something unknown and enter the race for Burien City Council.

Therefore, I’m totally independent of special interests and not beholding to any group other than representing the Best for Burien.  I look forward to understanding these issues, talking about them and understanding the your priorities and concerns.

What are the Issues?

Lack of Vision?

One of my biggest disappointments is the leadership of Burien; or lack of any vision of what is Burien’s potential and working toward it.

Vision articulated by council members tend to be in words only; they represented…, voted…, advocated…, supported…, established…, argued…, engaged…, attended… and continued… some particular cause.   We should be hearing the words; built…, completed…, solved…, decided…  You’ll not hear these words as the City Council is all talk and no action.

For real vision you don’t have to look far.  Just look South to Portland where they have a comprehensive vision for the City that goes back to the 1970’s that has made Portland one of the most livable and sought out Cities where businesses and people want to be.

Or, look North 30 miles and Everett has the Everett Station District Alliance that has established a vision of Everett’s future.   They have a steering committee and a council of business leaders working on, well a real vision.  A vision integrates residential over retail, a community center, farmers market, pocket parks and public spaces with a pedestrian friendly transit center with future access to light rail to Seattle.


Are you Safe in Burien?

As you all know it’s not getting safer in Burien and many of us have been victims or heard of mail box theft, cars prowled, home break-ins, graffiti on fences, feeling unsafe walking in our parks or even using the restrooms in the Library.  We all have stories to tell of crime in our community and of the lack of response except for the most serious crimes by the police.

Serious and petty crime has been increasing substantially in Burien since 2014 when Burien was ranked the 11th most dangerous city (link to report)  in Washington State.

Not long ago Police Chief Scott Kimerer reported (link to report)  that crime against persons increased 11% and assaults were up 33% from the year before.  He stated, “Burien used to quantify crime statistics was different from the system used in other cities in King County so he had no direct comparisons on criminal behavior from city to city.”.  I interpreted this statement as saying there was no city rankings for this year and he could not state where Burien ranked compared to other cities as the most dangerous city in 2016; I’m sure we’re not getting safer.

I don’t believe crime just happens like the weather does. There are city and police policies in place that can both  inhibit and contribute to these crime statistics.

Residents want to know how city and police policies are being adjusted based on learning’s from crime statistics.  As a member of the city council, I want to know too; month to month and not year to year.

We need to have a community policing philosophy that recognizes that the community’s support is a critical factor in the ability of the police to effectively address crime.  I’m strong advocate for the city council supporting our local police as their role is providing the police the tools, training and priorities to make their job both effective and easier.

Let me tell you a story of attending the city council meeting  on June 19th where I heard residents talk about how easily your neighborhood can be corrupted by just one home owner that is negligent, possibly criminally and find that the city isn’t covering your back.   Just listen to 3-4 of these residents (link to video and forward to 52:15 minutes into it) pleading with the city to do something about a situation spanning the previous year and half.   Does it take 15 residents to come to a City Council meeting to beg to get the city to take some action?   I came away rattled by the lack of responsiveness, compassion and then hear the city staffs response is “We’re taking notes”.

As a member of your city council, I want to see crime statistics reverse course and to improve.  We should be responsive and compassionate to our residents even for non-felony crimes in our neighborhoods.   I want to see the city manager and police chief discussing learning’s, policies and solutions they will put in place the same time dismal yearly crime statistics are reported.  

Is Burien Livable?

As we see progress in the Seattle metropolitan area, the noise, increased air  & light pollution and the density of people increasing is slowly eroding the livability of Burien for all our residents, like death from a thousand paper cuts.

Where we use to hear songbirds, we now hear 747 jets taking off from Seattle-Tacoma International airport.  The air in some communities around the airport smells of kerosene fuel instead of flowers.

I’ve heard some nights you can see the “Northern Lights” from Seattle.  But, you can’t see the Northern Lights and all the stars because the light pollution coming from improper use of LED lights from street lights.  In our future, the streets may start filling up with cars parked bumper to bumper as the density of our population increases as it did in Ballard.

I wonder if anybody in Seattle politics actually cares that we should be able to hear birds sing and see stars in the sky?

How is the City helping to make Burien better for livability when the City seems to measure progress by dollars collected or dollars spent?   There’s no measures the city defines for making Burien more livable in terms of noise, air or light pollution.  There should be!  This dialog will start when I’m on the Burien City Council!

I really like the community participation and rallying of our citizens and City of Burien resources to take action on the noise and air pollution posed by the increasing volume of flights coming in and out of the Seattle Tacoma International Airport.   It’s great to see our citizens work together with the City to solve problems together.

That said, I found from listening to the the City of Burien lawyers that the power to change this situation is more in the hands of the “Quiet Skies” coalition & citizens than the legal ability of lawyers to change the FAA rules and the behavior of the Port of Seattle.

When it comes to the point you have to file lawsuits, it’s obvious to me that there’s not been good nor sustained communications between citizens, the City of Burien and the Port of Seattle and the FAA.   We really need to see each of these entities establish a joint task force where they can all come together for the mutual benefit of each other.  Or, we’ll just be in an endless loop of litigation between these entities into perpetuity.

I would like to see the City of Burien be more proactive and to get ahead of this situation in a sustained way where they could be working actively to have a strategy for decreasing noise, air, water and light pollution with the City of Burien and not have to be reacting after the fact. 

Does the City care about the Homeless?

The demographic and economic make up of Burien is changing and I’m expecting that both homelessness hand-in-hand with poverty, drugs and crime could be significantly increasing in Burien in the next coming years.

Some of the leading contributors to this increased homelessness is going to be:

  • It may be safer for homeless in Burien than being in Seattle?
  • Families that just make it paycheck to paycheck or are on public assistance may be displaced as housing and rents increase in Burien.
  • Senior and retirees nearing retirement having difficulty making ends meet while still  paying ever increasing property taxes and utility bills.
  • Reasonably priced neighborhoods today will be priced outside the means of low income families.
  • Increasing cost of housing is going to push more people into the homeless ranks over time.
  • Lack of and decreasing numbers of low income housing.

Homelessness, drug addiction and mental illness is going to continue to exert more pressure on Burien human services, schools, churches and public safety.  We need to have a plan in place that facilitates a path for the homeless, drug addicted and mentally ill in Burien out of this downward spiral that are in these dire straits.

This problem is a national and regional issue that’s not going to be solved by the City alone.  I wish it was as simple as if your homeless, give you a home; no place to sleep, give you a bed; if your hungry, give you a meal; if your in poverty, give you money.  The solutions I see advocated today are just not going to be solved simply.

The solutions in place in Seattle of creating Eco-systems and services to enable and support homelessness and drug addiction as a lifestyle is not solving anything, but is in many instances enabling living on public & private assistance as a lifestyle choice.   I don’t advocate the City funding these types of Eco-systems although creating jobs and supporting businesses that hire the homeless to me are better solutions that I fully support.

Lets investigate city hiring practices and contracts with  local businesses that participate in the multi-million dollar Burien budget.  Any business that has contacts or businesses that pay B&O tax with/to the city should contain incentives to hire or somehow help the homeless and poverty stricken within Burien.    Additionally, we should expand the economic development office to include seeking federal, state, county monies and/or create a non-profit organization focused on Burien human services needs. 

Are we looking into the Future?

What exactly is the future for Burien going to look like?

Is it going to be walk-able and park-like downtown as you can learn from Jeff Speck’s TED talk videos with skinny streets and building setbacks or will there be walls of a multi-story hotel and parking deck?

Hear how Portland had a vision 20 years ago and acted on it.  Use Chrome to view this video instead of Internet Explorer. or look at see video

via ytCropper

Now hear how most cities don’t take action,  nor have a vision and resist change.  Use Chrome to view this video instead of Internet Explorer. or look at see video

via ytCropper

We’re now 30 years after Portland made plans and 20 years after Burien planned the library and city offices.  It seems Burien is still planning the future around automobiles & parking, instead of people.  I’m not against automobiles, I happen to own 3 of them.  Just we need to stop making decisions where automobiles are the 1st priority.  We should set an objective where residents can easily walk less than 20 minutes to businesses that meet all basic daily, non-work needs in the next 10 years.

Seriously, look at some of the absolutely architecturally bleak townhouses that are being built where small single family homes previously existed destroying neighborhoods.  Why do these exist? How can there possibly be demand for such soulless shells?

Ultimately, usually to late, city leaders realize there’s alternatives to the urban sprawl that is transforming Seattle neighborhoods.  This can happen here in the next few years, too.   Let’s create a city that people and business want to come and live because it ‘cool’ to be here.   We just need to be innovative, have leadership and vision; instead of reacting and letting developers make the decisions.

City leaders should provide a vision of what Burien will look like in the next 5, 10, 20 years?   Burien should set an objective calling for vibrant neighborhoods in which 90% of Burien residents can easily walk in an enjoyable 10 minute walk to meet all basic daily, non-work needs in the next 10 years. 

Is the City Responsive to Citizens?

I come from a high tech background so I have ideas on how the city can collaborate between both city employees and provide transparency and involvement with Burien residents.   The goal of the City Council should be to create a highly effective organization where city staff feel safe and strive to provide residents a great experience when interacting with city services.

More and more businesses and cities are measuring customer experience and satisfaction (“C-SAT”) as a key way to improve their customer experience, products and brand.  Burien should also look to measure our residents satisfaction with their encounters with city services. 

Therefore, the city should look into the ability to have a better understanding of which city services are doing a great job and what areas could be improved on in a continuous feedback loop.   These measurements should be used for evaluating city departments, staff and be directly tied to compensation and performance evaluations for City department heads.

I really like the streaming of city council meetings and we should make some improvements to include real-time streaming of the council meetings and methods where citizens can provide real-time feedback as the meeting are happening.

Since I’ve worked in high-tech for my entire career, I promise I’ll take an interest in having a great communications infrastructure, improve customer satisfaction (aka “C-SAT”) and setup live streaming and collaboration between city leaders, employees and Burien residents.

Is the City Fiscally Responsible?

With taxing power comes even a higher need to be fiscally responsible with our citizens tax dollars.  I received an accounting undergraduate degree and chose computer science instead of a career in public accounting.   Having an accounting background, I have the mindset to be initially fiscally conservative. That said, I’m not shy about spending when it clearly benefits our community and citizens.

I hear lots of descriptions by the City on how much revenue can be increased by a particular new tax.  I hear about how other cities tax citizens and businesses as basically a self justification that the City of Burien should be doing the same thing.   I also hear how this new revenue source is being spent on expenses such as new staff, consultants, branding, logos and programs.

What am I not hearing?  The benefit’s or the improvements for our residents that were achieved with the tax.  I never hear any measurable improvements to the increased profitability of local businesses nor how this tax has improved the lives of our citizens.   Let’s bring in some of our local businesses and citizens and have them give testimonials to the City Council that the benefits of the tax far out weigh the cost.   If we can’t find any of these testimonials or measurable benefits, I start questioning the rationale and if the revenue is being spent wisely.

My thoughts are the city should not be spending tax dollars unless there’s a clear benefit to the citizen’s of Burien to spend their tax dollars.   Every city budget line item should be reviewed and justified when the budget is reviewed yearly. And policies put in place to encourage city employees to save money by providing financial incentives for saving money or increasing productivity.

I will put policies in place that will make sure tax dollars spent are justified and used wisely.  


I look forward to hearing from everyone living in Burien about what you’d like to see the city starting doing more, stop doing and improve upon!

Don’t hesitate to use the form below to let me know about issues in the community that as a candidate for City Council I should be aware of.