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Response to Roegner’s claims

Mayor Ferrell’s Homelessness Task Force has not been “secretive.”

As senior policy advisor to city of Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell, I rarely comment on either opinion or news items I read in the Federal Way Mirror. But I must set the record straight with respect to one claim made by columnist Bob Roegner in the Nov. 30 edition. Roegner somewhat cryptically attempts to explain that “the Homeless Committee has been so secretive all year” because Mayor “Ferrell has been negotiating an agreement with Mary’s Place in Burien to give them $100,000 of state money from last year’s legislative session to take care of Federal Way’s homeless mothers and children,” a negotiation that Roegner describes as “dealmaking,” about which Mayor Ferrell made an “admission” and about which “[t]he committee, council and community were very surprised” because “no one was aware that [it] … was going on.”

All of this is either wrong or misleading.

Mayor Ferrell’s Homelessness Task Force has not been “secretive.” Documents reviewed or produced by the task force have been made publicly available on the city’s website. I have made monthly reports, with handouts, on our progress to the City Council’s Parks, Recreation, Human Services, Public Safety Committee. And as has been repeatedly explained, the meetings themselves have been closed to the public because they are working meetings to which public participation and/or recording would not be conducive.

Second, the agreement being negotiated with Mary’s Place bears no relation with the procedural decisions made about the Homelessness Task Force. That claim is not even logical, let alone true.

The Mary’s Place agreement is being negotiated by the professionals in the city’s Community Development Department, specifically community services manager Jeff Watson and community development block grant/human services coordinator Sarah Bridgeford, not by Mayor Ferrell himself, as Roegner implies. These professionals turned to Mary’s Place based upon their best professional judgment as to how best to execute the will of the state Legislature when it granted the city of Federal Way’s request for $100,000 toward sheltering for homeless families with children, a need Ferrell identified as primary when he formed the Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative in 2017. In other words, there has been no mysterious “dealmaking” to which Ferrell had to make an “admission.”

Additionally, the agreement with Mary’s Place would not “give” them money. “Give” implies a gift.

Like other human services providers who receive funding from the city of Federal Way, Mary’s Place would be paid for providing an important service for homeless families with children and specifically for those who hail from Federal Way.

Finally, Roegner’s implication that important information was intentionally withheld is ludicrous. Our community services professionals have simply been working out the best way to execute the will the of the state Legislature (and of the City Council when it approved the 2018 legislative agenda on Dec. 5, 2017). An agreement with Mary’s Place would be a big win for the city of Federal Way and for Ferrell in helping resolve the pressing need to shelter our homeless families with children. There would be no rhyme or reason in withholding such good news.

Yarden F. Weidenfeld, senior policy advisor

Mayor’s Office

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