Federal Way candidates field questions at forum

The Federal Way Chamber of Commerce and The Mirror co-sponsored a forum Oct. 4 for City Council, Lakehaven Utility District commissioner and South King Fire and Rescue commissioner candidates.

Moderated by Dr. T.M. Sell, the forum was held at the Courtyard by Marriott in Federal Way. Each candidate answered questions from the audience and gave opening and closing statements.

Federal Way City Council, Position 7

Dini Duclos and Hope Elder expressed differing views on issues such as downtown development and whether Federal Way residents should be able to elect a strong mayor.

On the topic of how Federal Way can create a more pedestrian-friendly downtown, Duclos suggested a plan for bike paths, walking trails and “skywalks” that could take people over traffic and among buildings. Duclos supports the establishment of more offices downtown to coincide with the recently approved Symphony project at the former AMC Theater site that will bring high-rise buildings to Federal Way.

Elder is in favor of downtown development and was “tickled” when the city bought the AMC Theater, but she does not agree with the Symphony project plan. She does want to see increase pedestrian safety as well as a more handicap-accessible mixed-use downtown.

On red-light photo enforcement, Elder said the city’s pilot program is feasible “in this day and age.” Duclos said the city should utilize police to help deter red-light running at problem intersections before trying photo enforcement. Duclos noted the success police have had in ticketing speeders in school zones, which sends a message to drivers, she said.

As for an elected strong mayor in Federal Way, Elder flat out rejected the idea.

“The only thing a strong mayor will do is divide the council,” Elder said, adding that the current system, with a city manager, should continue as is.

Duclos expressed familiarity with both forms of government. She said residents should be able to decide if they want this system for Federal Way.

“The debate needs to occur because there are so many people out there talking about it,” Duclos said.

Elder and Duclos conveyed similar outlooks on a few issues. Both applauded the proposed Safe City plan to reduce downtown crime. On handling aggressive panhandlers in Federal Way, both acknowledged that panhandlers dot the city’s intersections because of the financial incentive.

The candidates fielded one question about the city’s partnership with Multi-Service Center, a human services organization for which Duclos also serves as CEO. In her response, Elder also noted the relationship Federal Way has with other charitable groups such as the Community Caregiving Network.

Federal Way City Council, Position 5

Incumbent council member Jack Dovey and challenger Roger Freeman answered some of the same questions as Elder and Duclos.

On making downtown Federal Way more walkable, Dovey said the city must examine all costs and effects on businesses for such a venture. Freeman, an attorney, recommended more crossing zones in response to the heavy traffic along South 320th Street.

As for downtown redevelopment, Dovey said it’s vital to create “fertile ground” that encourages more retail and housing that keeps people — and tax dollars — in Federal Way. He illustrated the effects of this type of vision as a “big circle.”

"Build it and they will come — that’s not my philosophy," Freeman said of downtown development. He opposes high-rise condos downtown, and would prefer to see an arts center that could attract national artists, among other things, including a promenade and walkways.

Dovey, a business owner, opposes an elected strong mayor.

“You can unelect me at any time and make a change,” Dovey said, noting that a strong mayor must be able to also run a city that’s like a $70 million business.

Freeman supports a strong elected mayor, saying it gives the city a focal point.

“Who sets the vision? It’s spread out among seven individuals,” Freeman said, adding that Federal Way needs one person who is in charge.

As for encouraging businesses to move to Federal Way, Freeman said the city needs a vision statement and should establish a customer-service attitude.

On that issue, Dovey said the city council’s current approach provides “fertile ground” that helps businesses grow and become more profitable.

Both candidates expressed similar views on the need to keep talented workers in Federal Way.

Lakehaven Utility District Commissioner, Position 3

Incumbent board member Charles Gibson and challenger Chris Brown both supported the idea of softening friction between Federal Way and the Lakehaven Utility District.

Both support having a Lakehaven employee at City Hall for permitting.

Brown, a safety director for excavating contractor Lloyd Enterprises, expressed a need for streamlining the permit process for Lakehaven customers. His history as a Lakehaven business customer and experience installing underground utilities would be assets to the board, he said.

Gibson, a retiree, said his strengths with managing people and budgets would continue to serve the board well. Another asset is that he knows the system and is strong on fiscal responsibility, he said.

South King Fire and Rescue Commissioner, Position 1

Incumbent board members Bill Gates and Gary Bollinger will vie for South King Fire and Rescue Commissioner Position 1.

Both candidates bring decades of public service to the table.

When asked about top fire service issues, Gates said he wanted to maintain good financial stability and integrity in the fire department while helping it grow. Gates, a Federal Way resident, has experience working for the Department of Homeland Security and was instrumental in bringing community staples such as St. Francis Hospital to Federal Way. Gates, who is seeking re-election, originally ran for the board because an outgoing incumbent asked him to run.

Bollinger, a Des Moines resident, has 40 years of experience working with fire service — including 20 years with Seattle Fire Department — and has a goal of boosting South King Fire and Rescue’s manpower.

He agreed with Gates that commissioners aim to serve all the people in the fire district, which includes Federal Way, Des Moines and parts of unincorporated King County. Bollinger said his experience with the financial aspects of fire service, such as the cost of equipment and trucks, would serve the board well when looking to save money and hire staff.

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