Candidates see two Federal Ways



Jim Ferrell and Mary Gates live in Federal Way, but that’s about all they have in common in their jockeying for election to the City Council.

During a candidates’ forum Thursday night, Ferrell the challenger and Gates the incumbent offered widely divergent views of how the city is doing now and its future.

Ferrell asserted that city hall shuns citizen input and mistreats businesses to the point of jeopardizing the community’s economic future.

Gates assured the forum audience of about 120 people at the Courtyard by Marriott motel that Federal Way is for everyone and is positioning itself for good times in the years ahead.

The candidates are headed for a Nov. 4 general election showdown in which Gates hopes to retain the council seat she has held since 1989.

At several points while they were answering written questions from the crowd, Ferrell emphasized that the outcome of his race with Gates “will change the face of Federal Way.” If he wins, he said, he can help shift the city from what he described as a potentially ruinous course of unfair regulations that hamper growth of small businesses and drive some away, and of expensive city projects that aren’t easily affordable or practical, such as a new $15 million city hall and a proposed $23 million community center.

Gates defended the city’s handling of roads, police protection and economic development. She said spending is sensible and all projects and decisions involving the council are carefully conceived and with full public participation.

“Once again, we must disagree,” Ferrell said in response to Gates’ defense of Sound Transit’s plan to build a transit center and parking garage in the downtown core. He said the controversial center “will turn us into Seattle’s parking lot” by attracting non-Federal Way commuters whose cars will sit there during the day until they return and drive home for the night. He also claimed the city hasn’t given its citizens enough voice in the decision of where to build the facility.

But Gates, a member of the Sound Transit board, countered that all steps for public input were taken and that the transit center actually would relieve traffic congestion on nearby South 320th Street. She said designated ramps between the center and Interstate 5 would “bleed off buses and carpools” that otherwise would use 320th.

Gates and Ferrell also differed sharply on the community center the city wants to build near Celebration Park. She said it will meet the needs of many residents, while he decried its cost.

Ferrell said police officers are “angry” that they “run from call to call” because they’re shorthanded, and they see the community center being given more priority than law enforcement.

“There is no right time to build” the community center, Gates said, acknowledging opposition to the project, “but this is an opportunity to do it correctly.”

To other questions posed by the audience through T.M. Sell, a Highline Community College political science instructor and moderator of the forum co-sponsored by the Mirror and the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce:

• Ferrell said the city needs a business ombudsman to help encourage pro-business municipal regulations in order to stop the “exodus” of businesses. Gates said businesses don’t always close or leave town “because of what cities do. Sometimes that’s (just) competition.”

• Gates said “we already have” affordable housing compared to other communities, and one way to meet housing needs is a proposal to require downtown commercial developers to include condominiums in their new projects. Ferrell said the latter plan is the wrong way to build a community and isn’t conducive to attracting development.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565,

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