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Fact checking Federal Way's mayoral candidates | ELECTION 2013

Mayor Skip Priest (left) and Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell (right) speak to the audience at Wednesday’s forum. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Mayor Skip Priest (left) and Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell (right) speak to the audience at Wednesday’s forum.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

Mirror staff reports:

Federal Way political candidates are advertising ahead of the Nov. 5 general election. Below are fact checks on claims made by the mayoral candidates in their campaign literature. This list is intended to clarify the claims, and not necessarily label them as correct or incorrect.

Skip Priest, candidate for mayor

• Claim: "Developed and expanded the innovative programs Safe City and the Special Operations Unit, resulting in safer neighborhoods and a 32 percent drop in home burglaries in the first half of 2013 compared to the first half of 2012," according to a flier for the Priest campaign's Sept. 28 fundraiser.

• Clarification: The Safe City program was launched in 2007 by the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce three years before Priest was elected mayor. The surveillance program was expanded to the Twin Lakes neighborhood in 2012, with the program under the city's direction. Federal Way police reported a 32 percent drop in home burglaries in the time period mentioned in Priest's ad, but police also reported a 32 percent increase in commercial burglaries for the same time period. However, in 2012, burglaries had increased by 24 percent over 2011 (752 in 2011 and 929 in 2012, according to police). The Special Operations Unit was created in 2009, before Priest's election, and had established a team of bicycle patrol officers in the downtown core. In Nov. 2011, Police Chief Brian Wilson credited the unit for reducing crime in that area by 50 percent.

• Claim: "Acted as an 'aggressive advocate' on behalf of the citizens of Federal Way to ensure that our city is a priority in Sound Transit planning," according to Priest's website. "This effort helped encourage, support and result in (King County) Councilmember (Pete) von Reichbauer’s and Senator (Tracey) Eide’s plan to provide an additional $24 million in funds to make light rail plans shovel ready to 320th."

• Clarification: At the time, Federal Way was seen as out of the loop on that deal, which was crafted by von Reichbauer and Eide. According to a city spokesman, Priest and city council members were unaware of the "shovel ready" plan until it was announced at a press conference in February 2012; neither Priest nor the council were invited to the press conference. Priest also pushed for failed legislation in what was seen as an attempt to dismantle Sound Transit.

• Claim: In various fliers, Priest lists that under his leadership, he has "improved our city's business environment" and attracted new companies like DaVita, MorphoTrak and Kiewit to Federal Way, "as well as a major expansion of The Commons Mall."

• Clarification: Kiewit Infrastructure, an engineering and construction firm, opened its Federal Way location in August 2010, three months before Priest was elected mayor. Tacoma's MorphoTrak, a leader in biometric identification systems, announced in Feb. 2011 that it was moving to Federal Way later that year; cheaper lease rates and increased parking availability were factors in MorphoTrak's move. Kidney dialysis company DaVita moved its accounting and payroll operations to Federal Way in 2013 because of the city's vacant office space, lack of a B&O tax, and proximity to Tacoma, according to the CEO. In March 2013, California-based Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds — whose partners include NBA legend Magic Johnson — announced it was investing an undisclosed sum in The Commons at Federal Way and The Everett Mall, both owned by Steadfast Companies. The renovation will help The Commons bring tenants that fill 65,000 square feet of space, according to Steadfast.

Jim Ferrell, candidate for mayor

• Claim: "Skip (Priest) is now opposed by over half the city employees in this election," according to a recent mail piece.

• Clarification: The Federal Way Police Officers Guild, Lieutenants Guild and Police Support Services Association have endorsed Ferrell's campaign. Another endorsement came from Teamsters Local 763, includes roughly 30 city employees (court clerks and parks department). Although these unions represent about half of the city's roughly 300 employees, the claim assumes that every single guild member individually opposes Priest and supports Ferrell. In addition, not all union members live and vote in Federal Way. In 2013, there are 121 total commissioned officers for the police department (out of 125 authorized) and about 150 total police employees. Citywide, there are 289 active employees (275 full time and 14 part time) out of a total of 303 approved positions, based on the budget.

• Claim: "The current mayor has cut police officer funding," according to Ferrell's statement in the voters pamphlet.

• Clarification: Priest announced in 2012 that Federal Way would decline an $800,000 Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grant from the Department of Justice. The grant would have allowed the city to hire three more police officers, with the justice department footing the bill for the first three years. After the third year, the city would have picked up the tab for the officers' salaries. "We have, as all of you know, committed to creating a sustainable budget for 2013-14 and beyond. But if we're going to do that, unfortunately, we must proceed conservatively," Priest said in 2012, noting the city would be unable to fund the positions. "If one is to hire three or four officers based on a grant that we cannot meet…We have made a commitment as a city not to hire and then fire based on hopes, as opposed to reality."

• Claim: "While other South King communities are flourishing, much of Federal Way has remained idle, while at the same time far too many businesses employing thousands have left our city," according to Ferrell's website. "We cannot continue to see the startling numbers of jobs and businesses leaving our city, which include such companies as Orion, Baden Sports, Top Foods, Marie Calender's, Big Lots – all of which have left Federal Way during the current mayor’s term."

• Clarification: Recent city and county sources say Federal Way has a job pool of about 32,000, which was about the same reported in 2005. During the current mayor's term, several notable companies have left (or will leave) Federal Way, including Orion Industries (265 employees), Baden Sports (90 employees), Top Foods (48 employees), Big Lots (26 employees) and Marie Callender's (35 employees). However, new employers have offset some of these losses. For example, The Ram moved into Marie Callender's spot, Fitness Evolution occupy Big Lots' old site, and DaVita's new home in Federal Way (relocated from Tacoma) has nearly 400 jobs. One of the city's largest employers, Weyerhaeuser, cut 1,500 jobs in 2008-2009 — including more than 1,000 at the Federal Way headquarters — before the current mayor was elected.

Learn more

• Skip Priest: www.skippriest.org

• Jim Ferrell: www.ferrellformayor.com

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