News

Year in review: Top Federal Way stories of 2008

The following summaries were collected from The Mirror's 2008 reports, with date of publication in parentheses. Click on the headline to read the original story.

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Judge's affair stirs up court (Jan. 12)

Details surrounding the resignation of former Federal Way Judge Colleen Hartl led to the temporary banning of a public defender from the Federal Way Municipal Court.

On Jan. 9, Judge Michael Morgan restricted attorney Sean Cecil from working in the court after allegations of his intimate involvement with Hartl surfaced; Cecil chose against voluntarily excusing himself from court procedures. Morgan placed a complaint against Cecil with the Washington State Bar Association. Hartl admitted at a Dec. 14 Christmas party to having an affair with Cecil, who began practicing law in 2006 and often represented defendants appearing before Hartl in the Federal Way Municipal Court.

"This is a small court, and my first perspective on this is it was very awkward for Mr. Cecil to practice here," Morgan said. "This is not a productive working environment with him present."

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The perils of panhandling (Jan. 12)

On a chilly overcast Wednesday, Federal Way resident Michael Didier stands on the street corner holding a sign and hoping he will gather enough money from passersby to pay his rent this month.

Didier is among several individuals who request mostly money or food from Federal Way residents and visitors. People like him were the topic of conversation Jan. 8 at a Parks, Recreation, Human Services and Public Safety committee meeting in which an amendment to the city's aggressive begging ordinance was discussed.

"Cities can regulate the time, place and manner in which begging occurs," Deputy City Attorney Aaron Walls said.

Federal Way's ordinance prohibits anyone from engaging in aggressive begging in public places. Aggressive begging is defined as using words, bodily gestures, signs or other means to request money or goods, asking for such items in an intimidating manner and using false or misleading information when soliciting goods, among other things.

The amendment would clarify the language of the ordinance and make it easier to understand that panhandlers directing their efforts toward drivers are breaking the law, Walls said. The committee proposed to change the ordinance because aggressive begging poses dangers to motorists, mayor Jack Dovey said. The amendment would make aggressive panhandling a misdemeanor offense. Police discretion would determine whether a panhandler is arrested or provided public education, Police Chief Brian Wilson said.

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School district's ommunication upgrades (Jan. 16)

The Federal Way School District began using a communications service, Connect-ED, to call parents with important notifications. The service can contact up to 16,000 parents in less than 20 minutes. Before, only a handful of schools at the secondary level had communications systems that could contact parents. Messages were mostly regarding absences and could take two to four days to reach parents.

The new service will be used to communicate information about district events, absences, state testing, parent conferences, snow days and emergencies. Messages can be sent in any language and to any phone number that parents request. Disconnected or other non-operational phone lines will be noted.

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Code compliance grows up (Jan. 19)

For the past 17 years, ornery Federal Way residents have accumulated countless fines for stubbornly refusing to obey the city's code compliance regulations.

Until this year, the city often turned its head when it came to collecting payment from non-complying residents who routinely refuse to abide by the city's rules. But the city amended its codes October 2007. This allows staff to issue tickets for non-compliance and take residents to Superior Court if those citations are not paid. Staff training on the amendment is complete and code compliance officers will begin issuing tickets this month, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

"Citations will be used for junk cars, grass that is too tall or garbage (that) needs to be picked up," Interim Community Development manager Greg Fewins said.

The ticket is similar to a traffic citation. Residents will receive a warning prior to a ticket, amounting to $100 for first-time offenses, $200 for second-time offenses and $300 for third-time offenses.

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Debate targets elected mayor (Jan. 19)

A mix of sarcasm, facts and ardent viewpoints marked a debate over a proposed change in Federal Way's form of government.

Nearly 70 residents attended the debate about an elected mayor, held Jan. 16 at Federal Way High School's Little Theater. Representing Federal Way Works, a group of citizens who wished to see the current city manager-city council form of government remain intact, were Jim Burbidge, husband of city council member Jeanne Burbidge, and Jerry Vaughn, a Federal Way business owner. Representing the push for an elected mayor-council form were Federal Way residents Frosty and Gayla Hardison.

The otherwise attentive and patient audience was stirred as the debate neared an end and the Hardisons were questioned on their relation to Accountability Comes to Town (ACT), the organization headed by Federal Way resident Roy Parke. In July, ACT submitted enough signatures from a petition to initiate a special election on the elected mayor issue. Parke, who could not attend the debate due to a conflict with his job, asked the Hardisons to speak on behalf of ACT.

"You don't have to belong to a group to be able to stand up and make a case for or against someone," Gayla Hardison said. "You just have to believe in the same beliefs that they do."

Residents voted on a special ballot Feb. 19 to keep the manager-council form of government intact.

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Local homeless population: The cold truth (Jan. 30)

Ninety homeless people were counted in Federal Way during the annual One Night Count conducted by the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness. The coalition uses the count to better understand survival patterns of homeless people who sleep in public places.

The count is likely to have only gotten a fraction of the homeless population. Many more homeless people stay overnight in shelters, motels, hospitals, jails or friends’ and families’ couches.

In areas throughout King County, 2,482 homeless people were counted during the count on Jan. 25. Most were in Seattle. There was a 15 percent increase in homeless counted this year, according to a press release from the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

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Larson goes to court (Feb. 23)

Federal Way School Board member Dave Larson left his position as school board president to accept an appointment to Federal Way Municipal Court judge. He replaced Judge Colleen Hartl, who resigned the previous December.

Larson's last school board meeting was Feb. 26.

"On one hand, I'm happy because I've wanted to be a judge for quite some time, and on the other hand, I'm sad because I feel like we had quite some momentum," Larson said about leaving the board. "But I feel like the momentum will continue. We've got a good board and the momentum will continue."

Larson served on the school board for nearly two years.

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Top school program: AVID (March 1)

Federal Way High School was recognized as a demonstration school for the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program. The demonstration school status means that the AVID program at Federal Way is one of the best in the country — a model for other schools.

The AVID program is aimed at students who are typically underrepresented in college, such as minorities, people in poverty and students whose parents never attended college.

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Graduation requires civics test (March 1)

Federal Way students will be required to pass a civics test in order to graduate beginning in 2012.

The school board voted unanimously to pass a new policy requiring the civics/social studies examination.

The test will be developed by Superintendent Tom Murphy. It will measure students' knowledge of the structure and operation of local, state and national government; different forms of government; and the character traits and habits necessary for the exercise of responsible citizenship.

Students will be allowed to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.

Murphy said the new test could be modeled on the current citizenship test given by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. Murphy said he believes that a high school graduate should know at least what is required from immigrants seeking United States citizenship.

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YMCA closes in Federal Way (March 1)

The YMCA of Greater Seattle announced it will close its Federal Way Norman Center campus. The decision makes financial sense because daily enrollment for preschool at the Norman Center has continued to decline for the past four years, said Angela Griffin, associate executive of the Federal Way Norman Center.

The YMCA will continue to offer youth sports and summer camp programs at sites in Federal Way schools. Activities will also continue to be held at the YMCA's location in The Commons mall.

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Judge fights to seal court report (April 16)

A local judge's quest to keep some Federal Way Municipal Court records out of the public eye continued April 11 at the Washington State Court of Appeals Division One courthouse in Seattle.

Court of Appeals commissioner Mary Neel said she needed more time to decide whether to grant Federal Way presiding judge Michael Morgan's request to stay a previous ruling by Superior Court judge Kimberley Prochnau, who determined two e-mails and an investigation of the court's workplace environment (the Stephson report) were not subject to attorney-client privilege.

The fight to keep the report sealed was originally brought before Prochnau when the Tacoma News Tribune was denied access to it by Morgan. The city was ready to release the document, but first needed the judge's approval. The city presented, in court, the e-mails, written by Morgan, as evidence why the Stephson report should be made public under the Public Disclosure Act. On March 19, Prochnau ruled the report and e-mails could be released. She gave Morgan one week to appeal the judgment, which he did. The case is ongoing.

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City passes on 'unproven' drug treatment program (April 19)

Federal Way will not proceed in administering the Prometa drug treatment due to insufficient proof of its ability to rid addicts of their desire for drugs and alcohol.

On April 15, the Federal Way City Council chose not to use the $20,000 earmarked during the mid-biennium budget process for the drug treatment. Staff was unable to gather enough convincing evidence of Prometa's effectiveness for it to feel comfortable recommending a pilot program.

"This is premature and I suggest the city step back from this until it's proven effective," said Lynnette Hynden, Federal Way human resources manager.

Prometa is a combination of three medications — Flumazenil, Hydroxyzine and Gabapentin — independently approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Prometa is thought by some in the medical field to relieve alcohol, cocaine and methamphetamine addicts of their cravings for the drugs. The treatment came to the attention of Federal Way City Council member Jack Dovey, and he requested the city set aside the money to pursue the treatment late 2007.

"Anything we can do to help our citizens kick the crack (cocaine) habit is vitally important to me," Dovey said.

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Ghost sex (April 19)

The following is a sample from the Federal Way police public information log:

At 4:02 p.m. April 10, two women went into the Federal Way police station claiming that over the past two years, a paranormal person has been placing sensors on their bodies and visiting them in their house at 28600 block of 25th Place South. They said that the ghost has been having sexual intercourse with them. One woman said that these incidents started in Kent and continued when she moved here. The other woman said that this just started now.

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Day of Silence (April 30)

Students at Federal Way High School, as well as more than 200 high schools throughout the state, participated in the National Day of Silence event on April 25.

Both homosexual and heterosexual students banded together to raise awareness of the bullying and harassment that gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual students often face. They made their statement by going all day without speaking, instead signing their names to a list of supporters and passing out cards describing their cause. Extra participation at Federal Way's Day of Silence this year was fueled partly because of news of anti-gay protests at a similar event at Snoqualmie Valley's Mount Si High School.

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City announces Hylebos Day (May 3)

The Federal Way City Council declared the first Saturday in May to be Hylebos Day in Federal Way. Annually, the city will recognize this day as a chance to appreciate the Hylebos Wetlands and the efforts of Friends of the Hylebos to preserve and restore 745 acres of the Hylebos Creek. Friends of the Hylebos was created 25 years ago by Federal Way residents and leaders. The first Hylebos Day was celebrated with a ribbon cutting ceremony and a grand re-opening of the West Hylebos Wetlands on May 3. The Hylebos park was recently closed to the public for seven months while construction was completed on a new boardwalk. Instead of cutting a traditional ribbon, public officials at the Hylebos event cut a ribbon made of Himalayan Blackberry. "We thought it would be fun to do something different," said Chris Carrel, executive director. "We're always fighting Himalayan Blackberry and it's a nasty, invasive, non-native plant... It's a threat to the health of the forest."

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Moore joins school board (May 3)

Federal Way resident and businessman Tony Moore became the newest school board member. Moore interviewed for the district five position left vacant when former board president Dave Larson resigned to become a Federal Way Municipal Court judge.

Moore said during his interview that he thinks financial stability should be the board's long-term goal, and the best way to achieve that goal is to pressure state officials. The three most important issues currently facing the district are finances, the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), and teacher recruitment and retention, Moore said.

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Woodworker gets nailed (May 31)

Dave Hamlin, a Federal Way man known for his handmade outdoor lawn furniture, is packing up his wood and his tools — and plans to move away.

Code compliance officers from the city recently notified Hamlin that his woodworking projects, which he has been doing for more than 13 years with a business license, violate numerous city codes.

Hamlin was told he must quit running his business outdoors or face fines. Without the income from their business, the Hamlins won't be able to afford their mortgage and will be forced to move.

Dave Hamlin has worked with wood on his property at 2922 SW 314th St. for nearly the entire 40 years he's lived there. When he retired about 13 years ago, he got a business license from the city and began selling his handmade outdoor furniture from his home and at local charity events.

He builds benches, planters, arbors, love seats, end tables, chairs, picnic tables, ice coolers and just about any other piece of outdoor furniture a person could imagine. And he does it all — or 90 percent at least — with recycled wood. Hamlin sells most of his furniture in cooperation with charities such as the Kiwanis Club, local churches, schools and youth sports organizations. The proceeds are split 50-50. He estimates in the past two years, he's contributed nearly $20,000 to local charities.

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Griffin joins school board (June 14)

Angela Griffin was selected as the newest Federal Way School Board member at a special meeting June 11.

Griffin is currently the executive director of the Federal Way YMCA. She has worked with the Federal Way Public Schools' family partnership office and the Federal Way Diversity Commission.

After interviewing five finalists for the position on Wednesday, school board members deliberated for an hour before making their final decision.

"We had a really strong candidate pool, and that's why it took us so long to make our final decision," said school board member Amye Bronson-Doherty. "What really impressed us about Angela was, first of all, she has a really extensive background working with families and children... both professionally and also volunteer-type community service that she does."

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Grant helps low-income elderly residents (July 12)

The Korean Women's Association's dream of affordable housing for seniors in Federal Way is one step closer to reality.

The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development granted $400,000 to the Korean Women's Association to construct supportive housing for low-income elderly residents.

The grant will be used for predevelopment costs associated with the construction of a 62-unit complex near the Federal Way Transit Center, located at 23rd Avenue South and South 317th Street. The facility will offer social services for tenants in their own language. Services could include citizenship classes, help with taxes, literacy and counseling.

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Ex-fire department CFO arrested over fraud charge (Aug. 9)

Grant Gaspard, former South King Fire and Rescue assistant chief and Chief Financial Officer, was arrested Aug. 7 by the FBI on charges of defrauding the district.

Gaspard, a 27-year veteran of SKFR, allegedly used a district-issued credit card to fraudulently purchase $500,000 worth of goods over several years.

An FBI affidavit charged that Gaspard partook in three counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud, according to an U.S. Attorney's Office release. The former assistant chief allegedly used fictional invoices, purchase orders and a private mailbox to obtain items.

Goods such as photographic equipment, including a camera lens priced at $8,499, a high-definition television, Blu-Ray player, Apple computers, night vision scopes and firearm equipment were fraudulently purchased by Gaspard, according to the release. The district paid approximately $267,000 between June 2007 and February 2008 for goods and services that were never received, according to the release.

"We feel very bad about this and very sorry about the fire district being cast in a bad light," SKFR Chief Al Church said.

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Violence and death stain Federal Way in 2008 (Aug. 20)

In 2008, a homicide has taken place in Federal Way nearly each month so far.

Statewide, violent crimes decreased 3.8 percent in 2007 compared to 2006, according to the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs Crime in Washington 2007 Annual Report. The trend has been seen in Federal Way as well, police spokeswoman Cathy Schrock said. Violent crime, including assault with a firearm, has decreased, she said. But more of the assaults happening in Federal Way this year have ended in death. In 2006, one homicide occurred. Three slayings took place in 2007. A total of six homicides have plagued the city so far this year.

The Aug. 14 shooting death of Omero Mendez, 26, at Lakota Middle School, 1415 S.W. 314th St., is the latest Federal Way homicide. On July 18, 19-year-old Vadim Grib was shot and killed at the Park at Dash Point Apartments, 31736 50th Lane S.W. On June 22, a 7-month-old infant was found dead in an outdoor fire pit. The baby boy suffered burns to the majority of his body. His father pled guilty to the crime. On May 3, Baerbel Roznowski, 66, was allegedly slain by her live-in boyfriend, Chan Kim. On March 18, Jane Carol Britt, 75, was slain outside the Garden Terrace Alzheimer’s Center residential facility at 491 S. 338th St. in Federal Way, where she visited her husband the day she was killed. She was found strangled in the trunk of her car, which was parked at the facility. A Jan. 20 shooting at the Metro Transit Center left Darrel Miller, 38, dead. Miller had no apparent connection to the shooter, who was shooting at another male.

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Say cheese, red-light runners (Aug. 20)

Cameras will soon scout for drivers running red lights at two of Federal Way’s busiest intersections.

On Aug. 25, red light enforcement cameras will begin watching the intersections of Pacific Highway South and South 320th Street as well as Enchanted Parkway South and South 348th Street. Running red lights at these locations will cost drivers $124.

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Federal Way's WASL results: Good, bad and ugly (Aug. 30)

Recently released Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores in the Federal Way School District rose or declined slightly in some areas — but overall, remained nearly level with the previous year's scores.

"Test scores have (reached a plateau) somewhat and that's not just in this district. They're seeing that across the districts," said Deb Stenberg, Federal Way School District spokeswoman.

However, due to changes in the method used by the federal government to calculate Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), the district did not make AYP for the 2007-2008 school year. None of the district's secondary schools, except for the Federal Way Public Academy, made AYP. About half of the district's elementary schools made AYP.

Federal Way was one of 57 districts throughout the state to not make AYP last year. The number nearly doubled from the previous year with the new method used to calculate AYP.

This year, the minimum score to make AYP was significantly raised. Also, scores from smaller groups of students were measured.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, schools are measured in 37 categories of achievement. If a school misses the goal in one category, the school fails to meet AYP. More than 600 secondary schools throughout the state missed the mark last year.

"If you look at the scores of districts around us and districts with similar demographics, we're doing pretty well," Stenberg said.

Many schools throughout the state and in Federal Way did not meet AYP in just a few of the categories.

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Look-alike weapons flirt with disaster (Sept. 17)

After a close call, the Federal Way Police Department urges the state to toughen laws on brandishing look-alike weapons.

Federal Way Police Chief Brian Wilson will request the state Legislature amend the second-degree assault statute this coming session and allow stricter punishment for suspects using firearms replicas during run-ins with law enforcement. The look-alikes, such as Airsoft guns, are becoming more popular among criminals, Wilson said.

"If they are not able to get a firearm, they get the next best thing," he said.

Wilson's actions stem from an incident that happened earlier this year. While on duty May 10, Federal Way police officer Bryan Walsh witnessed a vehicle prowl in progress. The suspect, Daven Clayton, took off running. During the chase, Clayton pulled and aimed what appeared to be a silver semi-automatic pistol at the officer and yelled at Walsh "you better stop following me," according to court documents. Walsh, believing Clayton's gun was real, fired two shots at the suspect. The shots missed Clayton, whose weapon turned out to be an Airsoft pistol, incapable of inflicting serious harm.

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New assistant city manager knows budgets (Sept. 20)

Bryant Enge is Federal Way's new assistant city manager and chief financial officer. He has experience working with a large budget and is excited to have a hand in Federal Way's future, he said. He makes a good fit for Federal Way because of his past job experiences in the cities of Portland and Seattle.

"We like the depth of Bryant’s experience," city manager Neal Beets said. "He brings a great set of skills and a passion for the work that we can immediately tap into."

Enge, 49, was raised in Berkeley, Calif., and now lives in Bothell with his three children and wife. He holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and mathematics from the Oregon State University and a business administration master's degree in finance from the University of Oregon.

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Weapon of mass discussion: Taste of the Taser treatment (Sept. 24)

After some stalling, I lay on my stomach, then crossed my arms in front of me. This position ensured I would not flail to the ground when the electricity began to flow through my body. I took a few deep breaths and prepared for what I imagined the experience would feel like. Thinking a countdown to the shock would only make matters worse, I waited impatiently, trying to remain calm, while Federal Way police detective Bill Skinner prepared to show me what it felt like to experience a three-second taser application.

The taser gun popped loudly. I felt a sudden impact near my left lower shoulder and middle back. The charge pulsated and my muscles convulsed. I imagined a sizzling blue glow speeding through my muscles, attacking them on all sides. I became tense and tried to mentally push out the undulating pain. I was undergoing a process called neuromuscular incapacitation. This takes place when a person's nerves controlling sensory and motor skills are involuntary stimulated, causing a loss of muscle control in the affected area, according to Taser International's Web site, www.Taser.com.

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Seaweed solution smells like biofuels (Sept. 27)

Unwanted seaweed in Dumas Bay could have a cutting-edge future as a biofuel.

Blue Marble Energy — a Seattle company hired by the Department of Ecology — took to the bay Sept. 24 near Dumas Bay Park in a seaweed clean-up practice run. Decomposing algae in the bay has been the source of concern since 2006, due to the noxious smell it releases when the plant's layers break apart. The growth has not become smelly enough to call for removal this year, but the DOE and Blue Marble wanted to work out kinks in a fairly new process before the real deal takes place sometime in the undetermined future.

Blue Marble will spend $300 per ton on a process that mimics that of a cow's stomach to turn the growth it removes from the bay into biofuels, CEO Kelly Ogilvie said.

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Baby girl abandoned at church (Oct. 1)

Federal Way police were called 7:54 a.m. Sunday to recover an abandoned infant left at Steel Lake Presbyterian Church, 1829 S. 308th St.

The baby girl was transported to the hospital in fair condition. Physicians there estimated the infant to be no more than 12 hours old.

The church's video surveillance recorded a young female leaving the infant at the church at 2:16 a.m. The mother, Sarah M. Christianson, turned herself in to police at 12:15 p.m. Monday. She cooperated with detectives and was released on her own recognizance. The abandonment is being investigated and is a class C felony. Prosecutors requested treatment and community service.

Washington state Legislature passed a law in 2002 that allows someone to leave a newborn anonymously with qualified personnel within 72 hours of birth, such as a hospital or fire station where immediate medical attention is available. Under those circumstances, no criminal charges would be filed. The law, however, does not allow the abandonment of a newborn at locations where qualified personnel are not available to immediately care for the infant.

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Human trafficking in Federal Way (Oct. 25)

In the United States, Washington state is just one gateway to human trafficking, and Federal Way even feels the effects.

Five men were charged earlier this month with holding a 16-year-old Afghan girl as a slave in Federal Way. She was beaten, sexually assaulted and forced to perform household chores for the men.

On Oct. 23, State Sen. Tracey Eide (D-District 30) discussed human trafficking in Washington state during a meeting of Soroptimist International of Federal Way. Trafficking is a lucrative multibillion-dollar industry, and perpetrators come from all walks of life. Nowadays, the Internet is a primary tool for human trafficking. Women and girls are lured with the promise of jobs or marriage, for example. The Afghan girl who was held against her will in Federal Way was brought to the United States by an 84-year-old man and 17-year-old woman who lied on the girl's immigration application, according to a police officer at the meeting.

Following the murder of two mail-order brides about eight years ago in Washington state, the Legislature began to see action. Eide co-sponsored a resolution that authorized the state to seize the assets of traffickers upon first conviction. In 2003, the Mail Order Bride Act was passed, and in 2004, a task force against human trafficking was formed. Eide said the task force is now in danger of dissolving due to budget strains; the task force commands about $287,000 a year.

Jan. 11, 2009, is Human Trafficking Awareness Day, Eide said, promising to address the topic that day on the state Senate floor.

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French Lake Dog Park stirs up a stink (Nov. 1)

It seems like nobody is satisfied with the French Lake dog park these days.

Some people who use the dog park complain that it is muddy and smelly. Neighbors who live nearby complain that the park is noisy and dirty.

Steve Ikerd, acting parks director for Federal Way, said his office became aware of the complaints and is working on solutions. Ikerd said he is confident the issues will be resolved. "This is a learning experience for the city and the users, having an off-leash dog park, and this just happens to be a period of time here where we're trying to work through some of these issues," Ikerd said.

French Lake Park, about 10 fenced acres near 1st Avenue South and South 320th Street, has been open for about three years. Neighbors were consulted as part of the planning process for the park, Ikerd said.

The city is currently arranging meetings with the Lakehaven Utility District, which owns half the park, to address concerns about excessive mud in the west half of the park. Currently, only the west end of the dog park is open. It was recently reopened after workers filled ponds in the area. When the west end reopened, the east end of the park was closed for re-turfing. The closed section of the park should be open in the spring, Ikerd said. At that time, the entire 10 acres of the park should be available for use.

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Light rail (Nov. 8)

The passage of Sound Transit's Proposition One guaranteed expansion of link light rail to Highline Community College by 2020, and South 272nd Street by 2023.

Light rail will reach Federal Way's borders five years earlier than previously planned. In all, 36 miles of new link light rail will extend north to Lynnwood, east to Redmond and south to Federal Way. Service stations will be constructed at South 200th Street, Highline Community College and the Redondo/Star Lake area. Ridership of the rail line by 2030 is expected to approach 286,000, according to Sound Transit.

Bringing light rail to Federal Way is a move the city council strongly encouraged following the failure of last year's measure.

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‘Librateria’ at Lakota, and other school construction news (Nov. 15)

It's official: Lakota Middle School will have a designated library.

Principal Pam Tuggle stood with Lakota parents as they announced to the Federal Way School Board that they had reconfigured the school's design to include a 1,300-square-foot "Integrated Learning Center" — they didn't want to call it a library — adjacent to the side of the "Great Room."

"The labels are for our purpose," Tuggle said. "It's going to be used for much more than just a library."

The new design also includes a "Connections" area, which will be styled as an Internet cafe on the far side of the Great Room.

Lakota is one of five aging Federal Way schools to be rebuilt with a $149 million construction bond measure that voters passed last year.

The design for the new Lakota school has been under debate. The original plans did not include a designated library, but rather a resource center that could be used as a library, a cafeteria or a combination of the two. The school district's hope was that by using the flexible space approach, the schools would last longer and be more adaptable.

The Lakota community held several meetings on the controversial matter.

This may not be the last change Lakota undergoes. Superintendent Tom Murphy mentioned that depending on the bid climate and the economy, there may be enough extra funds to add more to the gym area — potentially even a performing arts center if the bids are really really low.

A poor economy generally leads to good bid climate because less work for construction firms means more competitive bidding, which means lower costs for the school district. Nine contractors recently bid on the Panther Lake Elementary construction project, with the low bid coming in at $9.6 million, well under the budget of about $11 million.

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Federal Way history book hits the shelves (Nov. 19)

There's a new chapter to be written in Federal Way's history — its first book.

The Historical Society of Federal Way's 20-year dream of a book on the city's history has come to fruition in a paperback simply titled "Federal Way."

"Our main goal is to educate the younger generation and be a good history resource," book coordinator Marie Sciacqua said.

For more information on the book, call (253) 945-7842.

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Horse farms find relief (Nov. 19)

The state Department of Revenue (DOR) issued a memo to all county assessors telling them to "take no enforcement or collection action" on farmers who faced a reclassification of their land and tax status. The ruling from the DOR came just a day after hundreds of Washington farmers crowded into a meeting Nov. 13 in Olympia to voice their anger over the redefining of a law.

The DOR will look at what defines farming in today's society and will make the rules more inclusive for common practices today, including farms where young animals — such as calves, piglets and chickens — are bought in the spring, fed and grown throughout the summer, then sold in the fall.

A tax exemption created in 1968 allows farms to qualify as an open space. For years, the enforcement of who or what was a farm was left largely up to counties.

The Cullitons' 13-acre horse boarding farm in Federal Way was in danger of losing its open space classification, which would then force the Cullitons to sell. This year, the Cullitons were informed that their farm, which has been boarding horses under the open space law for 20 years, no longer met the requirement — and unless they started breeding horses at their farm, they would have to pay triple their taxes.

The Cullitons were among nearly 150 people who commented at the meeting in Olympia. Several different farmers asked for an emergency ruling to stop the assessors from charging them.

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Shooting rocks neighborhood (Dec. 6)

Two teenagers were sent to the hospital suffering from gunshot wounds Dec. 4 after what police believe was a drug deal gone wrong near Alderdale Park, near Southwest 340th Place and 26th Avenue Southwest.

At approximately 2:36 p.m. four gunshots were heard, neighbor Max Snyder said: "There were four shots right behind me — boom, boom, boom, boom."

Two victims — one a 19-year-old Steven R. Jackson from Kent and one a 17-year-old black male from Federal Way — were hospitalized. Jackson was sent to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle with life-threatening injuries. He later died. The younger male arrived at the hospital with non-life threatening injuries, reports said. Several neighbors feel the incident was one months or years in the making.

"This was bound to happen," Debbie Snyder said. "I see cars with shady looking characters (near the park)."

For the past three years neighbors have suspected drug deals were taking place in and around the park, neighbor Ken Philbrick said. It was almost a nightly thing, he said.

Domanique Moore, 17, pleaded not guilty Dec. 23 in King County Superior Court to first-degree murder as well as attempted murder in the first degree. Moore is being held at the Kent Regional Justice Center on $1 million bail. Moore is charged as an adult of first-degree murder and first-degree attempted murder. Moore, if convicted, faces 28 to 35 years in prison. He has a prior juvenile felony conviction for theft and misdemeanor assault. The other teen held in the shooting, a 15-year-old male, awaits a ruling on whether he will be tried as an adult.

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Superintendent blogs (Dec. 13)

Federal Way School District Superintendent Tom Murphy participated in his first live blog.

The blog, which is a first for the district and one of the first in the state, was geared as a way for the superintendent to reach out to the community. The session lasted 7 to 8 p.m. Dec. 10 and gave community members a chance to ask the superintendent questions on everything from funding to safety at Todd Beamer High School. To see a transcript of the blog, go to http://www.fwps.org/info/liveblog.

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Gang violence: Cities get smart (Dec. 20)

King County law enforcement agencies will work smarter and harder to stomp out escalating youth violence.

Local, county, state and federal agencies dedicated themselves to ending violence among youths Dec. 16 at a Seattle press conference. Technology and improved communication within law enforcement are seen as ways to decrease the crime, specifically that tied to gangs.

"We are all here for a particular reason — to stop youth violence," Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said. "This is about dropping the hammer."

The move initiated with the King County Police Chiefs Association, headed by Federal Way police chief Brian Wilson. With the Regional Gang Crime/Youth Violence Information Sharing Project, efforts to reduce youth violence will be more timely and information sharing more common.

"The bottom line for us is we have 15-year-old kids killing each other," King County Sheriff Sue Rahr said. "Our job is to focus on suppression right now. We are going to pull out all the stops to keep them from killing each other."

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Snow drapes the region (Dec. 27)

Snow, ice, wind and freezing temperatures kept Washington State Department of Transportation crews working around the clock.

Throughout the region, drivers struggled to reach their destinations. WSDOT workers struggled to keep up with Mother Nature. Inclement weather forced the department to track storms, gauge the resources needed to make roads and highways safe for drivers and implement 24-hour services.

Preparation for storms, such as the one that began Dec. 17, starts well before motorists notice the nasty weather. WSDOT is aware of approaching conditions, said Travis Phelps, spokesman for the Northwest region.

"We follow three or four different forecasts," Phelps said. "We track these storms as they come to the Puget Sound."

Deciding how many crew members are needed to combat the weather comes next. Last week, approximately 300 employees covering King, Snohomish, Whatcom, Island and Skagit counties worked 12-hour shifts. Crews were on the roads 24 hours a day, Phelps said. Snow continued to fall for most of the week and chilly temperatures made the roads icy. WSDOT patrolled the roads looking for troublesome spots.

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