During a forum Wednesday that was hosted by the Federal Way Mirror, the six candidates running for three positions on the Federal Way City Council shared their thoughts on the future of Federal Way and strategies they would support if elected in the Nov. 7 general election.
For Position 6, Roger Flygare is challenging incumbent Martin Moore. Jesse Johnson is challenging appointed incumbent Bob Celski for Position 2, and Diana Noble-Gulliford and Hoang Tran are vying to fill Position 4, which will be vacated by Jeanne Burbidge at the end of this year.
The following is a sample of questions and candidate responses. To see the entire forum, watch the video below or visit the Mirror’s Facebook page at facebook.com/FWMirror.
Q: What in your opinion is the major difference between you and your opponent?
Flygare: Well, I think the major difference is I know what it means to own a small business. I know what it means to have 70-plus employees working for you. I get that. We have to have somebody with business intelligence here to bring in business, and I want to be able to do that. We have a lot of empty storefronts here in Federal Way. No one’s actually reached out, as far as I can tell, and talked to the association of small businesses, which is a national organization. I plan on doing that. We have to have that, not only just big businesses — we need the small businesses. We need the entrepreneurs here. I’m going to work on that.
Moore: I certainly don’t want to compare myself to my opponent. I respect my opponent. I think that he’s done a lot of good things for our community, but, you know, here’s what I’m going to say, and that’s I’m excited. I have loved being your council member and working hard. I am proud of the work that we as a council have done, and I’m telling you, Federal Way is a stronger community than it was four years ago. For the first time ever, Federal Way developed its first economic development strategy. That’s incredible. We have a plan to go with, and we’re achieving that plan thanks to the work of our economic development director. See, I have a lot of faith and confidence in him, and I have a lot of faith and confidence in our council making the right decisions. You don’t have to be a business owner to understand what it’s like to build a strong economy. I get it. I understand, and that’s why I’ve been proud to work with labor. I’ve been proud to work with small businesses, and that’s why I’ve been proud to work with our economic development director and work hard to achieve our economic development strategies.
Noble-Gulliford: One of the major differences between myself and my opponent is that I have an extreme knowledge of Federal Way as a city. Living here since 1970, but also selling real estate, gives me the advantage of knowing almost every subdivision and home builder that exists in Federal Way up to this point. I’m knowledgeable about zoning and land use because I have served on the planning commission for many years, getting an idea of what zoning and how zoning affects our city, how zoning implements our economic development. I’ve also worked in the private sector, not in the public sector. I know what it’s like when you have to pay your bills, and I know many people in Federal Way [are] connected, [and I’ve been] listening to their voices and their concerns for our city.
Tran: Well, I have the most respect for my opponent. She’s lived here for much longer than I have. She’s given to this community more than I have, and for that reason, I thank you. As for me, a newcomer to politics, what I can offer you is this: fresh, new ideas to city government. On top of that, I came from a very difficult socio-economic and cultural background, and as you see in this city, the city has changed over time, and I can be that bridge that connects to many people in this city, and that is the difference. Thank you.
Q: Is hiring more police the answer to improving the perception of crime and public safety. If yes, then how do we fund these officers?
Johnson: I don’t think simply hiring more police is the answer. I think that, first of all, we have a nationally accredited police unit here in Federal Way. I think that they’ve done a very good job with limited resources. I do think we can improve in terms of culturally responsive practices, trauma-informed practices to deal with the homeless issue and drug problem in our area, but I do think that they have done a great job. I just think that we need to get back to basics, again around opportunities.
If you notice throughout our community, there’s not a lot of opportunity for family wage, living wage jobs. Again, that goes back to what I can bring, building partnerships with companies to come to Federal Way, making sure that our schools are supported so that [businesses] will want to come to Federal Way. Mr. Celski referenced his experience. I manage 12 budgets with Highline public schools for all their staffing. I think that we can bring revenue into the city to support our police but it’s going to mean bringing new ideas, and it’s going to mean companies that are coming into our city.
Celski: … We can hire as many police as we want, and we still may have an issue in the city with the crime and the drugs and the gangs, but I think hiring more police officers and getting to the ratio that’s commonly accepted — of 1.4 police officers per thousand residents — is a goal that we need to have, and we’re working on that, as well. How do we fund this? We do it by expanding our tax base, our sales tax base, bringing in new businesses and bringing in businesses that will come in and build and remodel and grow our real estate excise tax base. This is how we do it. We are applying for a grant from the federal government to fund new officers, as well. So going for grant funding and growing our tax base, this is how we fund police officers.
Q: What policies should the city implement to address homeless issues, and what options should homeless families have for food and shelter this winter?
Noble-Gulliford: My personal opinion is that the policy that the city should choose is to first of all realize that we have a homeless issue [and] problem in our city and to make a decision to sit down and figure out how we are going to best address it. … My husband and I, we go out and provide food for different dinners and we try to provide service to assist those that are really in need. We try to do it on a weekly basis. It’s going to take the community.
But it’s also going to take the recognition that our state and our county, that they have a responsibility in this also. We cannot ignore their responsibility. We need to draw them into the solution in order to be effective because it isn’t just a city problem — it’s a regional problem, so let’s get moving on it, and I would like to begin on that right away.
Tran: Thank you for that question because this is what I do in my day job [managing the local Department of Social and Health Services office and budget]. My staff and I work with this group of people. As a city, I think we need to do more than what we have. Right now, we have a day center. That’s a very good start, but we need to do more. Where do those people go to sleep at night? If you notice, lately, the temperature outside right now (at night) is about 40-42 degrees. Women, children, men, they don’t have a place to sleep. Those men, some of them, are veterans. Is this how we treat our veterans? I don’t think so. We need to do more. Today, I made a phone call to 2-1-1 that is basically the brokerage house to refer people to shelter, and I asked them, “Is there any shelter in Federal Way that we can use?” The answer is no. We don’t have it.
Johnson: Well, first of all, I think we need to understand that homelessness is a multi-dimensional issue. We can’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s a single story.
Homeless [people] have differentiated needs, which means we need a multi-tiered approach. Long term, I think that we need to advocate for more behavioral health services, and that’s state and county. We need more services for mental health, for drug and alcohol addiction. We also need a diversionary solution center in King County where folks can go, because as Mr. Tran mentioned, it is a regional issue.
Mid-term, I think we need more transitional housing, working with our motels and our un-rented apartments, landlords who are willing to reduce prices for the homeless, and then short term, I think that we need to work with our law enforcement agencies on better hand-offs to service agencies, so that means better hand-offs to folks who are going to help them, if they need a detox bed, if they need drug and alcohol addiction (treatment). I went to the day center yesterday, and I met a man that had been suffering from schizophrenia for 15 years and hadn’t had any help here in Federal Way. We have to have that first, and it starts with coming together around a task force — not a committee — but an action-oriented task force.
Celski: Yes, my thoughts exactly. We need collaboration between businesses and social service programs, between our faith community and government. We have to be able to provide transitional housing. We have to be able to provide somewhere where the people can stay at night that are out on the streets.
I think you know that the city already provides hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding for different programs in the city for human services and for services like Reach Out, and the shelters that already exist, FUSION and those kinds of things, and we need to continue to fund those and make sure that they’re available, but we also need to move forward with the Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative so that mothers and children have a place to go. Right now Reach Out only offers for women or men without families, so this is another direction we need to go in order to help those that are homeless.
Q: What vision do you have for the Sound Transit site, retail, housing, offices, and what specific things will you do to make this happen?
Moore: Well, I’m sure we’ve all been paying our car tabs. I’m sure we’re not feeling the pain there, and while it’s difficult for me and my family, the reality is this: that Sound Transit is going to be a huge boom for our community. It’s gonna really help bring our downtown together. My vision is that we not only go towards a walkable community, but we make it a livable community. I’m excited to look at making sure that UW and the college is in our downtown corridor and making sure that our downtown is also bike-able. The opportunities are endless. … A lot of us understand it though, the joke of where was our downtown? Now we have a downtown. We’re developing. We’re seeing families in our downtown, and I’m excited and proud for that, and I’m going to continue to make sure that everything becomes a holistic plan and a reality as soon as Sound Transit comes.
Flygare: Sound Transit is going to bring a lot of growth to Federal Way. It is also going to provide the opportunity for transportation out of Federal Way, too, to the airport, to Seattle and, eventually, to Tacoma. So whatever we can do to make that successful, we need to make that successful. The development of the downtown corridor, as everyone is referring to it, needs to happen in a way that is sustainable and will provide ongoing growth downtown. I envision something like we’ve seen, like I’ve seen, in Henderson, Nevada, where it’s a development that’s much like the Kent Station, but instead of just being shops, there are multiple stories on top of that, that are condominiums, which will add a significant tax base to our schools, for example, because right now we’re kind of out of balance when it comes to apartments and to single-family dwellings and condominiums in Federal Way, and that affects funding to schools. So that’s the way I’d like to see the downtown developed.