Opinion

FW City Council lacks diversity | Roegner

In January, Diana Noble-Gulliford (pictured) and Kelly Maloney were sworn-in as new members of the Federal Way City Council. - Mirror file photo
In January, Diana Noble-Gulliford (pictured) and Kelly Maloney were sworn-in as new members of the Federal Way City Council.
— image credit: Mirror file photo

Since the selection of Diana Noble-Gulliford and Kelly Maloney as the two newest members of the Federal Way City Council, the level of discussion around town regarding the council’s action has increased.

Both will be up for election this fall, as will longtime Councilmember Jeanne Burbidge.

Behind the scenes, the council has received some criticism. Some in the community were surprised that the council chose two conservative white females, when the field included minority men and women, and moderates, with good resumes.

The third finalist for the vacant council seats was a conservative white male. No Democrats, even though the community leans Democratic. No minorities, even though the community speaks more than 100 different languages.

There isn’t any specific criticism about Noble-Gulliford and Maloney as individuals. They may be the best candidates, but there is a concern that with two positions available, more effort could have been given to a broader community representation.

But if other candidates with more ethnic and political diversity were considered, the public doesn’t know it because the important part of the process was done outside public view in an executive session.

Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell said the executive session was appropriate because they didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and wanted to be able to speak candidly. But now we don’t know why candidates, seemingly as qualified as those selected, were not nominated or even mentioned in the public discussion.

Due to the tied voting among the three finalists, it’s unlikely that there was an inappropriate agreement on who to appoint. Since there weren’t any other nominations, we don’t know why some other candidates were apparently eliminated.

And the diversity of opinion might be particularly important as the community considers its priorities throughout the election season. What is your vision of our community? Do you want to close the Community Center, as some recently suggested? The SCORE jail is clearly a significant drain on the city budget. Should the city consider an alternative?

Do you want a performing arts center? Is the city doing enough for its less fortunate? How is City Hall adjusting to its many non-English speaking residents?

The mayor and council decry their inability to provide more services as they continue to cut the budget, but they also emphasize how low our taxes are. Although there was some minor improvement in the staffing at the Community Center, the major area of consistent support by the council is police. Is that really all that is important to the community? Or do you think a city of almost 90,000 residents deserves more? Are you willing to pay more money for more services? Or should the city re-prioritize its current expenditures?

The selection process gives Noble-Gulliford and Maloney a stronger position, and Burbidge is extremely well known, but that doesn’t ensure they won’t have competition. The most likely candidates to run against them are businessmen Mark Koppang, Mark Walsh and Jack Stanford. All would bring similar skills and political leanings to the race.

They are all good candidates, but as one City Hall watcher noted with humor, “three white conservative female incumbents being challenged by three white conservative males. Gosh, how do you choose?”

With that lineup, the debate about Federal Way’s future might lack the dynamic considerations this diverse community deserves. It would be one group trying to be more conservative than the other, which to some sounds like the mayor and council we have now.

We have a two-party system in this state and nation to ensure all viewpoints are considered before we choose. Federal Way city government is non-partisan, but we need diverse philosophies running for the city council and mayor for the same reason. And that executive session? That was a mistake. Lack of information and public oversight breeds suspicion.

 

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