Opinion

Federal Way finally has a mayor race in 2013 | Roegner

Like the ripples of a stone cast into a pond, the reverberations from the Pinewood Village Apartment murders continue to impact local politics.

Deputy Mayor and King County Prosecutor Jim Ferrell announced this week he would reverse his previous position and run for mayor.

Just three weeks ago, it appeared incumbent Mayor Skip Priest might run unopposed. In his April 17 announcement, Priest stated he was “proud of the direction Federal Way was heading.” His press release said safety remains the city’s number one priority and cited the 2011 crime statistics as the lowest since the police department was founded.

During that same week, Ferrell announced he would not run for mayor, even though he had been gearing up to run for well over a year.

The speculation, at that time, was that while there was room in Priest’s record for debate, other than the performing arts and conference center (PACC), the differences over the past two years between Priest and Ferrell seemed more in style rather than substance.

And nothing significant enough had occurred in Priest’s tenure to capture public attention — no galvanizing issue to springboard other issues and a campaign.

All that changed with the Pinewood Village Apartment murders. Suddenly there were several issues to raise: domestic violence, gun availability, neighborhood safety, and police department staffing.

And in his announcement earlier this week, Ferrell made sure to highlight some of those differences. He also stated that he had been endorsed by the Federal Way Police Officers Guild.

Many had noted that in his re-election press release Priest had used crime statistics from 2011. Ferrell believes it is because the crime statistics for 2012 were much worse as burglaries and auto theft had significantly increased and overall crime was up.

It struck many as odd that Priest would make such a rookie mistake and leave such an easy opening for Ferrell, or the press, to question. It gives further credence to how safe Priest may have felt three weeks ago.

Both Priest and Ferrell have received criticism for their lack of leadership in the aftermath of the murders as both deferred to Police Chief Brian Wilson when the persona of the city’s elected leaders was what was needed, particularly the mayor. And neither was ready with a plan that would be reassuring to the public in a time of turmoil and fear.

Ferrell may have also made a tactical mistake by agreeing to speak at the police-hosted community event. In a strong mayor form of government, usually only the mayor and chief would have spoken. By speaking and not offering a plan, Ferrell limited his own ability to maneuver, and may have put himself in the same box as Priest.

There are differences in these two candidates, and it will be interesting to see how they present the issues to the public. But this time around, it is likely to be much more confrontational as two local political heavyweights vie for the prize of the mayor’s office and a four-year term.

We have a race for mayor, and it might be a good one.

 

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