Federal Way mayor spurs visible symbols of progress | Inside Politics

Bob Roegner - Contributed
Bob Roegner
— image credit: Contributed

We have learned a lot about Mayor Jim Ferrell in his first six months in office, but not as much as we will learn about him in the remaining three-and-a-half years of his term.

He is still in the “wonder years” of finding out what he can do, can’t do and where he wants to take the city. He is by nature upbeat, jovial and can be a little impulsive. He is enthusiastic and tends to view progress on a grander scale than most might.

The Performing Arts and Conference Center and the downtown Town Square Park are probably not “game changers,” but they are an important part of “changing the game.” They likely won’t “drive economic development,” but they could be “part of the drive” that changes the face of our downtown.

The hyperbole aside, Ferrell can be proud of what he has accomplished in his first six months as mayor. The recent physical changes are visible symbols of progress.

Will City Hall, the courts and the police station be the next additions to downtown and will the private sector step forward to match the investment made by city government?

The one historical accomplishment, and in the long run it may be the biggest, is the acquisition of the Brooklake property at the West Hylebos for an interpretive center. Ferrell worked with King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer and many others on this project over the years. It provides an important link to our city’s past and will be a key to the future of the wetlands park.

While these are important accomplishments, Ferrell has made strides on other fronts as well. He ran on a platform of change, and though some of it may come slowly, change is occurring. He does show significant progress in implementing many of his other campaign proposals. We now have a small police substation near the Transit Center. He is facilitating a series of community meetings to reconnect City Hall with the neighborhoods. He has added new programming to the city’s cable channel. Less change, but certainly more action.

Ferrell also understands the need to capture the human spirit and the bonding that sports provides. Community morale and passion were enhanced when he led two rallies to support the Seahawks football team on its way to victory in the Super Bowl.

He is also changing the colors of the police cars, although that may be more about putting his stamp on the administration and highlighting his support for public safety. Another place morale becomes important to delivering services to the public is the people who make it all work — city staff. They finally got a cost of living raise after six years.

While Ferrell has had a very good first six months, not everything has been perfect.

Ferrell is proud of avoiding a fight with the City Council over the Performing Arts and Conference Center and feels that the issue is no longer divisive. That might be an overstatement. There are still a lot of people in the community who don’t favor the center and wanted a public vote, something they thought Ferrell would give them.

Avoiding that fight came at a price. Some credibility was strained at City Hall, causing Ferrell to use up some political capital he may need in the future. And the Council had the votes to pass the legislation over Ferrell anyway. If he is truly going to be the leader this city needs, he will have to convince the Council to support an idea or vision of his that isn’t easy, not just embrace one of theirs.

There have been other concerns, such as the bigger price tag on the downtown park, which was higher than originally identified, and the manner in which the city handled the flap with former police officer Patrick Maher’s widow could have been significantly better. And some other issues are lurking just beneath the surface that will test the administration’s anticipatory management.

The first few months of a new administration are usually the heady, fun, easy days, and Ferrell should take time to enjoy the moment because the challenges are going to get harder, and frequently the biggest challenge is the one you don’t see coming. Ferrell is off to a very good start in his first few months in office. Let’s hope he can keep it going.

Bob Roegner, a former mayor of Auburn: bjroegner@comcast.net.


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