Q. Why did you say that more police are not always the right answer?
A. Because crime is down 10 percent from last year and down 5 percent from five years ago, and police officers are very expensive. The mayor’s call for more police was a political overreaction to four murders in 2016. The chief only asked for two officers in 2017 because he knew that he needs to focus his current force on specific areas of crime. The mayor and council gave him five with a grant the city couldn’t afford to pay without a tax increase. But the chief wasn’t going to turn them down either. It would make the mayor and city council look bad. But then the decision made a bad fiscal position even worse.
Q. Why is the city spending $2 million to $3 million on a new staircase for the PAEC? Isn’t that just more waste?
A. The mayor called it the “elegant new staircase” and believes it will enhance the PAEC. The city says all but 5 percent comes from state and county grants. Real estate excise tax funds make up the rest and they can only be used for capital projects. But to the average taxpayer who doesn’t know all the budget categories, it looks very bad. It feeds the image of a City Hall “out of touch” with its residents. They may want to consider putting up a sign that states the sources of funds. Even that won’t make it look good.
Q. If you’re so opposed to the utility tax, what is the city supposed to do to make up for the budget shortfall?
A. What they should have done in 2016: implement a hiring freeze, cut spending, cut some staff, stop traveling and cut non-essential expenses. The mayor’s personal staff has gone from two people to four. One position was vacant for seven months. Doesn’t that raise the question as to whether it is even needed? How many staff earning over $100,000, and there is several of them, are truly needed? I can think of two that may not be needed and others where the work could be done by lower paid staff or contracted out for less. Sell the dog park, and hope the mayor and council donate their pay raises to the cause. Taxing the public and then collecting a pay raise sends the wrong message to the public.
Q. Why were you critical of the mayor for not wanting to renew the contract for Centerstage Theatre?
A. Centerstage provides a great entertainment option for the community that can’t afford the PAEC. Some Centerstage supporters feel the move appears designed to lower usage of the Dumas Bay property and eventually sell it as a way to pay off the PAEC. That property is beautiful and should stay in public ownership where the public can use it. Mayor Ferrell says he is not interested in selling the Dumas Bay property. But doubters remain.
Q. You said the mayor should give back his pay raise? Why? And did you ever give one back?
A. Giving back the pay raise as a donation would have shown tremendous leadership to a community that is in need of it. Most of this town is not very rich and the mayor could have demonstrated an understanding of their circumstances. Voters have supported a school levy and a school bond, and will likely support a levy for South King Fire and Rescue. They are digging deep for their priorities. The mayor’s pay raise was probably not high on their list and it could have gone to help pay down the city debt the mayor and council have incurred. The council’s pay increase was not much, but the symbolism of donating it back is huge. And yes, I gave back a pay raise under similar circumstances.
Q. Why are you so adamant about the meetings of the homeless committee being open to the public?
A. Because there is no reason for the meetings to be secret. It inspires mistrust. One of the listed goals is “public awareness.” How do you increase public awareness with secret meetings? Coverage by the media would help support the final product. And many fear this is just another photo opportunity, not a serious plan. What is there to hide?
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.