As mayor, it should not be a normal practice to respond to a paid opinion columnist. Bob Roegner is, as is anyone in our American democracy, entitled to his opinion.
However, whenever the facts are misstated and Mr. Roegner fails to correct his statements himself, we must respond. I must, once again, correct the record on behalf of our citizens and the hard-working employees who serve them.
First, citizens need to know that buying an advertisement has been the only option for the city to correct the record. Mr. Roegner states that he objects to the purchasing of ads to respond to his columns. However, it has been a policy of the Mirror to not publish responses in print to what is written in the paper, unless advertising space is purchased. The actual cost of my last Mayor’s Memo was $1,000 — not $1,500, as he incorrectly claimed. The facts always matter, and that is why I am responding again.
When it comes to transparency, the city has legally complied with all records requests and the providing of information to the Mirror. Countless meetings, phone calls, email correspondence have occurred between the Mirror and the city. To say that the city is “stonewalling” is not supported by any of our massive efforts to comply. This includes our response about the recent court decision about homelessness in Boise, which is not applicable to how we deal with this challenge in Federal Way. Additionally, department directors and other city staff members are never required to consent to an interview, but when they are willing and able, reporters are welcome to come and talk to them.
The most baffling part of Mr. Roegner’s recent columns is his quest for the city to conduct research for the newspaper. Mr. Roegner would like to know how much city departments spend on the homelessness challenge. The motivation is to find out how much money is spent and then be reallocated to build what he calls a “homeless neighborhood.” However, the police, public works, parks, human services and other city employees that respond — sometimes on an emergency basis — to the public health, crime and compassionate interventions are already a fixed cost for the city. In our quest to help them, other tasks for those departments are delayed or not done. To reallocate this money to build shelters would result in laying off employees, including police officers, at a time when our citizens are asking for more city services, especially in the area of public safety. He is comparing apples to oranges.
It is also of concern to me that his portrayal of me simply interviewing a candidate for a policy advisor role in my office (whose name could not be disclosed due to being protected by RCW 42.56.250, which he fails to mention in his column) who had an involvement with IRG at a point in his professional career constitutes a lack of judgement. The candidate was not even offered the job.
Thomas Jefferson once said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
To me, transparency for our citizens is paramount. Everyday citizens call, visit, email and write me and I welcome their thoughts and opinions, whether we agree 100 percent or not. Newspapers are another vital source for the give and take of information. They must be preserved at all costs. However, with that privilege comes the obligation to be factual.
I believe that the citizens of Federal Way are owed no less.
Federal Way Mayor