Nineteen people have submitted applications to replace former Federal Way City Council member Jesse Johnson after he was recently selected as the 30th District’s newest state representative.
The applicants include Karen Brugato, M. Hope Elder, Katherine Festa, Roger Flygare, Anthony Pagliocco, Allison Taylor, Michael Christner, P. Stephen Aita, Jack Dovey, Gregory Baruso, Christopher Erickson, Debra Mastrobattisto, Joseph Bowman, Janis Clark, Ron Walker, Michael Salisbury, Sai Samineni, Michael Davidson, and Vitaliy Piekhotin.
The application pool closed Feb. 14, and next steps to fill the vacancy include an interview of each candidate by the council before they vote on their chosen candidate.
The tentative interviews for these council candidates have yet to be set because of the sheer amount of applicants, Communications Coordinator Tyler Hemstreet said.
On their applications, each candidate addressed what changes they would like to see on the council if they were selected to replace Johnson.
Flygare, the first applicant for the vacancy, said he thinks it’s important to have more community participation in commissions, city-sponsored committees and public outreach programs.
“It would provide a chance of those wanting to participate but feel leery because of the unknowns,” he wrote in his application.
Flygare said the Federal Way Citizens Police Academy is a good example of how programs can educate the community.
Taylor, the chair of the 30th District Democrats and community advocate, said Federal Way is facing the same problems any growing community experiences, including consequences from the gentrification of Seattle and the ongoing opioid crisis.
“More importantly [we] have natural beauty, a great physical location, amazing residents and tons of opportunity,” she stated.
She said in order to come together to work through these issues, there needs to be increased transparency at the city level.
“No government entity will make everyone happy all of the time,” Taylor continued. “We can focus on the future, show businesses of all types that we are willing to work with them to make Federal Way their desired location. We will thrive.”
Pagliocco, who has run for council once before, stated: “I’m sure with applications such as these, the council will see many different answers revolving around tactical execution of change.”
The problem with this, he said, is that these ideas are mostly words on paper because they generally do not come with a funding model.
“The change I’d like to see would be a bit more holistic,” Pagliocco continued. “… Better public confidence in our city’s government.”
He said that by increasing opportunities for small group discussions and allowing for city feedback, it would present the image of the city being both attentive and empathetic to the struggles the community identifies with.
Brugato said the biggest change she’d like to see is the creation of a new City Hall at the former Target site next to the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center.
She also wants to focus on include putting more emphasis on the arts community in the city and mirroring the city taxes to more closely meet the tax levels of surrounding cities.
“The PAEC and the Dumas Bay Center, along with the Federal Way Arts Commission, are economic drivers for the city and need to be coordinated under economic development,” she said.
Elder had a simple desire on her application: To see the council follow through with their identified priorities.
“For example,” she stated, “The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness presented their report in October 2018, but the council has yet to take action on the recommendations.”
Elder wants to see the council complete action on one main priority before moving on to another.
Christner, similar to Brugato, said he was interested in enhancing the arts in the city for a “better visual city experience.”
Aita suggested that as this application was only to fill a year-long vacancy on the council, it wouldn’t be appropriate to make sweeping changes.
“I would emphasize the role of a councilmember as a listener, interjecting my thoughts and opinions as necessary, and working collaboratively with the other councilmembers, mayor and staff to implement city ordinances and policies.”
Dovey followed a similar thought process as Aita, saying he would not serve on the council just to change things.
“City Government is designed to be stable and ever evolving as the citizens need change,” he stated. “I do not think the city is looking for someone to change the government or process but someone that can work within the system and is seeking appointment to make Federal Way better and provide outstanding services.”
Baruso said city government transparency is important.
“This wouldn’t be a major change but at least revising and implementing better ways through LEAN in which city government communicates with its citizens,” he stated.
One area of increasing transparency he identified was to create in-depth discussions following large public forums with the city’s committees and commissions.
Erickson wants to see more attempts at “shared governance” on the council, and a realization that not one person can do everything needed to be done on their own.
“Before making any changes, it would be important to spend time getting educated and understanding current systems.”
Erickson said one way to work on increasing shared governance would be to collaborate with local entities instead of trying to control certain resources from a city perspective.
Mastrobattisto agreed with Erickson that before deciding upon making any changes, she would need to get a better understanding of being inside the council.
“I would have to be there first before attempting changes but I do believe as we forward into the 2020’s change has to come,” she said.
Bowman said one of the changes he would like to see on the council revolves around homelessness in the city.
“I would be ecstatic to see the city designate an unused space to create a shelter for families,’ he said.
Bowman is also passionate about helping Federal Way’s immigrant communities and helping to build relationships.
“I dream of a welcoming committee of sorts to further embrace people of all nations,” he said.
Clark said that as she was taught as a commissioned officer before her retirement, she does not want to make any change within the first 90 days unless they are safety violations.
“The 90-day rule allows for understanding on how things work because if you make changes prematurely… could be the difference between continued success or failure,” she said.
Walker said one area that needs more intense attention from the city is crime prevention and improving the image of the city as a safe place to live.
His main focus would be on minor crimes.
“Broken Glass Theory has demonstrated that dealing with minor crimes will result in reduction of larger crimes.”
Walker said the issue of minor crimes should be tackled by finding ways and resources to be tougher on gateway crimes, and reaching out to experts in the field to explore the root causes of minor crimes.
Salisbury had a simple explanation of what changes he wanted to see at the council level.
“I would like to continue the programs our existing city council members have put in place,” he said. “The only way to make change is through interaction with team members that have like vision.”
Samineni wants to see increased neighborhood investments for community engagement and advisory boards to keep the city aware of what residents are seeing and concerned about.
In addition, he said the council could create a consortium of different local institutions to coordinate planning and development efforts.
“I would make these changes by liaising with key stakeholders and developing relationships to identify opportunities to collaborate on strategic planning goals,” Samineni said.
Davidson was most interested in development, transit and zoning issues.
“I believe time is of the essence and city leaders need to act now to ensure the city delivers on the vision outlined in the city’s comprehensive plan,” he said.
Like other candidates, Davidson also said he sees public safety is a large concern as more high-profile crimes create a negative image of the city.
“It is important we continue to support the police and engage Federal Way’s diverse community,” he said.
Festa, another former council candidate vying for the vacancy, said she would first want to spend her time getting to know the staff and hearing their ideas before making any changes.
She would also be interested in taking a closer look at the city’s budget, personnel and rules and regulations before making any changes.
Festa also wants to increase city efforts to hear from more residents about their concerns, citing that the more residents the city hears from the better equipped they will be to help the city.
Piekhotin’s vision for the city would be to see more law enforcement agents on the streets and in public areas, but he is also open to look for alternatives to solve city problems.
Piekhotin continued with a list of things he would like to see change at the city level, including increasing the city’s economy, tourism, and increasing transportation programs to bring people to the city’s downtown area.