Several candidates in the running for Federal Way’s mayor and city council positions attended a forum hosted by the Greater Federal Way Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 6.
Candidates answered questions centered on the business community and their concerns, inclusion of the Chamber in future development and planning, and the local economy.
The forum, which took place at the members-only luncheon, welcomed mayoral candidate Jim Ferrell; his opponent Mark Greene was not in attendance.
When asked about his plans to sustain and grow locally-owned businesses, Ferrell said
“We definitely want and need locally-owned business,” Ferrell said. “The first and foremost thing is to help businesses that are already here and make sure those folks that have invested in having businesses here are helped out.”
Helping businesses can be done by addressing crime, planning and developing beneficial infrastructure and giving businesses an appropriate platform, he said.
Ferrell said his first term as mayor was dedicated to the revitalization of Federal Way’s downtown while his second, and current, term is focused on getting the city back on firm financial footing. In his hopeful third term, Ferrell wants to finish the work, fully develop the downtown into a vital city center and focus on public safety.
For the city council races, candidates Erica Norton, Greg Baruso, Jack Walsh, Leandra Craft, Renae Seam and Jack Dovey attended the forum; candidates for City Council Position 4, Daniel Miller and Hoang Tran, were not in attendance.
Of the questions, city council candidates were asked what current projects or initiatives of the Chamber were of special interest to them.
Dovey said the city and chamber must provide fertile ground for businesses to flourish. Seam said the Chamber’s Recovery Dashboard is critical in Federal Way’s business development.
Craft mentioned the Chamber’s efforts in revamping tourism in Federal Way and the Chamber’s efforts to outreach more minority and small business owners in Federal Way.
“As most people here know, Federal Way is a very diverse community, but when we look at the makeup of the chamber, of the small businesses, there are still a deficit of the minority-owned businesses here in Federal Way,” Craft said.
Walsh said as a small business owner, he has felt the impacts of the crime and homelessness issues in Federal Way. Walsh added that the overall Federal Way environment must be made safer to encourage customers to visit businesses of any size.
Baruso said Federal Way needs to develop its own digital map of the city for residents or visitors to locate businesses as a way to further promote the Chamber’s tourism efforts. Norton said Federal Way streets must be cleaned up and made safer in order to attract customers and businesses.
The Chamber’s snapshot survey on the impact of homelessness on local businesses found trespassing is the biggest access concern among business owners. Norton said zoning laws should be implemented to make trespassing illegal and council members should hold the prosecutor accountable to prosecute crimes. Baruso the council must address root causes of homelessness and addiction to partner with local organizations to help those in need.
Walsh said the 30th District Legislators should be made aware that the new policing reform laws have caused harm to businesses and residents in Federal Way. Craft said officers need more tools to respond to the issue of trespassing, such as referral options and other resources.
Seam said businesses will struggle until the homelessness issue and rising crime frequency is addressed by reconciling the city budget to fund resources to address the root causes. Dovey said the city council must balance compassion with strict law enforcement in order to help both the business community and individuals experiencing homelessness.
All of the candidates rejected the idea of adopting a Business & Occupation (B&O) tax for the city, if they were elected to a council position.
Federal Way operates on a strong mayor and city council organization and candidates were asked about their proposals for a different structure. Norton and Walsh suggested a shift to a city manager structure because a city manager has the financial and business management knowledge to run a multi-million dollar city budget.
Baruso, Craft and Seam said the strong mayor structure is working for now and Federal Way needs stability — not disruption — in local government in order to recover from the pandemic.
Dovey was the lone candidate who said the decision about the local government structure is up to the citizens, not the council.
“As a council member, my job is to make the mayor the best mayor that Federal Way has ever had and do the right thing from a budget standpoint,” Dovey said. “Really, the debate is: should the council help and work always with the mayor, and give a good budget that can be executed so we have the best management team we can ever have in this city so we move forward … so we have a strong budget, strong people and a vibrant place people want to live.”
The Federal Way Mirror’s Candidate Forum is from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13, at the Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club (3583 SW 320th St.).
The forum features candidates for the mayoral, city council and school board races. Community members may attend the in-person event or watch the live stream on the Mirror’s Facebook page. Masks are required to be worn by all attendees.