Fourteen candidates vying for elected positions discussed homelessness, police accountability and crime at the Federal Way Mirror’s Oct. 13 forum.
About 70 people attend the in-person event, which is also available for viewing on the Mirror’s Facebook page (three separate videos), in a return from last year’s virtual event.
Moderated by Dr. T.M. Sell, the two mayoral, eight city council and four school board candidates were present at the Thursday night event. Here are some of the highlights.
Incumbent Jim Ferrell faced Mark Greene in the mayor’s race, answering questions about crime rates, economic development and police accountability.
Greene, a Marine Corps veteran, said he does not support any variation of defunding the police and instead would rather see efforts made to reverse the recent policing reform bills. He also does not support a police oversight board as they are often politically one sided, he said.
“In Federal Way, we’re beginning to see the same policies that Seattle has,” Greene said. “Under my mayoralty, there will be no encampments.” Instead, he said, there will be voluntary drug rehabilitation and shelter programs.
Ferrell outlined his vision for Federal Way’s future, which includes further developing Federal Way’s downtown core and its vitality, and expanding the police force. Ferrell said he does not support a police oversight board, but is pushing to add 13 officers to a force that is struggling to fill the vacancies.
“I don’t think accountability boards are the way to go,” Ferrell said.
Watch the mayoral candidates below or click here:
City council candidates
In the city council races, candidates were asked who they feel is responsible for helping those experiencing homelessness and what accomplishing that task would look like in Federal Way.
Incumbent Leandra Craft, position 5, said the responsibility is on local government, along with state and county government, too. She said the city council should advocate to have at least 85% of the space in King County’s Health Through Housing hotel in Federal Way reserved for local residents, coupled with resources, law enforcement and programming.
Position 5 challenger Jack Walsh, a small business owner, said those who are seen sleeping in the streets or staying in the woods are there because of drug addictions.
“We need to recognize it for what it is,” he said, adding that the compassionate thing to do would be to enforce drug usage and shoplifting laws.
Jack Dovey, position 6 candidate and former Federal Way mayor, said the problem is not homelessness, but instead is the people who abuse drugs, don’t stay within the law and have mental health issues.
Position 6 candidate Renae Seam, who has a business and data analytics background, said investments should be made in addressing the root causes such as mental health issues and chemical dependency. In doing so, people transition to stability and the chronic loop of homelessness will come to an end, she said.
Incumbent Greg Baruso, who serves on the city’s public safety committee and is vying to retain position 2, said not enough focus is being placed on the children and families in Federal Way who are homeless. In these instances, the city must help families who are experiencing homelessness, and though he wasn’t initially happy with the Health Through Housing rollout, there has to be a resource model, he said.
Position 2 challenger Erica Norton, a business owner, has seen firsthand the conditions of the permanent supportive housing facilities and said “those hotels need to be used for the working poor people who live here,” she said. “I do not want a bunch of drug addicts who are going to be pooping in our streets and make it look like Seattle.”
Incumbent Hoang Tran, who is seeking re-election to position 4, said he has spent over 30 years at DSHS working with local families and said coordinated services are the answer to help homeless people. Over half of the city’s general fund budget is spent on the police department, he said, adding, “how much more do you want to spend?”
Position 4 challenger Daniel Miller said homelessness is caused by trauma, mental illness or drug addiction. While nonprofits, compassionate people and charities can help them, Miller said accountability is on the homeless people themselves.
Candidates were also asked their thoughts on the mayor’s recent push to authorize 13 more police officers to the department’s force.
Tran, position 4, said he supports adding the officers. However, the officers also need additional training to adequate serve and work with Federal Way’s diverse population, he said. Miller said he supports adding the officers, but said the need calls more for 20-25 officers. Miller also said the recent police reform laws must be revisited.
Craft, position 5, said she supports adding more officers, but is not tied to a specific number as there are several authorized positions which have not yet been filled. The focus should be placed on recruiting and retention, then planning for sustainable staffing, she said. Walsh said he supports the addition of more officers and asked why this wasn’t done sooner. Walsh also said the state’s new police reform bills endanger police, and said city council should have voiced their opposition to the new laws.
Dovey, position 6, said more officers have been needed for years, but the budget must be restructured in order to hire more officers without using one-time funds. Dovey also expressed his opposition to the police reform laws. Seam said she supports the addition of officers, but the focus should be on retention. City council should invest in addressing the root causes of crime and finding a conducive police to population ratio, she said.
Baruso, position 2, said he supports adding officers, but also was not tied to a specific number. Baruso said additional funding options need to be identified in order to serve the growing community. Norton said Federal Way needs about 50 more officers due to the impacts from King County’s homelessness programs in Federal Way.
Watch the city council candidates below or click here:
School board candidates
School board candidates were asked how they could work to ensure the future success of students who fell behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual learning.
Tiffany LaFontaine, a preschool teacher and candidate for director position 1, said the pandemic shined a light on inequities in the district and that less focus should be placed on academics. Instead, the social and emotional setbacks students experienced in the past year should be addressed.
Position 1 candidate Quentin Morris, a retired Boeing executive, said he believes in academics and that it is not the district’s job to emotionally nurse students. He said testing in necessary, along with instructing students on real-life skills.
Incumbent Trudy Davis, seeking retention to director position 4, said there are options available for students to regain the learning loss. In addition, she said social emotional learning is as important as testing to see where students are at academically.
Position 4 challenger Jim Storvick, a previous school board member, said students need a balance of rigor and enthusiasm. However, there needs to be a great emphasis on retaining education professionals and teachers of the district, he said.
School board candidates were also asked about how they would help further Federal Way Public Schools as an anti-racist institution and promote equality if elected.
Morris, seeking director position 1, said to do anything other than that would be irresponsible. Standards of academic achievement need to be raised districtwide and there needs to be an equality of opportunity for all students, he said.
LaFontaine said educators in the district have been, and are, taking diversity and anti-racism trainings. Bringing up the controversial topic of Critical Race Theory, LaFontaine said while this is not in the FWPS curriculum, “do we want our teachers to teach diversity to their diverse students? Of course we do.”
Davis, seeking director position 4, said the board is working and learning alongside the district staff in the anti-racism trainings, but said she refuses to bring politics into the work of educating children. “Our children are not political pawns,” she said.
Storvick said there is great work going on in the district, but there is room to both accelerate and simplify the anti-racism and diversity training processes.
Watch the school board candidates below or click here: