The recent string of shootings in Federal Way, flying the pride flag at City Hall and what Federal Way will look like in 10 years were some of the topics Federal Way City Council candidates addressed during the Mirror’s candidate forum on Wednesday evening at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club.
Approximately 100 voters listened as the six candidates weighed in, including incumbent Susan Honda and challenger Sharry Edwards for Pos. 3; incumbent Mark Koppang and challenger Jamila Taylor for Pos. 5; and Linda Kochmar and Tony Pagliocco who are vying for Pos. 7, which will be vacated by council member Dini Duclos who is not seeking re-election.
During the forum, candidates responded to the three shootings that occurred in Federal Way over the last week and similar shootings that occurred three years ago in 2016.
They discussed their strategies for preventing further youth gun violence.
Edwards said she thinks constant communication with youth is one of the best ways to prevent further tragedy.
“… In every single one of these shootings since Columbine… somebody knew something before it happened.”
Edwards is also working on bringing a safe reporting system to Federal Way Public Schools with Superintendent Dr. Tammy Campbell.
Honda said what happened during the past week is “shocking” and she supports bringing more police officers to the city.
Taylor said she has worked in youth violence prevention in Seattle and has seen firsthand the benefit of this type of work.
From this experience, she has seen youth driven to become more educated, healthier and get involved in the workforce, and she fully supports bringing programs like this to Federal Way.
“I have to trust in their experience and that they want a hand up, not a hand out,” she said.
Pagliocco said there is a pattern to these incidents where after they happen, community members care enough to want to do something.
Then the incidents go down until a few years later, and they start happening again. He wants to look at the best ways to engage youth, schools, and the city as a whole to break this cycle.
In response to a question about whether or not the city should fly the pride flag in the city, many candidates agreed that it was something that needed to be discussed from a council policy perspective.
Honda said she would like to see the flag being flown from City Hall.
“I agree that we should be flying it, I’m not sure what would stop us flying it at City Hall,” she said.
She suggested possibly flying it at a city park where it can be seen more, but was in agreement with other candidates about looking at city policy to enable the pride flag, as well as other flags, to be flown.
Koppang said: “I like the idea of flying it since it does provide an open door,” but said he didn’t want to see it at City Hall since the three flagpoles there are already for the U.S. flag, the state of Washington flag and the city of Federal Way flag.
Taylor countered this to audience applause, saying, “If we need a fourth flag pole, let’s get one… Inclusion does not have to be that difficult.”
She said Federal Way should recognize the members of its community.
“Let’s make sure our policies match that inclusion.”
Pagliocco suggested the creation of a flagpole at the Federal Way Community Center that would serve as a way to showcase all of the different and diverse flags in the Federal Way community.
However, he also said with three shootings in the last week, the city’s main focus should not be on whether or not to fly the pride flag but on public safety.
During the forum, candidates also relayed what headline they would write for this week’s newspaper that best summarized the state of the city. Answers ranged from business to crime and retail marijuana.
“Come to Federal Way to live, play, work, volunteer and worship,” said Taylor.
Kochmar said: “Open for business.”
She noted the city needs more jobs.
“When they’re ripping up 320th to build the light rail, that’s going to help us in the future, but for five years until 2024, we’re going to have a problem with jobs,” Kochmar said. “We’re going to have a problem with people losing their jobs because of the construction that’s going on.”
Pagliocco’s headline focused on breaking news and public safety.
“Three shootings in one week. My headline would be: ‘Wake up Federal Way,’” he said. “The reason why is because we are only looking at the beginning if we do not take this seriously.”
Pagliocco noted the city has not provided the staffing necessary to keep up with the city’s growth.
Edwards focused on the potential impacts of opening retail marijuana shops in Federal Way.
“Federal Way needs to heed warnings from elected leaders in Denver, Colorado regarding the legalization of retail marijuana and the selling of retail marijuana, especially when the mayor is warning people not to be duped by expensive marketing,” Edwards said. “Federal Way is on the verge right now of making a very big decision and we need to listen to the leaders of Denver, Colorado.”
Honda’s headline was more positive: “Federal Way: The most caring city in the state of Washington,” she said. “And I say that because the people in Federal Way are the most caring. They care about each other, they lift people up, they help people out.”
Honda spoke about the Save Weyerhaueser Campus group who taught residents a lesson through their persistence at showing up at every single council meeting to voice their concerns during public comment. She said Federal Wayans know what they want – and they’re not afraid to share their opinions.
Koppang also focused on the positive message amid the hard news: “In spite of the shootings, the city of Federal Way comes together.”
Candidates also responded to what they think the city will look like in 10 years if they are elected.
Kochmar again focused on business growth in Federal Way, stating that the city will be vibrant if they clean up their permit process and invites businesses to come to Federal Way. The city will have trade schools, a light rail system and a Kent Station-type area for people to shop at.
Edwards said in 10 years, Federal Way will have a healthy environment. She spoke about the fish fry that Federal Way students release into the Hylebos watershed.
“And we’re getting about a hundred salmon back a year,” Edwards said. “So this is very scary when I think about this and I think about our future …”
Honda’s dream for Federal Way in 10 years was met with applause: The former Weyerhaueser campus will be a state park that will be interspersed with some businesses.
Koppang envisioned a vibrant downtown, noting the mixed-use development that will happen around the transit center at 320th Street. He noted the city has already planted the seeds for its downtown: Town Square Park, the Federal Way Performing Arts and Event Center and the staircase, which will facilitate a walkable downtown.
Watch the entire candidate forum here.