Questions regarding homelessness, crime and econmic development poured in as Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell hosted a Facebook Live Town Hall for the second time to discuss issues important to residents on July 11.
Ferrell started the virtual meeting to express his excitement for the “exchange of information” the event would cause between the city and community.
“I always say as your mayor, I work for you,” he said. “And it’s a great job, a great responsibility.”
Anna Patrick asked what the city does to address RV campers moving around city parking lots, camping and potentially dealing drugs.
Ferrell encouraged residents to alert the police immediately if they see any drug activity or illegal parking so police can take care of the situation immediately.
“We really need people to be our eyes and ears out in the community.”
Mike Audet raised concerns about the increasing number of “homeless beggars” in the city and asked if the city government has any plans to fix this.
“We do not allow the kind of environment that has flourished in Seattle,” Ferrell said. “[But] we do have limits placed on us by the Constitution.”
He said the city does take efforts to clean up homeless encampments in the city and prevent panhandling, however there are constitutional limits.
“It is not legal or constitutional to say that people can’t be on the street corners, begging. They have a constitutional right to do so,” he said. “If we tried to do so, we would be sued and we would lose.”
However, Ferrell said if panhandlers block the roadway or become aggressive, law enforcement can at that time step in.
Some residents also asked questions about the construction going on in the city center with the Town Center staircase and the former Target building adjacent to the Performing Arts and Event Center.
The mayor said the steps are expected to be completed in late September or early October to help connect that area of downtown together.
As for the former Target building, Ferrell said the city’s acquisition of that building was essential for future downtown development.
“We’re really looking at the development of that property as a major step in the future.”
However, Ferrell said this process could take some time due to an easement over the land that prevents any construction occurring.
Mandi Wyatt asked Ferrell why the city was spending $3 million on the Town Center staircase when the focus should be on economic development.
Ferrell responded that the money going towards the steps did not come from the city’s general budget, and could only be spent on capital projects.
“We took what was essentially a 30-foot brick wall … and are in the process of tearing that wall down and creating a place to recreate in our community,” he said.
His goal is to create a true center for the downtown area.
“What we’re seeing now is a true renaissance.”
Leah Naccarato asked why the city didn’t have an independent police review board, a similar question to concerns that have been considered in the past.
Ferrell said the reason for this is because the police department already has a Chief’s Advisory Board, and an independent board would be unnecessary.
Going along with public safety, a former Federal Way resident asked Ferrell what the city is doing about the perceived rise of vigilantism in the city.
“I think you’ve got some really well-meaning people,” Ferrell said, “but we need to leave policing in the hands of the individuals that are trained to do it.”
He again encouraged residents to call the police if they see something they believe is criminal.
Ferrell also spoke about things happening in Federal Way, such as ways the city can honor veterans in the community, the higher education initiative progress for the HUB and public safety.
Ferrell said the increase of police officers coupled with the Safe City Initiative cameras have helped police investigations into criminal activities as well as helped lower the crime rates in the city.
Community members also asked questions about Sound Transit’s construction in Federal Way and what will be happening to the businesses that are being affected.
The full virtual townhall can be watched on the Mayor’s Facebook page.