Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell delivered the 2022 State of the City Address virtually on Feb. 24. The pre-recorded speech featured Ferrell at various downtown sites, including the Performing Arts and Event Center, as he discussed five main topics.
Ferrell focused his remarks on the city’s budget, public safety, economic development, Federal Way’s homelessness response and the city’s response to COVID-19.
“Federal Way is a city of choices with balancing preservation with innovation,” Ferrell said. “We’re working together to create a future that reduces barriers and enables opportunity for all of us by increasing choices, improving safety, prioritizing accessibility and investing in our community.”
This year is a budget year for Federal Way, and the city is seeking community input about important budget priorities, he said.
Ferrell credited “sound fiscal management” and strategic financial decisions allowing Federal Way’s budget to fare better than neighboring cities in 2020 and 2021.
In 2021, Federal Way started investing city cash and the first $16 million invested resulted in the interest revenue being tripled, he said. For the city’s general fund, he said, last year’s revenues increased by 2.1%.
“We treat your hard-earned tax dollars responsibly,” he said.
The upcoming biennial budget process, the city will prioritize opportunities to strengthen families while supporting local youth and small businesses, among other groups.
When it comes to public safety, the Federal Way City Council previously authorized $1 million in overtime funding for the Federal Way Police Department. This money may be used as officers conduct extra emphasis patrols in Federal Way’s “problem areas” along Pacific Highway South and other crime pocket locations, Ferrell said.
The council also authorized adding 13 more officer positions to the force, for a total of 150 officers. With several recent hires, the police department is working to fill vacancies to reach this total.
“While we are feeling the impacts of the rise in violent crime locally, our entire region has seen an unacceptable and dramatic increase in gun- and drug-related crime, property crimes, organized retail theft and more,” the mayor said.
The region is experiencing a crime epidemic, Ferrell said, affecting everyone’s quality of life.
“We must dedicate the resources necessary to fight back. Enough is enough,” Ferrell said.
Federal Way officers are now wearing body cameras and continue to work with nearby agencies to coordinate, share information and arrest top offenders, he said.
The conversation often shifts to “either-or” perspectives, pitting community programs supporting families and prosecution against one another. Ferrell said the answer to crime reduction is both. The city council’s State Legislative priorities supports youth violence prevention programs and policies.
“We must do everything we can to keep young people from making the tragic mistake of getting involved in crime,” he said.
Ferrell also said the city’s graffiti clean up program is “the envy of the region,” with city workers addressing graffiti reports within 24 hours.
Economic future of Federal Way
Federal Way’s goal is to become a technology hub, Ferrell said.
Despite setbacks and delays due to the pandemic, “we never lost sight of the goal and the significant job creation a tech hub will bring to South King County,” Ferrell said.
The city’s action plan for becoming a tech hub outlines desires for Federal Way to have the fastest internet speeds in the state, to become the most advanced smart city in the Pacific Northwest, and be the most connected city to education in the nation, among other goals.
This requires reliable, accessible and affordable broadband internet services in Federal Way, Ferrell said. In December 2021, the council accepted a $50,000 grant from the Washington Community Economic Revitalization Board (CERB) to study the city’s internet infrastructure. The CERB funds are matched by $25,000 in federal ARPA funds from the city for a total study cost of $75,000.
Ferrell also highlighted The Hub, a newly opened partnership campus offering post-secondary and adult education through the University of Washington Tacoma, Highline College and Federal Way Public Schools.
The city’s comprehensive plan, Update 2024, is being worked on through June 2024. This includes blueprints for a walkable, revitalized downtown and a cultural anchor of Federal Way, he said, and community input is wanted.
With the arrival of Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension light rail in just two years, The Commons mall is considering its future, Ferrell said. The newest appeal is the announcement of an Amazon Fresh grocery store; an official opening date has not yet been announced.
In the last six months, the city averaged 109 business applications per month, Ferrell said.
As conversations of the future continue, work needs to be done to make sure it is accessible to all residents, he said. Livable wage jobs, food security, better mental health services and stricter drug laws are a few items Ferrell listed as needs to help people out of homelessness.
While families experiencing homelessness are able to find resources and help at the Pete Andersen FUSION Family Center, Federal Way’s permanent emergency shelter at the former Red Lion Hotel is available for adults experiencing homelessness.
“As a city of over 100,000 people, this is a necessity,” he said.