FW mayor talks vaccinations, local economy, diversity in annual State of the City address

In stark contrast to last year’s 700-member live audience, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell delivered the annual State of the City address virtually on Feb. 25.

Mayor Ferrell discussed economic development plans, diversity efforts in the city and police department, and the city’s COVID-19 response, after opening his speech with a moment of silence for the more than 500,000 Americans who have died from the virus within the last year.

In Federal Way, 99 residents have died from COVID-19 as of Feb. 26, according to the Public Health – Seattle and King County Outbreak Summary data dashboard. Of these deaths, 63 people were white, 10 people were of the Black community and nine people were Hispanic. A majority of the deaths, 44 in total, were people age 80 or older, followed by 26 deaths of people between 70-79 years old.

“In the face of tragedy and hardship, we have seen our community come together and define the character of our city for years to come,” Ferrell said.

The mayor announced the Federal Way Community Center will open as a mass vaccination site in partnership with CHI Franciscan in the coming weeks.

In addition to current testing and incoming vaccine resources, the city has allocated $4.4 million CARES Act funds to businesses impacted by the pandemic-related closures. Prior to state funding, the city passed an emergency resolution to provide $83,000 to the community to ensure food, rent and other needs were met. Another $500,000 in grant funding was later directly paid to local families for rent assistance.

Shop Local, a local Federal Way business support campaign, was launched in late 2020, and more than 3,000 businesses have registered to shoplocalfedway.com, making the site the go-to directory of Federal Way businesses.

As for economic development, Ferrell announced several incoming businesses, including the expansion of DaVita Integrated Kidney Care, which will soon become the largest private employer in Federal Way.

Several businesses are also making their way to the city, Ferrell said, such as the recently opened Old Navy, and the reopening of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Brews restaurant in the former Ram Restaurant & Brewery location at 31920 Gateway Center Blvd S.

Ferrell also noted a veterans monument and flagpole will soon be placed near the Town Center Steps to honor Federal Way women and men who have served.

Sound Transit’s Federal Way Link Extension arrives in Federal Way in about three years, and “will bring nearly unlimited potential for new business, jobs, growth and investment in our community.”

Because of this, the city is also working on a Housing Action plan to bring more affordable and market-rate housing options to Federal Way.

Ferrell said the city is also exploring federal grants to begin converting to an electrical vehicle fleet and converting to LED streetlights, which will save the city about $350,000 annually.

The city is also seeking to fill the first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Coordinator position on staff, a position resulting from the asks of the quarterly Black and African American community meetings. Applicants for the position will be reviewed with the help of a diverse panel of community members, the Diversity Commission members, former elected officials, current staff, city council members, and other agency representatives, Ferrell said.

In an effort to improve the transparency of the Federal Way Police Department and safety of the community, Ferrell said a police body camera program will be implemented with the help of state and federal funds.

“We must recognize that defunding the police is not the right solution for Federal Way,” he said. “That does not mean there should not be reform. There must be reform.”

The strength of a city does not come from government alone, the mayor said.

“It comes from the doctors, nurses, and first responders risking their safety while caring for our neighbors who have contracted COVID-19. It comes from the teachers, creatively inspiring our scholars, doing their level best to keep kids engaged in the most challenging circumstances of their young lives,” he said.

To watch the mayor’s 2021 State of the City address, visit the City of Federal Way YouTube channel.