The Federal Way City Council meeting on Nov. 9 began with a proclamation honoring November as Native American History Month. Deputy Mayor Susan Honda read the proclamation and several members of the Muckleshoot Tribe were there to receive it.
“Part of decolonization is being recognized and being seen, ” said Louie Ungaro, Muckleshoot Tribal Councilmember, when receiving the proclamation.
“I’m greatly honored tonight to be here, but most of all, I have some youth that are going to be addressing you tonight and introducing themselves with our language,” Ungaro said with evident emotion. “It has taken me 50 years to see something like this come to fruition.”
Systemic suppression of Native American language and culture in the United States through legislation and the boarding school system has impacted community members in this area, including the Muckleshoot and Puyallup tribes. According to the Muckleshoot Tribe’s website: “The Muckleshoot language is a dialect of Puget Salish, or whulshootseed. It belongs to the eastern Puget Sound group along with Nisqually, Puyallup, Suquamish, Duwamish, Squaxin, Stillaquamish, Snoqualmie, Skykomish, Snohomish, and Skajit. In addition, many Lummi, Nooksack, and Twana also knew the language.”
Culture and language protection and revitalization efforts include language education. The website also states: “All of these areas now use English instead of their native languages, but some of the elders are beginning to teach the native language to the younger people. The native language is quite different from English, containing several sounds without English equivalent letters. One native word can mean an entire sentence or concept in English. The alphabet consists of 41 sounds.”
Also at the council meeting, several community members shared personal testimony, statistics and narratives to advocate for the enactment of two policies related to renters in Federal Way. The first policy idea is that tenants should be provided with 180 days notice before receiving an increase in rent in order to have time to budget or seek other housing. The second is a cap on late fees of $10 per day.
One public commentor shared that Federal Way is the city with the highest risk of losing housing in South King County and that many other nearby cities have implemented some kind of policies like the ones they propose.
Another who spoke on this proposal is a housing coordinator who said she knows two Federal Way families right now who are homeless because of sudden rent increases and exorbitant late fees that they could not respond to in time.
Pursuit laws and legislative priorities
Two public commentors mentioned the impact of current pursuit laws in Federal Way and the negative impact of restrictions on police pursuits. The topic came up again as the council discussed legislative priorities to share with the state next year.
Pursuit laws refer to when police officers are legally permitted to pursue a vehicle. Mayor Jim Ferrell said this was a huge issue and that the restrictions on pursuit are contributing to the high rate of auto theft in the area.
While Federal Way city leadership has brought this issue to state legislators before, they have not seen the movement on the issue that they would like.
Council President Linda Kochmar proposed the idea of suing the state for the damages and impact to the community of the car thefts if nothing changes. The council also discussed the response they have received previously from the state that there is not enough data to evaluate the situation. They agreed that if possible, it would be best to conduct a study on the issue before the next legislative session in Olympia so that they can come prepared with hard proof of the issue.
Other legislative priorities will be discussed by council members over the next two weeks and finalized at the next city council meeting. Proposed topics include continuing advocacy for some transportation support and changes including the Triangle project, which refers to the intersection of I-5, SR 18 and SR 161. Implementing more electric vehicle (EV) charging stations by utilizing the funds generated by gasoline taxes, and overall support for mental health and substance use disorder resources, were also discussed.