Erica Norton and Greg Baruso. Courtesy photos

Erica Norton and Greg Baruso. Courtesy photos

QA: Federal Way City Council Position 2 candidates

Incumbent Greg Baruso is challenged by newcomer Erica Norton.

The Federal Way Mirror asked Federal Way City Council candidates a few questions about their priorities and plans if elected. Read the Position 2 candidate responses below.

The Mirror’s 2021 candidate debate is from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 13 at the Twin Lakes Golf & Country Club. The event will be in-person and live streamed. Masks required.

Federal Way City Council Position 2 candidates:

Erica Norton

Brief description: Local business owner, citizen of Federal Way since 2009.

Top three priorities, if elected:

1. Safety and Police, reinstating our police force and allowing them to protect our city.

2. Drug addicted homeless (by choice) people living in our community.

3. Business growth and development.

Why are you seeking a position on the Federal Way City Council?

I and many other Federal Way citizens do not feel as if we are being represented by a majority of the City Council. Someone must stand and be a wall between Seattle/King County and our city before Seattle/King County turns Federal Way into another Seattle. I have a career – I don’t need to advance in politics, so I’m not worried about finding favor with Seattle and King County politicians. My concern is protecting our city so people and businesses can thrive here.

Aside from the pandemic, what is the largest issue impacting Federal Way residents and what do you intend to do about it?

The largest issue facing our city is the drug addicts who most people refer to as “Homeless”, and the crime ravaging our hometown as a result. First, we all must learn to discern between drug addicts living outside by choice, and the working poor who are housing insecure. Then we need to address this problem with honesty and do everything in our power to help the drug addicts get into long-term in-patient relapse prevention programs. We must make it illegal (with zoning regulations) to sleep outside and destroy the environment. This will take hard work, I’m willing to do that work and help these people become productive members of our city. There is an abundance of Federal and private funding available to assist us with the tools needed to achieve these goals. The crime that comes along with drug addiction will fall as a result.

King County is planning to open two shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Federal Way in the coming months. Do you agree with the county’s approach, and how will you address homelessness in Federal Way, if elected?

No, I do not agree, Federal Way is not the dumping ground for Seattle’s self inflicted problems. The buildings should be100% dedicated to the homeless working families we already have living in our city. Shipping hard core drug addicted criminals from Seattle so they can clean up the mess they created is NOT in our city’s best interest. If those hotels are used to house Afghani immigrants, it would be better than importing more drug addicts, but we have American tax paying housing insecure citizens who ALREADY LIVE HERE. We need to stop ignoring our own people.

I addressed what my plans are regarding the drug addicts living outside in question #2.

With the incoming Sound Transit Link Light Rail route coming to town, Federal Way has development opportunities on the horizon. What will you do to make Federal Way a desirable place to live and work?

I’ve conducted several recent interviews with leaders of the local development and construction industry. For example, I spoke with a representative from the AGC, and another from the NAOIP. I work in the construction industry and asked a local developer to answer one question: What can the city of Federal Way do to encourage you to invest here? We need to make certain changes, which are totally possible, to be more attractive and accommodating to developers and construction companies. We need to implement an aggressive campaign to bring jobs, development, and revenue to our city. I’ve already begun to take the necessary steps to help see this to fruition. If I’m elected, I will continue on this endeavor. If not, I will pass my findings on to my contacts currently serving on the City Council.

Considering the Light Rail extension on the horizon, we need to support our police department so our men in blue can protect us from the guaranteed rise in criminal activity that will take place. No business will want to be here if they aren’t kept safe.

Greg Baruso (incumbent)

Brief description:

-21-year resident

-Born a raised in Central Seattle in the ‘60s

-Married with three grown children

-35-year veteran firefighter / 1999 Firefighter of the Year and 2001 Volunteer of the Year

-Member of the Federal Way Diversity Commission for 12 years, six years as Chair

-Governor-Appointed Citizens Committee on Pipeline Safety (Current)

-President of the Citizens Committee for Federal Way Schools (Current)

Three Top Priorities:

1. COVID-19 Recovery – Making sure that our businesses and residents get the resources needed to get their feet back on the ground and doing so will assure a stronger local economy and jobs to our community.

2. Land Use Planning – With the future addition to Light Rail to our city it is imperative that we create a long-range plan for what our downtown core will look like. Having a strategic and well thought out road map will help us prioritize and right-size fit our needs to carry us well beyond the completion of the Rail.

3. Responsible Policing – As my background will tell you, Public Safety is always at the forefront of my work. Providing the tools, whether through equipment, staffing, training or technological advances, it is important to me that we supply the men and women that protect our city everything they need to have the quality of service at its highest level in the communities they serve.

Why are you seeking a position on the Federal Way City Council?

I am seeking to retain my position on the Council because I believe that there is still much that I can accomplish. As the Chair of the Land Use and Transportation Committee the first item that I asked to review for revision was the city’s Comprehensive Land Use Plan. Again, with the addition of Light Rail to our city I’d like to see our city grow and prosper as other cities have and will once Light Rail is established. Our downtown core can exist of housing that contains retail on the bottom and residential on the upper floors where residents can shop and live in the same building. We need to create a more walkable downtown with businesses and entertainment that will draw those from other cities creating more of a nightlife where one can see a show and then dine afterwards all within walking distance from each other. To accomplish this, we must also create a safe environment. We have a lot of issues to work through before this can happen in regard to our current problems with housing our homeless, healthcare, drug addiction and crime, and I’m willing to roll-up my sleeves to get things done.

Aside from the pandemic, what is the largest issue impacting Federal Way residents and what do you intend to do about it?

We have many issues but what I feel is one of the largest issues facing our residents currently is lack of affordable housing. As our population has increased over the years, housing has not kept up. For the past few months, we have been working on a Housing Action Plan where, after much work and study, has broken down where we need to be as far as required housing for the foreseeable future if our population continues its forecasted growth path. Coming to a fair and equitable solution could be difficult if we don’t start strategizing and prioritizing our needs. We need to focus on what we lack and begin to build our plan on how we get our numbers up, whether through revising zoning or creating spaces that will accommodate our needs. One other thought is how we expand on what we have. Currently we only have one area where Cottage Homes have been built. We need to make projects like those and ADU’s, Accessory Dwelling Units, a norm and not an exception where we actively seek to build these units by streamlining the permitting process. To start, I will work to fully fund our city permitting staff.

King County is planning to open two shelters for people experiencing homelessness in Federal Way in the coming months. Do you agree with the county’s approach, and how will you address homelessness in Federal Way, if elected?

I believe we all want to address homelessness in our city and in the region but I’m not sure whether King County’s approach is the proper way to address this problem. What I didn’t like about this approach is the process, the way in which the purchase of the Extended Stay America in Federal Way was done. Very minimal input was asked of the Council until into the latter part of the purchase process, where the negotiating with the ownership and King County was well under way. I had rather slowed the process down for both Elects and community input before embarking on the purchase process. That way all concerns would have been vetted and it would have been a more streamlined and transparent process from day one. That being said it is done, and we must move forward. If retained to my position I will continue to seek more opportunities to work with our non-profits and healthcare organizations as the root causes of homelessness needs to be addressed if we are to be successful in even reducing homelessness in our city. We must also work with our State Legislators and Federal counterparts to request more funding.

With the incoming Sound Transit Link Light Rail route coming to town, Federal Way has development opportunities on the horizon. What will you do to make Federal Way a desirable place to live and work?

As the Land Use and Transportation Committee Chair, I want to continue to work with Sound Transit in obtaining timely information on both the Light Rail and their plans on what will be done with the property that they now occupy for their construction use. It is important that we complete the study on the city’s Housing Action Plan and that plan follows our current Comprehensive Land Use Plan. A vibrant downtown is important, and walkability is vital to have an inviting city core. With any construction that occurs because of our plans to rebuild a more inclusive downtown, local jobs will be created that will bring family waged jobs to our community. I’d like to also work with our school district to assure that teenage homelessness is addressed. Local broadband to all school district students is paramount to school learning as the COVID pandemic revealed so assisting and prioritizing funding is important. In order to achieve any of these we need to make sure that our businesses and community come out of the COVID pandemic and I will continue to approve funds for this to occur through available Local, State and Federal grant and relief monies.

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