By Jim Ferrell
Federal Way Mayor
Serving as your mayor is one of the great honors of my life.
With that honor comes a pledge that my highest priority as your Mayor is to keep our community safe – an issue that is truly the number one priority of any government at any level.
I work hard for you and your family every day. I frequently say, “I work for you!” and I do. Which is why the Mirror’s recent editorial stating that my administration has a lack of transparency on the issue of homelessness in Federal Way is so disappointing and simply not accurate.
My office has granted several interview requests, and spent many hours with the Mirror on the topic of homelessness over the last several months – from interviews on the topic of the contract to provide shelter to homeless mothers and children through Mary’s Place to arranging a tour in January of a homeless camp cleanup.
At a time when residents are frustrated with the crime that statistics attribute to transients inhabiting Federal Way, our City government’s priorities should continue to reflect the views of those who elected me to run our city and they deserve a newspaper that is balanced in its approach to coverage of this issue.
Unfortunately, in a concerted effort to pull us into a lengthy debate about the legality of how we are addressing the homelessness situation in our city, Mirror staff was not content with a written statement addressing my views on the effects of the Boise case ruling and how it relates to the rule of law in our community.
In a nutshell, we reviewed our procedures and policy and none conflicted with the case’s holding.
To immediately label me as not being transparent on the issue because we simply offered a statement in lieu of a sit-down interview is an overreaction to a problem that does not exist.
The ruling in the Boise case is extremely narrow, and we are not being sued on the matter.
We, as a city, have shown through our actions that we deftly balance the rule of law while applying compassion to homeless individuals. We, as a city, acknowledge that we cannot criminalize conduct that is an unavoidable consequence of being homeless – mainly existing out of doors.
Boise has a Camping and Disorderly Conduct Ordinance to confront this problem; we do not.
While many disagree on the level of funding government should spend on homeless services (Mirror readers, for example responded resoundingly — over 66 percent in a poll that they did not want to see general-fund money spent on the homeless services) we do allot hundreds of thousands of dollars every year through Human Services grants and pass-through funds to address homelessness in addition to funding housing repair programs to help the less fortunate and prevent homelessness.
We are also serving as a driving force for uniting the faith community and area nonprofits in order to build a network to provide support for those living out of doors.
Our event last month at City Hall convening more than 70 attendees was an important step in that direction, and I am so very proud of their work and dedication to help those in need that will accept the help provided and take advantage of services. I am confident we have enough organizations in our community with compassion and desire that we can find a solution together to provide emergency shelter during severe weather.
In regard to additional questions asked, we encourage the Mirror to pursue their questions to the organizations that provide services for homeless individuals in our community. We have provided similar information to the paper on numerous occasions and applaud their coverage of the recent success of FUSION. However, it is not the City’s job to research outside information for the newspaper for their stories.
Ultimately, we have an obligation to make sure our city is safe for all of our families. And I am tremendously proud of the continued reductions in crime that our city has achieved with the leadership of Police Chief Andy Hwang and the dedicated officers of the Federal Way Police Department.
We have an obligation to keep City-owned and operated parks and wetlands clean, healthy, protected and safe for the community to enjoy.
That means cleaning up trash, human feces and hypodermic needles that litter homeless encampments and poison our land in a responsible and timely fashion.
Transparency and access has always been a hallmark of this office. Just this week, we hosted a Neighborhood Connection Meeting — one of numerous such events held since I took of office — at Green Gables Elementary to hear the thoughts and concerns of our citizens directly.
Those who follow me on social media know that I often respond to posts with questions about policy and what we’re doing at City Hall. And I always take the time to respond personally to emails sent to me.
As I said above, I work for you and I will continue to do so to ensure that our community stays safe. I will also continue to do so in a transparent manner. Thank you.