The year 2017 is a local election year where major community issues will be debated and the stage is set for transition to the next phase of Federal Way’s maturity as a city.
The Performing Arts and Events Center will open in the summer but will be debated throughout the year. It’s cost and priority will be weighed against other needs during city elections for mayor and council. Candidate for mayor Jim Ferrell ran against the PAEC four years ago. Mayor Jim Ferrell led the charge to build it. He will now have to politically justify his change and run on a different platform. Convincing some skeptics on the “trust” question will be a challenge.
In addition, who will be the newsmakers of 2017?
What will be the issues that define the year? The homeless, the recent fee and tax increase, the future of the Weyerhaeuser campus, economic development, public safety and city priorities for the next four years are all in play.
The Sound Transit extension to Federal Way, the moratorium on apartments, traffic, the report of the Violence Prevention Coalition and the investigation of the alleged murderer of several people last spring still linger from last year.
How City Hall has responded to the homelessness in our community for the past three years will be judged against a new plan Ferrell will announce shortly. Any truly responsible plan to help the homeless must contain a housing element to be taken seriously. What will the new plan be and will it be viewed as a sincere change in direction or a short-term election-year ploy?
City finances and the recent raise in taxes and fees will be up for debate. Did the city really need nine new police officers, and was the increase justified to pay for them? The statistics on crime offer significant opportunity for difference of opinion about the choice of city priorities. Or is the additional money really going to the PAEC as some believe? Will some candidates ask for an audit?
Candidates for the council races will also be debating the same issues as mayoral candidates. Watch to see who endorses whom. At least three people who view themselves as potential future mayors will be visible.
As the incumbent, Ferrell will be a major newsmaker, but former office holders Linda Kochmar, Kelly Maloney and Susan Honda have the background to create waves and news if they try. Local businessman Mathew Jarvis has commented several times on the need for a change at City Hall. He could be a major newsmaker if he finds a candidate he and his supporters can back.
Councilman Martin Moore has announced he is running for re-election and newly appointed council member Bob Celski will try and keep the seat previously held by Maloney. Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge is not likely to run, leaving a rare open seat. Local businessman Roger Flygare has already announced he is running, likely for Burbidge’s position, although he will have company. Many of those who sought the appointment may run, creating more debate and more newsmakers. In addition to Moore and Flygare, watch Sharry Edwards and Diana Noble–Gulliford. There will be other candidates, but these have the experience to be newsmakers.
Burbidge, Joann Piquette and PAEC Director Theresa Yvonne will also be newsmakers when the PAEC opens.
City staff are likely to be newsmakers this year, as well. Certainly, Steve McNey, senior adviser to Ferrell and political strategist, will be more visible and influential now that Brian Wilson has left City Hall. New Planning Director Brian Davis may become a newsmaker as the moratorium on apartments, and its impact on the poor, get more attention. Yarden Weidenfeld’s role as new senior policy adviser may become part of the debate as his addition and Wilson’s departure leave scant city management experience in the mayor’s office, where a seasoned civilian hand might be helpful.
The future of the former Weyerhaeuser site will continue in the news with Davis and Industrial Realty Group’s Tom Messmer likely feature newsmakers.
Watch for the next two property partners Messmer taps to be more politically acceptable to the community as the election year will impact Messmer’s thinking temporarily. Watch even more closely who he recruits after that.
As economic development issues take forefront in the state Legislature as well as here in town, watch for Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Rebecca Martin to become a more visible presence in the debate on behalf of the business community.
Local elections will also impact Federal Way Public Schools as the discussion about the ages of school buildings starts in earnest. The year 2018 could result in a long overdue need to continue the replacement process that we saw in Federal Way High School. Superintendent Tammy Campbell’s positive impact on the district has already been felt, but now she must lead the way on an expensive proposition, while balancing the need to improve student performance.
Veteran school board members Carol Gregory and Geoffery McAnalloy are up for election to the school board. Their support and seasoning will help Campbell’s capital plans.
Other newsmakers for 2017 are likely to be new Democratic State Representatives Michael Pellicciotti and and Kristine Reeves. As noted in an earlier column, much will be expected of them during the legislative session with school funding the major topic.
Lastly, the Mirror’s new editor, Jessica Keller, could be the biggest newsmaker of all as she brings a completely new and fresh approach to local issues.
These are just some of the newsmakers. Others are likely to emerge, however, as the year progresses.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. He can be reached at email@example.com.