Q&A: Sound Transit, homelessness and Mayor Ferrell

I frequently get questions and save them up to answer in case others have the same questions.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

I frequently get questions and save them up to answer in case others have the same questions.

Q. Have any decisions been made about the new Sound Transit Operations Center location?

A. No one is announcing anything, as there is still a process to go through, but several clues involving Christian Faith Center in Federal Way have people speculating on that site.

Q. During the debate about sending our homeless to Burien, a city of Federal Way staff person sent a letter to the editor saying Mary’s Place had a long-standing tie to our community, and that is why the mayor wanted to contract with them. Is that true?

A. Mary’s Place is an outstanding organization, but at best that is a stretch. The mayor’s office says a staff person from Mary’s Place served on the Homeless Mothers and Children’s committee two years ago, and on the recent homeless committee. That doesn’t sound like a “long-standing tie.”

Q. What ever happened to Mayor Jim Ferrell’s threat to the Mirror about its status as the city’s “paper of record?”

A. Mayor Ferrell said that was not his intent. He apologized and blamed city staff for the miscommunication.

Q. There seems to be a strong difference of opinion on whether the Federal Way Community Center was used as an overnight shelter or just a warming center during the snowstorms.

A. According to the mayor’s office, the Community Center was only used for a warming center during regular business hours. It closed around 8:30 p.m. No arrangements had been made by the city for an overnight replacement shelter for New Hope Church, which served that purpose the previous year. There were other places in town that had some space available. Some council members want to add a policy to allow its use overnight during the winter and contract for staff assistance. We’ll see if they come back to that issue prior to winter.

Q. You wrote a column that seemed to be critical of those that wanted the new Sound Transit operations center built at the landfill sites?

A. It appeared to me politics and convenience had replaced concern for the 300 people who would work there, and I wanted to remind the public of the implications. The health of Sound Transit’s future workforce is more important than any fast food restaurant, even Dick’s Drive-In.

Q. In a recent ad, Ferrell said that to build a shelter for the homeless, we would have to lay off Federal Way police officers. Is that true?

A. No, Ferrell does not want to financially support a city shelter, and seems to lack enthusiasm for nonprofit shelters in the city. The city will save $2 million annually from using other agencies for the city’s jail services, so that annual budget amount should be available. The city expects to get another million dollars from Lakehaven from after the lawsuit on the utility tax. That’s $6 million over the two-year budget cycle. Also the sale of the Target property should bring in several million dollars. However, my comment was misconstrued and actually connected to the choices the city made several years ago. City officials chose to build the PAEC with a plan that relied too heavily on tax credits that didn’t come together, and the city is still paying on the loan and hasn’t sold the naming rights. This was after obligating several hundred thousand dollars to a police unit to track the homeless and close their encampments, among other assignments. Had they spent that money with local nonprofits on shelters, the problem would be significantly less challenging than it is now. Also, police should be doing police work, not closing homeless encampments.

Q. What did you think of Mayor Ferrell’s recent ad in the Mirror in response to an editorial on the city’s lack of transparency about homelessness in Federal Way?

A. Although it appears we were both wrong on the cost of the ad, I stand by my column. Transparency in the mayor’s office needs to improve.

Thanks for the questions.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.

Correction: A previous version of this column incorrectly stated the city has financed the debt to the SCORE jail to save $2 million annually. However, the information has been updated: The city will save $2 million per year from using other agencies for the city’s jail services, not from financing the debt.

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