There are four candidates running for position 4, the open seat on the City Council. Last week we looked at Diana Noble-Gulliford and Jack Stanford, who are about as similar of candidates as you will find. This week it is Sharry Edwards and Hoang Tran, who are as different from each other as they are from Noble-Gulliford and Stanford. Each has an all-American story, however.
Edwards has a traditional story line and is a product of her many American experiences. She is a nurse and carries her compassion for others on her sleeve. Edwards and her husband have owned a small business, and she has been active in her union and in Democrat politics. Last year, she considered a race for the State Legislature before stepping aside for Kristine Reeve’s successful run.
Edwards was aware that other, more well-known, candidates were also interested in position 4. Exhibiting some political acumen, Edwards announced first, causing one Republican candidate to not run, and another Democrat filed against Martin Moore. Since Moore is a friend of Edwards, from his former Democrat days, Edwards may have helped herself and Moore at the same time.
Edwards is well known as an advocate for the homeless, and two years ago she and Councilwoman Susan Honda were displeased with Mayor Jim Ferrell’s heavy-handed approach to homeless encampments. Ferrell has since appointed Edwards to co-chair the Homeless Mothers and Children Initiative, along with Honda, who is Ferrell’s mayoral opponent. To add further intrigue, Edwards has endorsed Ferrell, even though Honda’s position on service to the homeless would seem to be far closer to her own than Ferrell’s.
With her small-business background, Edwards is concerned about too many empty stores, the time-consuming city permit process and the cost of a city business license. Further, she wants more impact from the city’s economic development efforts and an emphasis on family wage jobs. Edwards wants more police, although she is opposed to Ferrell’s proposal to increase the utility tax. She would still like to talk with Lakehaven Water and Sewer District about options.
Had she been on the council, she would have voted for the Performing Arts and Event Center, but her preference would have been for a public vote. She opposed the apartment moratorium. However, she preferred Interstate 5 over Pacific Highway for Sound Transit, even though most of the users of the light rail system live closer to Pacific Highway. She would like the city to add a senior center. Edwards has been endorsed by most of the prominent Democrat office holders, including Ferrell. She brings a refreshing passion to the debate on social responsibility but also needs to have a better understanding of the budget and how to build consensus policy from priorities.
While the three previous candidates for position 4 represent much of the traditional past and present of our community history, Tran might represent much of its melting pot future. He and his younger sister came here 37 years ago from Vietnam as boat people. He has lived the dream others would like to live. He has been homeless but also successful. He received a college degree and is studying for a law degree. He is the administrator of the local Department of Social and Health Services office and sees every day the challenges and struggles homeless people face in their daily life. He believes the day center is a good start, but only a start, and should be followed by small houses or other options to put a roof over homeless people’s heads as soon as possible. His highest priority is public safety and would like to find a way to add additional police officers.
He is a proponent of economic development but, given demographics, believes the city needs to diversify and recruit more minority businesses. He would have voted against the PAEC and would have preferred the money be spent on other priorities. He had reservations about the apartment moratorium, as affordable housing is a big need in the community.
Tran leans Republican and is a strong believer in accountability. He would rather look more closely at the city budget and possible cuts prior to considering any tax increase. He is equally proud of his own culture and his new homeland.
Edwards and Tran each bring a story that is interesting and compelling in its own way. Both have significant work to do on studying issues. Tran has only lived in Federal Way for a few years and needs to build a deeper understanding of the community, how city government operates and fiscal reality. Should he win, Tran would be joining a council that is already very conservative, but he brings a background that could open the door to new levels of debate. He is bright and would be more likely to ask questions and not be guided by the status quo. But would his lack of local history allow him to make an impact?
Edwards is already invested in the community and a known advocate, but her views are not as conservative as the current mayor and council. With their course already set, would she be able to steer the council to a more socially conscious policy position? And with the support she is getting from Ferrell, could she disagree with him and successfully get support from other council members, or would she become a more conservative vote?
This is the strength of democracy. Four interesting and likable candidates with different strengths and views. Do your homework on the candidates.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former Auburn mayor and retired public official. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.