Federal Way, once a suburb, is now a large city in its own right with a 90,000-plus population. It’s got big-city issues, too, including a rising poverty rate, deserted commercial buildings and an increasingly polyglot immigrant population.
It also has a spectacular offering of public attractions, such as the Wild Waves theme park, the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center and Dash Point State Park. One attraction in particular has become the chief point of contention in this year’s mayoral race between incumbent Skip Priest and his challenger, City Councilman Jim Ferrell.
Priest stands behind the council’s longstanding plan to build a 700-seat, $31 million Performing Arts and Civic Center just west of the Federal Way Transit Center in the heart of downtown.
Ferrell — who also challenged Priest three years ago — questions the affordability of the center and is pushing another concept, a Kent Station-style retail and entertainment destination next to the transit center. The feasibility of Farrell’s idea has yet to be proven.
In other respects, Priest and Farrell are both exceptionally good, civic-spirited candidates.
Priest has broader experience in the private sector and in public life; in addition to prior service on the City Council, he represented the city in the Legislature from 2003 to 2010. We endorsed him in 2010 and do so again this year after seeing his performance since he took office.
• City Council Positions 2 and 6: Both candidates we endorsed in the August primary — Kelly Maloney and Martin Moore — came out on top in their respective three-person races, boding well for their election Nov. 5. Their challengers are also credible candidates, so Federal Way voters really can’t go wrong however they vote.
In the Position 2 race, Mark Koppang has an impressive record of service on city boards. But we prefer appointed incumbent Maloney. A marketing executive, Maloney has given a lot of thought to how to rebrand Federal Way to attract investment. Voters should keep her on the council.
In Position 6, the appointed incumbent is Diana Noble-Gulliford, a longtime resident who has served Federal Way in a variety of volunteer roles. But we think Moore, a park commissioner, would bring energy and fresh ideas to the City Council. A legislative aide to state Rep. Roger Freeman, Moore would also be in a good position to connect policy dots between Olympia and Federal Way.
City Council Position 5: Jeanne Burbidge, a Federal Way mainstay who worked on the city’s incorporation, is seeking her fifth term. Voters should give it to her. She has a depth of knowledge about the issues — particularly transportation — that her opponent can’t match.
The challenger, Federal Way Civil Service Commission chairman and businessman John Fairbanks, did not respond to an invitation to interview with the editorial board. The Municipal League of King County rated him “good” and Burbidge “outstanding.”
• School Board, District 1: We endorsed Carol Gregory for this open seat based on her varied background in education. She’s been a teacher, a school district administrator, a teachers union president at the state level and a policymaker in the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Her opponent is Medgar Wells, principal of a private church school in Auburn. He can’t match Gregory’s broad experience and the time she will have to devote to the school board (she’s retiring from her job as a nonprofit director).
• School Board, District 4: Incumbent Ed Barney is seeking a fourth term — and his last, he says. As the veteran on the board, he can take the long view of the district, from where it’s been to where it needs to go. We think voters should give him one more term to work on goals that include teaching more foreign languages and implementing the Global Education Initiative.
Barney has a credible challenger in Geoffery McAnalloy, a parent actively involved in his children’s schools. He asks good questions about the district’s spending priorities and would be a viable alternative to Barney for voters unhappy with the board’s current direction.