Q&A with Kent City Council candidates Farah, Michaud

Police staffing, homelessness are among the issues

Awale Farah and Zandria Michaud. COURTESY PHOTOS

Awale Farah and Zandria Michaud. COURTESY PHOTOS

Newcomers Awale Farah and Zandria Michaud are running for Position 7 on the Kent City Council.

The Kent Reporter emailed the same three questions to each candidate and gave them one week to respond. They were asked to limit their answers to each question to 200 words or less.

The general election is Nov. 5. King County Elections mailed ballots Oct. 16.

Q: Does Kent need more police officers? If no, why not? If yes, how would you propose to pay for more officers?

Farah: I am so grateful for the services that our Kent Police officers provide to our city. Ensuring that we have great public safety is a top priority for me when I serve on City Council, and it’s a common concern I hear when I talk to residents at their doors.

A fully staffed and well-funded police department is an important investment in public safety. The Kent Police Department does need more police officers to achieve the optimal staffing levels. The department also needs other investments like upgrading equipment and updating computer technology to run at full capacity.

There are a variety of ways to fund these upgrades to our police department, but it is crucial that Kent voters approve of increases in taxes. I am in favor of putting new sources of revenue to the voters for their approval in these instances. It is important that the public have a say in how we fund our city services.

Michaud: Public safety is my top priority. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their home, neighborhood and in Kent’s public spaces. I have heard from Kent residents and business owners that they want more officers and I do, too. Having additional officers allows them to do more than respond to 911 calls.

With adequate staffing, officers could regularly patrol our neighborhoods and build relationships in our community, ensure safety in our parks, and engage in partnership-driven events like the recent barbecue at Mosaic Hills Apartments.

But these things are not possible without a sustainable funding source. I am already looking closely at the budget, speaking with city staff, the mayor and council members to see if there are any nonessential services we can cut. With that in mind, though, we have seen what happens when we neglect things like our parks; they turn into havens for criminal activity. Additionally, the police department already has a considerable portion of the budget, so I would ask the residents of Kent to consider reducing other services to pay for police. The best option may be to ask voters to define our city’s priorities.

Q: What is your proposal for reducing the number of homeless in Kent?

Farah: When I am knocking on doors and talking to voters, there are two challenges that are most commonly mentioned by Kent residents: public safety and homelessness. Residents of Kent tell me every day that they are concerned about the use of our public spaces for activities other than recreation. I understand these concerns, and I am deeply committed to helping solve the challenges of housing affordability, substance use and homelessness in our communities.

As a first principle, I believe that every person deserves a home. And we also must remember that many homelessness people in Kent are veterans who served our country and now suffer from PTSD and other challenges. We must do a better job in building and preserving affordable homes for residents. Tackling the affordability challenges is step one in making sure people don’t become homeless.

Secondly, I believe we need to do a better job as a city and a region at connecting people with substance use challenges to services that can help them recover. When I serve on council, I will do everything in my power to reduce the number of unhoused people in Kent and ensure that everyone can live productive, healthy lives.

Michaud: Homelessness is a complicated, regional issue that requires a multitude of measures. We need to continue to work with our regional partners and find solutions with proven positive outcomes, while also supporting existing efforts from the police and our human service partners.

In my meetings with nonprofits, church leaders and the police chief, I find there are resources available, but getting those resources to those who need them can be challenging. For this, I support additional funding for more officers and social worker teams.

There are nonprofits and churches in our area offering everything from holistic programs to rent assistance to job placement. Some of these programs require the recipient to follow certain rules. Addiction recovery is a long road, and we need to find other ways to help those suffering from addiction or mental health challenges, including those who may struggle to engage with treatment services. For this, we need to bring in more mental health care providers and drug treatment facilities to easily accessible areas.

Lastly, we must invest in prevention measures, which starts with our youth. Ensuring they are prepared for adulthood and the workplace is essential. Mentorship programs can help guide them along the right path.

Q: Why should residents vote for you?

Farah: My wife and I and our four kids have lived in Kent for almost 20 years. We moved to Kent because we knew it was a city where our family could grow and succeed. All of my kids graduated in our Kent public schools and my wife Shamso is a community leader and executive director of a nonprofit based right here in Kent. Our whole family is committed to public service, and I look forward to the opportunity to serve you on City Council.

Over these last 20 years I’ve worked as an engineer at Boeing and AT&T, where I managed teams of people and large budgets. My professional experiences taught me how important it is to listen to people and work together to solve problems.

On council, I will make sure our first responders have the resources they need to maintain public safety. And that your local government invests in services that keep people housed and off our streets. I also want to bring good-paying jobs to Kent, improve transportation and invest in amenities like parks and community events. I want to bring your voice to City Hall.

Michaud: I have a proven record of advocating for residents and working with city leadership to get positive results. After gun violence in my Springwood Park neighborhood, I worked with the mayor and police chief to reduce the crime in our area. I will continue what I’ve already started while on the council.

No one will work harder for you. This campaign and potential council position is my full-time job. I am meeting with residents, business owners, city staff, elected officials and nonprofits. I regularly attend city committee, council and commission meetings to learn about the challenges and opportunities in Kent. As a member of the Parks Commission for five years, I have researched and publicly commented on the city’s budgets. I care about this city and our residents and am willing to put in the hard work and research to ensure I make thoughtful decisions.

I know the importance of transparency and public input. I successfully advocated for more transparency in public land transfers after the Pine Tree Park sale. Your voice matters and I am here to represent you. My record proves that I put the people of Kent first.

Note: The Kent Reporter will hear from candidates of the other city council races in next week’s edition.

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