FW city councilman defends appeal of excessive force
By Jager Dzurcanin - Staff Reporter
Federal Way City Council member Mark Koppang said that he thought the city was right to appeal a ruling in which a Federal Way police of- ficer was deemed to have used excessive force on a young black male.
The young black male was put in a chokehold by a Fed- eral Way police officer, after witnessing a drunk driving ac- cident and attempting to assist those involved in the crash.
Koppang visited Highline's campus on Monday, Nov. 19, to speak on various aspects of his job as a City Council mem- ber, and the role of local gov- ernment in Federal Way.
He has been a City Council member since January 2016, after being elected in 2015. He is currently the chairman of the Land Use and Transporta- tion Committee.
The man who was choked out by an officer, Josiah Hunt- er, was awarded $640,000 and had all charges dropped after the use of force was deemed excessive.
Koppang said he has spent time discussing these issues with organizations such as The Black Collective, to un- derstand what issues matter most to the community.
"As soon as you stop listen- ing... I think your effective- ness ends [as a politician]," Koppang said. The incident occurred on
Sept. 14, 2014, and a successful appeal would result in the ini- tial ruling being overturned.
"Every time a police offi- cer is in a situation, there is a chance for it to go badly," Kop- pang said, "There will always be situational things, and to attribute it to race, I think, is a preconception."
The two-year budget being proposed for the city of Fed-
eral Way, which is around $48 million, would allot 53 percent of it to the police department and public safety.
Some council members thought 53 percent was too much to give Federal Way's police force, but Koppang dis- agrees, saying "We can't allow a descending crime number be the reason to cut police. Every crime affects someone."
Crime in Federal Way has been consistently falling in the last few years, specifically see- ing a 10 percent decrease from 2016 to 2017.
Koppang said that the No. 1 priority for a city government is public safety, because if a city isn't safe, its citizens will leave.
Another issue Koppang ad- dressed is the economically struggling Performing Arts and Event Center in Federal Way, and the steps the City Council is taking to assist it.
"We built it, we haven't fi- nanced it completely, but it's not an option to let it be un- successful," Koppang said, ex- plaining that $24 million - out of the $32 million cost - has been found for the project thus far.
Developing a profitable rev- enue stream within the facili- ty, and developing the vacant land around it with hotels and other attractions, is a method being proposed by the City Council to counteract the fa- cility's reliance on subsidy.
"I didn't vote for it, because I wasn't on the council," when the Performing Arts and Event Center was being considered, said Koppang, adding that "the path forward is expen- sive, and it's not the one we want to take."
The path forward that Kop- pang refers to includes pay- ing off a restrictive covenant placed on a vacant lot near the arts center, that the council had hoped to see repurposed.
A restrictive covenant puts a limitation on what a piece of property can be used for by its owner, and if the covenant were to be removed, it could raise the remaining cost of the project from $8 million, to around $10 or $11 million, Koppang said.
Koppang also addressed several of the more intimate details surrounding his job as a City Council member, and his background.
"The council is about set- ting policy," Koppang said. "We don't live in a vacuum. For every decision that's made, somebody is affected."
He explained that every ac- tion of the local government, ranging from those about public safety, education, in- frastructure and maintenance, and even the overall budget and city expenses, affects the average Federal Way citizen.
"The citizens provide the money to the city, so the cit- izens are providing services through the city," Koppang said.
Even though Koppang was the one who pushed for the Steel Lake playground remod- el, and the Panther Lake rec- reational trail, he said that it was the taxpayers that allowed them to happen.
Koppang noted why he ran for City Council when he said "For me, it really was about making a difference in my community."