State of the City: Federal Way needs transformative projects

Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest delivers his State of the City Address on March 7 at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon, held at the Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club. - Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror
Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest delivers his State of the City Address on March 7 at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce luncheon, held at the Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/Federal Way Mirror

Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest outlined local government's past achievements and present challenges in his 2012 State of the City address.

The speech took place March 7 at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce membership luncheon at Twin Lakes Golf and Country Club.

Now in his second year as Federal Way's first elected mayor, Priest discussed downtown development, public safety, the city budget and regional issues. In addition, he cited examples of embracing three critical qualities of a successful city: persistence, positive action and pride.

Downtown development

City leaders seek transformative projects that will bring much needed economic development to Federal Way's downtown core.

Priest is optimistic about the proposed Crystal Palace project at the former AMC Theatres property on 20th Avenue South. This mixed-use development has the potential to bring visitors and serve as a catalyst for downtown.

"I believe the Crystal Palace is the type of transformative project to shift our downtown," said Priest, who is confident that the developers will secure funding. "We can't afford to be left behind in economic development."

Priest also supports a future performing arts center at the former Toys R Us site on 20th Avenue South. Such a facility would bring more cultural activities to downtown while serving as an economic development tool. The city will explore public-private partnerships this spring.

"We won't sit on our hands and wait for something to happen," Priest said.

Public safety

Priest praised Federal Way police for reducing crime to one of King County's lowest rates, and the lowest rate in the city since 1996.

The mayor noted the department's visible presence and beefed up patrols despite having less money.

"Persistence is essential to a city because you never have enough resources," Priest said. "The Federal Way Police Department exemplifies persistence in innovation."

Priest said the city will be unrelenting in pursuing public safety, which is essential to a strong economy and quality of life. He also complimented the spread of the Safe City surveillance program to Federal Way neighborhoods.

"Public safety is the top priority in our city," he said.

Budget matters

The mayor cites his mantra of "frugal innovation" for maintaining services while saving $2 million in the city budget. Also, Federal Way has reduced staffing by about 15 percent.

However, the state budget forecast may mean sizable cuts to city revenue. The state could cut between $500,000 and $800,000 a year in funding to Federal Way — the equivalent of five to eight police officers, Priest said.

"It would be helpful if the state balanced its budget on its own back, rather than ours," he said.

At the beginning of his speech, Priest highlighted one of Federal Way's most valuable assets — roads. He noted just how far Federal Way has come in improving access to the city center and maintaining roads through the asphalt overlay program. He is happy to see that Federal Way did not follow in the footsteps of Seattle, which he called "the pothole champion of the world."

"Today, we have one of the best, if not the best, public works departments in the state," said Priest, sending kudos to department director Cary Roe.

Regional issues

The mayor noted Federal Way's dispute with Sound Transit as an example of why persistence is needed in city government.

The city and transit agency have been at odds over the proposed light rail project that was delayed — despite voter approval — because of a lack of tax revenue from South King County. Federal Way leaders have been vocal in finding an acceptable solution for taxpayers.

"This city will speak up when governments break their promises to you," he said, referring to Sound Transit as well as any other entity, from state to county government. "We will make no apologies for demanding accountability."

Contact the mayor

Federal Way Mayor Skip Priest's office can be reached at or (253) 835-2411.

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