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Meet the candidates: Eric Stavney

To educate the public before the Aug. 21 primary, The Mirror is giving candidates an opportunity to answer questions on important issues facing Federal Way.

Each of the four candidates for position 7 — Dini Duclos, Troy Smith, Hope Elder and Eric Stavney — received the following questions. Responses to each question were limited to 200 words. On Aug. 15, The Mirror will advise readers on what each candidate could bring to the city council if elected. — Andy Hobbs, Mirror editor

• What is your style of leadership, and how will that enhance Federal Way should you get elected?

I believe that good leadership is based less on the decisions one makes and more on the process used to make those decisions. As a teacher of 20 years and a graduate of the Advancing Leadership Program at the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce, I have learned that good community leadership fosters a collaborative atmosphere where citizens feel invested and empowered in participating in community decisions.

One of my strengths is to build trust in others by sharing responsibility and power rather than being more controlling and taking personal credit for team accomplishments. Regardless of what is being decided at City Hall, it is crucial that citizens feel they are deeply involved in the final decision.

Building trust among citizens requires that I have strong personal integrity and that I actually act in concert with my personal values. I believe in honesty in city governance, strong citizen participation, keeping our environment healthy, caring for the less fortunate, educating our youth and fostering a vibrant local economy through sustainable business practices and development. My success as a leader results from my being able to build consensus in the classroom or the community around shared values.

• The City Council recently chose a developer whose project will reshape downtown Federal Way, specifically at the former AMC Theaters site. Current City Council members approved a proposal from United Properties Ltd. by a vote of 4-3. How would you have voted on this project, and what would have been your reasons for voting that way?

I also would have supported the United Properties proposal because it specifically included a downtown park, not a plaza, and because both apartments and condominiums were offered. I strongly believe that open space, such as a park, is very important to making our downtown a more attractive place.

One of our current problems downtown is that we lack a pleasant gathering space that attracts people to the core. A park would do that, even better than the plaza proposed by the other proposal. Many of us find greenery and open space a major element of the high quality of life that we enjoy in Federal Way.

I also believe that the residents that chose to live downtown do not have to necessarily own the space in which they live. Many people, myself included, cannot afford to buy a dwelling outright and so live in apartments. We are no less suitable as tenants in our downtown core compared to condominium owners. Because we are developing the AMC property as a city, I believe we are obligated to build living spaces that are available to the greatest number of people possible, not just the wealthy.

• There’s been a longtime effort to establish a performing arts center in Federal Way. What role does the city need to play in making this a reality? Who should take the lead in building and running a performing arts center?

A downtown performing arts center would contribute to a better definition of our downtown and serve as a popular gathering place. Currently we have no downtown location where a large number of people can gather for a civic event or performance. Without such a space, our many performing arts groups remain undersubscribed and we lose out on a great potential revenue source. Many of our neighboring cities have found that a performing arts center greatly raises the quality of life in their communities and fosters a strong sense of local pride.

Economically such a facility could be a potential focal point in the redevelopment and definition of our downtown. If our Council believes in buying and developing the AMC property in order to jumpstart downtown, shouldn’t the city be involved in construction and operation of this potential focal point and gathering place? It is all to the good that several council members, city manager and city staff, together with a citizen’s group, are currently involved and that the Council has launched a feasibility study.

A great opportunity also exists to foster arts education if a partnership can be developed with the school district.

• What role should the City Council play in attracting visitors to Federal Way?

The city currently levies a lodging tax to support efforts to attract visitors to our town. I’ve been fortunate to participate on the city’s Marketing Committee to develop maps of local attractions, brochures that attract tourists from Seattle and Tacoma, and events that put more people in our hotels who, in turn, spend more money at our local businesses. I also am involved in the Tourism Grant Committee that specifically funds performances, sports events and other venues that can demonstrate tourism potential.

Who else in our town could orchestrate an overarching plan to stimulate our economy by attracting visitors? It’s not the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber concentrates more on fostering a positive business climate among its members and welcoming new merchants to town. The city, on the other hand, is able to include events, businesses and natural features, such as West Hylebos Wetlands, PowellsWood and the Bonzai/Rhododendron Gardens, in a broader list of attractions.

I think the city, therefore, is in the best position to develop a broad plan to attract tourists and it is logical that they do so.

• What would you do as a City Council member to help reduce traffic congestion on Federal Way’s main roads?

Much of the congestion we see in our town is centered at the access ramps to I-5. As a member of the I-5 Citizen’s Access Committee, I learned that much of this traffic is due to citizens commuting to work via the freeway. As a City Council member, I would seek congestion relief by providing alternate ways to get to and from work.

The first step is beefing up METRO bus service to and from Federal Way by increasing the frequency of buses and expanding the coverage of routes within town. Many people won’t take the bus because many routes have no buses running in the early morning or late at night. We also do not have bus service to our new community center, which we need to address.

Secondly, I strongly support the extension of light rail through Federal Way and down to Tacoma, especially along the I-5 corridor. Commuters would be able to park their cars, ride buses or bicycle to the transit center, and therefore reduce traffic at the freeway access points downtown.

Finally, the I-5 Access Project is headed toward adding a new freeway access ramp to further relieve the 320th and 348th on-ramps of traffic.

• What are the benefits of the proposed annexation that would add 20,000 residents to Federal Way?

The benefits of annexation are many, some of them more subtle than others. Although the addition of 20,000 residents will increase our tax base, the greatest financial gain comes from state funds that help us provide services to the new residents, such as more police officers and patrol cars.

These 20,000 additional residents, many of whom already work or shop in Federal Way, would be able to vote and participate in planning and decisions which affect their quality of life. Currently the King County sheriff serves this unincorporated area but is extremely limited in the policing they can offer. While this large area to the east of I-5 has a direct effect on the safety of Federal Way, it now lies outside the jurisdiction of our city’s police force. By annexing this area, residents there will benefit by a greater police presence and our city as a whole will benefit from more comprehensive community safety measures. In short, it appears that this annexation plan is a win-win situation for everybody.

• What would you do as a City Council member to strengthen the business community and enhance economic development in Federal Way?

As a city council member, I would strengthen our business community by supporting local revenue-generating programs and business incentives. I would work to make permitting an easier and more transparent process. As a small-business owner, I’ve directly faced the difficult challenges of our permitting process. I also know developers have shunned Federal Way in the past because of the arcane, lengthy and circuitous process required by the city in order to build. I would work to address this.

Our town faces continual residential growth in the coming years along with demand for goods and services, but we need to take the long view in deciding where and what to build. Sustainable business practices that ensure a healthy environment and which retain open space and natural features are essential to this plan. We have seen many new commercial and residential developments going up as many trees are coming down. Rather than support a “build-at-all-costs” attitude, I advocate a more measured approach that keeps sustainability and the environment firmly in mind. Economic health is substantially affected by our quality of life. By ensuring that Federal Way remains a great place to live, we will attract the businesses we want and need.

• What legacy would you like to leave if elected to the Federal Way City Council?

I would like my time on the Council to reflect the years when more and more citizens became participants in improving life and environmental health in our community. I would like citizens to think of the City Council as populated people just like themselves who were always looking for new ways to inspire and bring the community together. I would want to look back and see our town as becoming a safer place to live along with a more desirable place to live. In contrast to neighboring cities, I’d like Federal Way to be remembered for the town that identified and protected its parks and open space while developing a vibrant and exciting downtown.

Basically, I’d like our citizens to remember City Hall as “us” rather than “them.” I want to be personally remembered as a council member who supported and lauded the successes of our city and its citizenry by using “we did this” instead of “I accomplished this.” I’d like to see citizens willing and eager to roll up their sleeves and share in charting our future and improving our quality of life. Ideally, we can become known as a community strongly bound together by shared values and participation.

Eric Stavney: (253) 815-7942 or estavney@earthlink.net.

Coming up

Council candidate Hope Elder’s questionnaire answers will be published Aug. 4, followed by Dini Duclos on Aug. 8 and Troy Smith on Aug. 11.

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