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Federal Way to state: Show me the money

State money for a performing arts center, seaweed removal and infrastructure overhauls top the city's wish list as the 2009 legislative session approaches.

On Nov. 25, a city council sub-committee discussed Federal Way's top priorities for legislative backing. In January, the council will ask State Sen. Tracey Eide, State Rep. Skip Priest and State Rep. Mark Miloscia — who all represent District 30 — to help Federal Way secure state funding for a performing arts center, seaweed removal in Dumas Bay and road revisions, such as the City Center Access Project. An amendment to the state's assault statute (as it applies to look-alike weapons) as well as support for affordable housing will also be sought.

The agenda does not vary much from that presented in 2008, but the economy has plummeted and the state budget deficit has risen. Even though Eide, Miloscia and Priest have shown support of the agenda items in the past, the city must not be too confident in receiving funding, city spokeswoman Linda Farmer said.

"We are really interested to see how much of the local projects remain a priority in a tough budget year," she said.

The full city council will vote on whether to accept the proposed agenda on Dec. 2. It will be presented to the state legislators Jan. 8. The 2009 legislative session begins Jan. 14 and concludes March 13.

Performing Arts Center:

A performance center is the city's number one priority this session.

The venue is 20-plus years in the making and will provide entertainment value as well as create new jobs and stimulate further economic development, Farmer said.

"The performing arts center is really the centerpiece of the agenda," she said.

Federal Way will encourage legislators to lobby for ongoing funding, preferably from the King County Local Financing Options Task Force. A $5 million earmark in the 2009-2011 capital budget will be pursued as well. Additionally, the city council wishes to ensure a $325,000 funding recommendation through the Building for the Arts program during state budget deliberations. Federal Way hopes to secure $10 million to $15 million in state funding over several years for this project.

"This (performance) center is critical to the development of the core of Federal Way and a big step for South King County," Eide said in a press release. "The city has really done their homework on plans for the center and the funding will help to get the ball rolling."

Dumas Bay seaweed:

Federal Way requested state funding last year to remove seaweed overgrowth in Dumas Bay, but was turned down by Gov. Christine Gregoire in the last days of the legislative session.

Eide personally took up the effort with the state's Department of Ecology. She was successful in convincing the agency to match Federal Way's $50,000 for algae removal, some of which took place in September. Eide continues to be outspoken on the issue.

"We’re finding a way here to solve this problem and provide tools for counties, cities and the state to work together," she said in a February press release. "There is a real human element to this; it’s made a lot of people’s lives miserable around Dumas Bay and it also causes health effects."

This year, the city will once again seek money to start a beach management district to periodically address cleanup and environmental needs at Dumas Bay, Farmer said. The seaweed growth has exploded in locations throughout the Puget Sound region, Seattle's Fauntleroy Cove being one example. These areas may establish their own management district.

"We are looking for an ongoing revenue source to funnel into studies of the ongoing causes (of the seaweed outbursts)," Farmer said.

Infrastructure:

Funding for local and state infrastructure improvements will once again top the city council's wish list.

Of utmost importance is protecting existing support for local projects, specifically the Highway 161/Interstate 5/ Highway 18 interchange — also known as the "Triangle project" — and the City Center Access endeavor. The city will mention the projects in print as a reminder of their importance, Farmer said.

Assault statute:

Stemming from an incident this year, the city requests additional language to be included in the third-degree assault statute.

On May 10, Federal Way police officer Bryan Walsh witnessed a vehicle prowl in progress. The suspect took off running and Walsh pursued him. During the chase, the suspect aimed what appeared to be a semiautomatic pistol at the officer and yelled "You better stop following me," according to court documents.

Walsh, believing the gun was real, fired two shots at the suspect, according to the same documents. The shots missed the man, whose weapon turned out to be an Airsoft pistol — a gun replica incapable of inflicting serious harm. The man was charged with third-degree assault, which carries a punishment similar to what he could have faced if he had punched or kicked Walsh, said Dan Clark, King County Prosecutor's Office Assistant Chief of the criminal division, at the time of charging.

The city plans to urge legislators to add language that would increase jail time by up to 12 months for someone using a replica firearm to threaten a police officer during a criminal activity.

"This incident that occurred here in Federal Way was pretty serious and I want to be supportive of our officers and their performance of their duty," Wilson said in September. "We could have had a death fairly easily."

Affordable housing:

The council plans to pursue funding and assistance programs to address the need for affordable housing in Federal Way and South King County. Encouraging construction of such housing in conjunction with multi-use and transit-oriented projects is a goal. Offering incentives, such as waiving State Environmental Policy Act requirements on low-income projects, is another idea for approaching the subject. Taking steps to protect mobile home parks from being bought out for development, thus displacing residents, is yet another affordable housing move the council supports.

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