Federal Way falls off top 10 list | Andy Hobbs

Federal Way lost a badge of honor.

The 2010 Census reveals that Federal Way, once the eighth largest city in Washington, has fallen out of the top 10.

With 89,306 residents, Federal Way now ranks 11th in population after being surpassed by annexation-happy cities like Kent, Yakima, Renton and Spokane Valley.

Since 2000, King County’s population has grown 11.2 percent to 1,931,249, according to the 2010 Census. In that time, Federal Way expanded by nearly 7 percent.

Federal Way has often leaned on the “eighth largest city” label as a bragging right. The city’s former rank carried a dignified status, regardless of whether it was earned. Unfortunately, “11th largest city” doesn’t sound as impressive.

Federal Way could annex its way back on the list of largest cities, if being on that exclusive list is important. The last attempt to annex a 4,400-acre area of unincorporated King County (east of Interstate 5) was shot down by voters in 2007. Had it passed, the annexation would have added about 20,000 residents to the city’s population — making Federal Way the sixth largest city on the 2010 list, right behind Bellevue.

Better yet, forget about the top 10 list and remember this old saying: It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.

Federal Way’s so-called fight is right here within the city’s borders. Rather than pursuing a spot on someone’s top 10 list, let Federal Way work as if there are no lists other than its own.

If there’s one road Federal Way must travel, it’s the road toward a higher quality of life. Here are a few areas in which the city is moving in that direction:

1. Schools. A new policy in the Federal Way School District has doubled the enrollment of students in advanced classes. Long-term results remain to be seen. Despite criticisms that the policy “waters down” the advanced classes, the silver lining is that more students are exposed to a higher level of learning.

2. Businesses. The South Sound Regional Business Incubator offers resources, training and information to help small businesses succeed. Strong businesses lead to a stronger tax base that benefits residents, roads and schools.

3. Volunteers. Last week’s One Day Federal Way, for example, brought together more than 300 volunteers to spruce up three schools that needed it. Volunteers who invest time into making Federal Way a better place to live will always see a return on their investment.

The nationwide self-indulgence from the early to mid-2000s has been replaced with a spreading interest in self-improvement. The key is to nurture this interest in Federal Way.

It’s a notion that should top everyone’s list.

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