How would you fix Federal Way? | Editorial

Can we stop using the recession as an excuse for Federal Way’s economic woes?

According to real estate brokers Cushman and Wakefield, our fine city ended 2010 with a commercial vacancy rate 75 percent higher than our South Sound neighbors (37 percent vs. 22 percent). Federal Way was hurt by the recession, and so was every other city. We need to stop hiding behind the recession and accept that something in Federal Way is deeply flawed.

For several reasons, Federal Way should be a mecca of economic development. We are one of the few major cities in Washington not to have a business and occupation (B&O) tax. We have easy access to I-5, Highway 18, the Port of Tacoma and SeaTac airport. We have an abundance of beautiful parks, relatively low crime rates, good roads, high-quality health care and low commercial real estate prices.

So what seems to be the problem?

Some believe the performance of our school district is the “black eye” that deters economic development. Many in the business community believe that despite significant improvements over the past few years, City Hall still harbors anti-business sentiments. Others feel that perhaps the city council is so taken with the pipe dream of being the next Bellevue or Kirkland that it has lost touch with the soul of Federal Way. Some believe that our local laws and regulations are overly restrictive and hinder business growth. Others may believe they are not restrictive enough.

Perhaps Federal Way just has a bad reputation. Sound-bite media coverage over the past few years certainly hasn’t helped our reputation. “Another murder at the Federal Way transit center.” “City Hall forces family-owned business to close.” “8-year-old girl abducted from school playground.”  Despite these headlines, those of us who call Federal Way home know that our city is a great place to live.

Aside from the “vocal minority,” most of our citizens are content with the status quo. In their mind, Federal Way isn’t great, but it’s not bad either. There are advantages to this let-it-be philosophy. Instead of spending huge sums of money expanding parks, transportation and the arts, the city council could focus strictly on the “essentials.” The savings from this approach could result in lower tax rates and a city that remains simply average.

Alternatively, the citizens and business owners in Federal Way could sit down together and take a hard look at what is keeping us from becoming a first-class city. Is it our schools? Do we have a bad reputation? Is City Hall perceived to be anti-business? It is essential every potential business or citizen be asked these same questions. What made you decide not to come to Federal Way?

Only when we have identified the problems, and stopped blaming the recession, can we begin to create solutions. If our schools are broken, how do we help? If City Hall is perceived to be anti-business, how do we fix that problem? If Federal Way has a bad reputation, how do we change it?

Mayor Skip Priest needs to take a strong leadership role in finding ways to identify problems and find solutions. But we, the community, need to help him.

In your experience, what is holding Federal Way back, and how would you fix it? Or are you content with Federal Way simply maintaining its status as average? Share your concerns, your frustrations, your experiences and your ideas.


Contact the Federal Way Mirror's editorial board: editorialboard@fedwaymirror.com

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