Bringing Federal Way from ‘Felony Way’ to ‘Freakin Awesome Way’ | If I were Czar

Matthew Jarvis - Jarvis
Matthew Jarvis
— image credit: Jarvis

I’m tired of living in “Felony Way.”

I’m tired of getting up each morning wondering if the windows have been broken out of my car, or if my office will have been tagged with spray paint, or which one of my friends will have had their home broken into by an organized crime ring.

I’m tired of trying to figure out what in the hell the Federal Way school board was thinking when they traveled to Europe, gave the superintendent a raise without demanding results, or implemented a new grading system without thinking through the consequences.

I’m tired of wondering if my kids will be among the 30 percent of students who don’t graduate Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) or if they will be lucky enough to win the lottery (literally a lottery) to get into FWPS preferred schools.

I’m tired of wondering if there will be any parking spots left at the transit center, or if there will be room on the bus to Seattle, or if I’ll witness someone being shot in the process. I’m tired of a City Hall that thinks economic development means waiting for the phone to ring, or who marginalizes anyone who questions their policies. I’m tired of the shenanigans of the South King Fire & Rescue (SKFR) commissioners. Most of all, I’m tired of hearing our fair city referred to as “Felony Way.”

Here are five steps our community can take today that can take us from “Felony Way” to “Freakin’ Awesome Way.”

1. Measure everything and demand accountability – From City Hall, to FWPS to SKFR, every government organization in town needs to identify three to five measurements that define their success. Every school board, city council and commissioner meeting should start with looking at where we are with these measurements and who or what is responsible for our success or failure.

2. Set realistic goals and demand accountability – The superintendent recently announced a goal of 100 percent graduation. While these types of goals typically receive thunderous applause, how about a realistic goal of graduating just 71 percent of kids on time (2012 on-time graduation was 70.2 percent)? How about we tie the superintendent’s $40,000 raise to this number? Heck, if he can get on-time graduation rates to 80 percent, I’ll campaign for a $100,000 raise (rigging the grading system doesn’t count).

3. Stop hiring outside “experts” and start utilizing our local experts – On multiple occasions, former Superintendent Tom Murphy personally invited local community members to give feedback on school policy. I don’t know if Tom ever implemented our recommendations, but either way, he created an enormous amount of community support.

On the opposite end of this spectrum, the city is ignoring experienced local businessmen like Jeff Stock and Byron Hiller in favor of outside “experts,” while a group of 100 parents were able to get multiple TV interviews before they could get a meeting with school district administration.

4. Actively promote Federal Way – Our town has a lot to offer. Unfortunately, the policy of City Hall has largely been one of waiting for the phone to ring. This includes several city staffers who are adamantly opposed to prospecting for new business.

As such, we have spent the last 15 years watching our local economy decline. Regardless of the outcome, Councilmember Kelly Maloney’s efforts to attract a university satellite campus is a great example of what our mayor and economic development director should be doing every day.

5. Leverage the media – While bad news may sell best, we have so much more going for us than just shootings, “F-rated” schools, malfunctioning speeding cameras, nepotism at SKFR and allegations of police brutality. We need to be constantly feeding the media stories that focus not only on our good side, but our many sides that are better than any other city.

When Seattle announces that they have turned parking spots into mini parks, we should talk about our community gardens and the Hylebos Wetlands. When they talk about trying to fix potholes, we should dare them to find a pothole in Federal Way.

Done correctly, these five steps will all but guarantee a transition from “Felony Way” to “Freakin’ Awesome Way.” Without them, we will be doomed to witness yet another decade of economic decline.

Contact Federal Way resident Matthew Jarvis at matthew@jarvisfinancial.com.


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