New PACC panel is analysis dream team | Mayor's Memo

Mayor Jim Ferrell - Courtesy City of Federal Way
Mayor Jim Ferrell
— image credit: Courtesy City of Federal Way

Earlier this week, the Federal Way City Council and I had the pleasure of introducing the nine members of the Mayor’s Blue Ribbon Panel for the Performing Arts and Conference Center (PACC).

This is a historic moment for Federal Way in bringing together such an experienced team to help guide a key decision on downtown economic development.

The reasons for assembling a “Dream Team” of local expertise are twofold. First, we need to have the best information possible before making a decision on the PACC. Second, time is of the essence and the panel will help bring us to a place of action.

Before I delve into this, I want to thank the following volunteer panel members: Dave Berger, retired city manager; Scott Brown, director of operations at Piramco; Brian Bullard, branch manager, Columbia Bank; Kathi Ferrari, vice president, Wells Fargo Bank; Rob Harpster, owner of Olympic Aerospace; Steve Lewis, retired president, Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company; Mildred Olle’e, retired college administrator; Pam Smith, director, Auburn Performing Arts Center; and Susan Streifel, CEO of Woodstone Credit Union.

It would be difficult to find a better group of local expertise than this. We deeply appreciate their willingness to serve the community in this effort.

We convened the panel to provide objective, critical analysis of the operational pro forma for the facility, the financing plan and construction estimates, and the economic impact to the city and its downtown core. Simultaneously, an independent consultant is updating the facility pro forma that our panel will review.

In pulling together the panel, I have consulted with Deputy Mayor Jeanne Burbidge and Council members. We all agree that the panel must be objective. Panel membership reflects that goal, containing experts in finance, management, performing arts and other disciplines, and people who’ve not taken public positions pro or con on the project.

The panel will issue findings of fact and report to the City Council at a special meeting in April. All the information the panel reviews and produces will be available at www.cityoffederalway.com/PACC and the public is invited to participate in the discussions at the March 8 Council retreat, a special Council study session in April and future meetings. Additionally, the public can provide input and ideas to the panel at blueribbonpanel@cityoffederalway.com.

This fact-finding effort – and the resulting public conversation – is critical because this community needs to move forward on downtown economic development.

The PACC has been discussed and debated for years as a signature project to jump-start economic development in the city core and create a sense of place in our downtown. It’s time to finish the discussion and move to action: either with this project or with an alternative economic development effort, if the PACC numbers don’t pencil out.

The Council has the heavy responsibility of making that decision. The city and community needs the most complete set of facts and figures upon which to base that decision.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “Reason and free inquiry are the only effectual agents against error.” The panel will provide that final level of rigorous inquiry and fact finding that is needed to reach a decision. This is the essence of democratic government in action: elected representatives and local experts having this discussion in public.

It’s the right direction to take on such an important project, but it has to lead to action. The community’s future is heavily dependent on the success of downtown economic development and it is vital that we begin building that future now.

Jim Ferrell is the mayor of Federal Way.


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