Opinion

Not too late to reverse trend for Federal Way | My Perspective

Keith Livingston - Contributed
Keith Livingston
— image credit: Contributed

In a city of 93,000 people, we have at least that many opinions on how to improve our education system, municipal services, fire department, water delivery and waste water removal.

Your perspective on how to improve or where to invest in Federal Way or any community tends to be skewed to your personal reality.

The problems you want to fix or solve are yours and your questions deal with how do I get my problems solved when they want me to conform to their system or systems? You might have a better chance solving your problems by asking how do we improve this community for all?

Some municipalities oversee and control almost all of their services. I am not advocating one entity for oversight of all service delivery but having four local fiefdoms with elected royals and selected senior staff with entitlement attitudes does not make the most efficient use of precious tax and fee-driven dollars.

If you have been here a long time, you are accustomed to this multifaceted service delivery approach. Things are getting done but are you being well served by having so many competing elected princes with their supporting cast, or would you be better served by being able to view your flow of tax dollars through one window? Or do you feel you are better served by trying to keep up with what is going on to meet your local quality of life needs by viewing multiple windows of government process at the same time?

Changing the existing service delivery structure might make sense for efficiency but that would cause tribal warfare. The current system is a patchwork based first on rural needs and then the needs of several designated unincorporated districts as defined by King County. As these districts became incorporated, Des Moines and Federal Way for example, they began using their Home Rule Charter status to pass ordinances and establish a more focused identity.

However the elected officials of a newly incorporated Federal Way found themselves sitting on the back row of the bus in terms of trying to steer a clear path forward. The early city leaders found it harder to get basic municipal controls established, while working to assure that none of the revenue streams or authority of the already-entrenched governmental entities would be challenged by the new kid.

One of the lingering animosities for some residents within the previously unincorporated area is that with incorporation a new taxing authority was formed. Their King County taxes remained about the same but the fledgling taxing authority of the new municipality of Federal Way was just beginning.

As residents we all share in the governance challenge. So if you want your problems solved you have to convince elected officials that your ideas merit consideration and would improve conditions or services for the community at large. Sadly, within Federal Way there is a contingent of residents that are governance adverse and view growth and change negatively.

Federal Way as a municipality has worked to overcome its back of the bus starting point. For this community to solve one of its biggest challenges – its trend toward poverty – it will require more citizen support and smart investments.

Had Federal Way invested in developing a cultural infrastructure from day one and valued its education system, this community would be on a much stronger economic path today. It is not too late to reverse the trend and build a city with a strong educational and cultural focus.

However, if no real investment occurs, Federal Way residents will eventually pay more taxes for less service. Minimal investment is an expensive choice.

Federal Way resident Keith Livingston: keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com

 

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