Opinion

Dr. Phil's ‘advice’ on a performing arts center in Federal Way

The Mirror scored more on-the-spot counseling with television psychologist Dr. Phil, this time about the proposed Federal Way Performing Arts and Cultural Center. While reading, imagine Dr. Phil’s Southern drawl.

Mirror: Dr. Phil, the Federal Way City Council listed a performing arts center as its top legislative priority heading into 2009. The proposal has momentum and seems destined for reality. However, some people question such a large investment in these tough economic times.

Dr. Phil: It’s time to get real. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. With construction companies outbidding one another, now is a good time to pick a big project that allows Federal Way to hit the ground running when the economy bounces back. In 10 years, the city will be grateful.

Mirror: Do you think an arts center would often sit empty, or fail to compete with arts centers in neighboring cities?

Dr. Phil: I know for a fact this here studio is never empty because we have fun in the audience, don’t we guys? (crowd applauds) Celebrity performers like me could pack the place. If the price is right, the arts center could even host a stop on the Dr. Phil tour. How big is the arts center?

Mirror: Between 500 and 700 seats. It will also cost about $260,000 a year to operate.

Dr. Phil: Who’s going to use the facilities?

Mirror: Local performance groups. For example, the Federal Way Symphony performs 11 concerts a year, mostly at St. Luke’s Church. Suppose all 11 concerts were sellouts in a new 700-seat arts center at an average of $30 a ticket. That adds up to $231,000. And consider the potential for collaborations among the performing groups with a new arts center, such as the symphony and Federal Way Chorale —

Dr. Phil: Hold up there, partner. You just traveled a minute in under 30 seconds —

Mirror: Or the Harmony Kings barbershop chorus, which could attract regional barbershop chorus competitions to the arts center. Pacific Ballroom Dance could light up the big stage with its local teen dancers. Don’t forget about special events the arts center could host, such as the Federal Way Chamber Gala.

Dr. Phil: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch. What do Federal Way folks think?

Mirror: According to council member Jeanne Burbidge, a city survey revealed 62 percent of respondents favored a performing arts center in Federal Way. In fact, this has been a dream for the arts community since Federal Way incorporated 18 years ago. But recently, city council member Jim Ferrell said the proposal is ill-timed, especially when people are losing their homes and jobs. Does he make a good point?

Dr. Phil: If someone out there doesn’t agree the economy is in trouble, then somewhere a village is missing its idiot. Listen, failure is no accident. And when you’re already this low, you can’t fall off the floor. Federal Way needs economic development and stimulus, period. Building an arts center is one long-term way to do it.

Mirror: Supporters say an arts center will attract outside visitors and encourage more business growth downtown.

Dr. Phil: Exactly. And what’s this I hear about The Mirror recommending the city put the arts center up for a public vote? That idea is about as useful as a trap door on a canoe. Don’t let those city council members off the hook. Voters elect council members to make big decisions like this one.

Mirror: We were merely suggesting a public vote because of the current economic climate. A chunk of that money for an arts center is not guaranteed and must come from private fundraising.

Dr. Phil: Listen buddy, don’t make me put your head in my blender. We all know that when the economy is good, governments spend money like escaped convicts with unlimited credit at a brothel. Even if today’s dollar ain’t barely worth a dime, Federal Way can’t let fear paralyze progress.

Mirror: If the state is willing to give Federal Way the money, I suppose we should take it. What about the residents who don’t want this arts center?

Dr. Phil: Listen, some people could start an argument in an empty house or gripe with a ham under each arm. No decision will please everybody.

Mirror: If the sentiment against an arts center were strong enough, surely we would have already seen more prominent opposition, right?

Dr. Phil: Look, sometimes you make the right decision, and sometimes you make the decision right. Here’s one way to put the city’s pursuit of an arts center in perspective: If you’re in love with somebody, you will swim the stream, you will climb the mountain, you will slay the dragon. You’re going to get to her somehow, some way.

Mirror: So are you saying the city is in love with an arts center, or at least the idea of it all?

Dr. Phil: If you have to ask, you’ll never know.

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