What are your expectations for Federal Way? Our elected officials from the city of Federal Way, Federal Way Public Schools, Lakehaven Water and Sewer District, and South King Fire and Rescue, in concert with their key personnel, wrestle with this question every day. Our local officials, like public servants everywhere, want to improve outcomes — which is a management word that is used to either align, raise or lower expectations.
Annually, at the beginning of a new legislative session, these officials meet with our 30th District legislators at a breakfast hosted by the city. This year’s breakfast is January 10 at the Community Center. South King Fire and Rescue is represented but hosts their own public meeting with legislators because they need to include legislators from the 33rd District.
Yes, our elected state legislative gladiators are about to enter into the annual battle of Olympia “Whack-a-Mole,” where all ideas, financial requests, new laws and policy changes — good or bad — are subject to being hit by someone. Unlike the Roman gladiators of old, who fought and died as entertainment for the elite, our modern legislative gladiators are armed with passion, ideas, community expectations and our votes as their directive to move society forward in a way that improves the lives they serve.
However, it is still a gambling game never to be taken lightly. The decisions made are not physically life and death, but our communities and personal lives are governed by the laws they make and budgets they pass. Communities excel or fade away based on tax resources received in the state’s budget process and a community’s future can be altered in the positive or negative based on legislative choices.
We need to appreciate that newly-elected Sen. Claire Wilson is one of 49 state senators and reelected Reps. Mike Pellicciotti and Kristine Reeves are two of the 98 representatives in the state house. Each elected official brings their own ideology, alignments and support base to the arena.
Collectively and individually they have to navigate the tribalism that is party politics, and political parties at times can be schizophrenic. The challenge grows with the addition of lobbying from corporate and monied interests who are grubbing for position and an ever-increasing share. Still the goal is to achieve a positive outcome for us, their constituents.
Corporations and monied interests often have more weight at the table than the needs of people or communities. Their attitude is: it is not personal — just business. When it is out of balance, people and communities lose.
If our legislators are going to serve the needs expressed by local officials and directly benefit the district’s residents, the leverage for their success is defined by and comes from us in the form of continued involvement. That said, it is vital that we as supporters and advocates for our community know and understand what some of the asks are that our legislators are trying to achieve on our behalf.
The city is seeking assistance on multiple fronts. Their funding requests include support for transportation projects, land acquisition on the former Weyerhaeuser campus, support for homelessness programs, economic development funds for light rail planning, ongoing airport challenges, police training, and new youth programming as recommended by the Federal Way Violence Prevention Coalition Steering Committee. The mayor and council are also endorsing the Federal Way Public School’s legislative agenda as a core benefit to the city.
Federal Way Public School’s priorities deal with rectifying how the state determines the funding the district receives. The state’s comparative funding formula does not recognize that this district is in an island that is property poor. The district is currently compared to similar size districts that have a better percentage of highly valued residential homes and commercial properties. Using regional data corrects this inequity. When corrected, it improves the district’s financial structure, enables proper funding of special education as well as upgrades for safety and security for our schools and students.
Lakehaven Water and Sewer District’s legislative, policy and regulatory concerns are generally applicable statewide. Their legislative goals mirror those managed by the Washington Association of Water and Sewer Districts. One item of local concern they request support for is properly funding the Public Works Trust Fund. Previous legislatures have used this fund as a cash reserve to help alleviate shortfalls. When this occurs, it reduces available funding for financing public works projects at very favorable interest rates.
South King Fire and Rescue at present has no pressing legislative issues but they annually ask, at minimum, that the legislators keep them apprised of discussions and legislative proposals that may affect the fire, safety, health and rescue capabilities being provided.
My expectations for our 30th District legislators are simple. Present your ideas and the community’s requests with integrity, exercise leadership, independence, exemplify decency, be a positive and forward-thinking voice, know the benefits, costs and risks when making decisions on what you support, oppose, or legislation you introduce, avoid hypocrisy traps, and you will meet expectations.
If you achieve limiting and reducing the hold that special interests have over legislators and mechanisms of political power, force monied and corporate interests to be transparent, protect personal digital privacy, generate investment in building regional value and opportunity, and do so without losing sight of the needs of those who believed in your potential as legislative gladiators, then you will have exceeded expectations.
Leave nothing on Olympia’s field and you will be champions!
Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at email@example.com.