Letters to the Editor

Letters to the editor: May 12, 2007

Clearing all the clutter

My thanks to the city and all the volunteers for their efforts at eliminating the graffiti around town. But some locations might really improve with some of the more artistic murals.

Perhaps designated building sides could be selected for “art walks” and promote the talents of some of the rebels.

More enforcement needs to be directed to the garbage signs from real estate agents, tree services and developers that clutter our drives. South 320th Street has a dozen illegal sandwich boards and power pole displays from downtown west that don’t comply with the sign code.

How about some enforcement, and change the law to mandate confiscation and destruction of the signs rather than collection and returning? The real estate agents know their little staked signs aren’t legal. If potential buyers can’t find an address in this age of MapQuest and Thomas Guide, maybe they aren’t desirable residents.

Terry Slaton, Federal Way

Respect the city’s arts

Thanks for The Mirror’s support of the “arts in Federal Way” (“Writing retreat makes its mark,” May 2).

However, Jacinda Howard’s opening paragraph in her article about the Federal Way Arts Commission’s first writers retreat leads me to wonder: When was the last time The Mirror devoted a front page article to any of those other many arts, including the Federal Way Symphony — unique in offering live professional music to this community eight months out of the year?

The symphony just completed its 26th season with Maestro Brian Davenport, musical director. Doesn’t that deserve honorable mention? What about the notable international soloists? And what about the “Symphony in the Schools” program?

The Federal Way Symphony sponsored a program on Oct. 24 that brought the 40-member orchestra to Sacajawea and Sequoyah middle schools. The symphony’s guest artist, a dashing violinist from the Ukraine, came too. All 500 Sequoyah students as well as 200 music students at Sacajawea participated, and according to the symphony office, student raves continue to come in.

The performing arts are not frivolous entertainment. They provide revenue to the city, expand the school curricula and enlarge the world view of Federal Way citizens. To help grow its economy and nurture its residents, this metropolis needs a balanced foundation that includes business, athletics and the arts.

In response to Marie Adair’s letter to the editor, “Is performing arts center necessary?” (May 5):

If we take a long and broad view, and think outside the box of its working title, a “performing arts center” is absolutely necessary for a city on the verge of hitting the 100,000 mark in population.

A performing arts center accommodates the wide spectrum of interests of Federal Way’s citizens. For example, it’s a venue for Federal Way’s professional symphony orchestra, and also for the many other events the orchestra might accompany, such as musicals, operas and dance performances. It’s a place where the Federal Way Chorale can perform.

And if we think globally, or at least not provincially, we can see that a performing arts center is also a facility where businesses can hold conventions, and where schools can hold recitals, awards ceremonies and graduations.

It extends our schools’ mandate to educate children by providing them an opportunity to acquire technical skills like lighting and set building.

So, a performing arts center is really much more than a theater. It’s a magnet, bringing jobs and revenue to the city, as well as adding depth and breadth to the quality of public life.

The possibilities for its use are thrilling to contemplate and the progressive thinking it represents indicates this city will continue to grow in stature and relevance in the 21st century.

Sharon Cooper, Des Moines

Yes to simple majority

I have a few comments about Angie Vogt’s column (May 5) on both the school bond issue and House Joint Resolution 4204 — or as we call it, simple majority.

First of all, thank you for supporting the school bond on May 15 — it is so appreciated! It’s true, your taxes will not go up. Tom Murphy, Sally McLean and all of the other employees that put the Federal Way School District’s budget together do an amazing job.

I also look at it from the eyes of a parent who has had two children go through Valhalla Elementary School. The staff there is incredible; what they manage to do in that environment is inspiring, to say the least.

Now for Vogt’s comments about simple majority. First of all, please note that it only affects school levies, not bonds. Though I would love to be able to have it apply to the bond issues, when the legislation was written, it was commonly known that levies are more important to pass than bonds.

Yes, we need building improvements, but basic operational funding on a consistent basis is much more critical.

Here are some points from Simple Majority 2007, the Washington School Administrators Political Action Committee:

• Winning an election with a simple majority is the American way. It is democracy in action.

• Super-majority requirements let the minority rule.

• The simple majority would strengthen Washington’s “paramount duty,” which is our system of common schools.

• The simple majority is fair. Most local jurisdictions raise taxes with a simple majority vote. Some taxes are imposed with no vote of the people at all.

• School districts rely on local levy funding for programs for kids. On average, about 25 percent of a district’s budget comes from local levies.

• Most levies eventually pass. Sometimes on the second try. The super-majority barrier causes higher election costs and an enormous amount of time and effort. This results in less time and funding for students. A double levy failure has a devastating impact on students, teachers and the community as staffing and program cuts must be made to adjust for the loss of revenue.

• “Stealth” elections are impossible. Current law requires very specific notification to the public, and all elections must be run on specific dates. Mail-in ballots provide every voter the opportunity to easily exercise his or her right to vote.

• Public opinion polls repeatedly show that public schools are a top priority for Washington taxpayers.

Super-majority in Washington was imposed 62 years ago, when the country was just emerging from the Great Depression and World War II — a period rife with economic uncertainty and property tax anxiety.

More than 2,000 school districts existed and voters were often confused. Many property owners feared that higher property taxes would be passed by non-property owners, resulting in a higher tax burden for them or event he loss of their home or farm.

Let’s get back to basics — simple majority. We needed it when I was in school, our children need it, and our children’s children will need it. We will never get a chance like this again.

Sam Rengstorff, Auburn

Vote yes on school bond

Recently, the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce announced that the Chamber Board of Directors voted to endorse the $149 million school construction bond measure that will appear on the May 15 ballot.

At the Chamber, we believe that the more literate a community is, the stronger the workforce, the businesses and the community is as a whole. It is a circle of success that needs to be continued.

Your business community via the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce has dedicated time and resources to help students in our school system. We have done this work through our Federal Way Education and CIS Foundation. This organization has brought nearly $200,000 into our school system; it has brought volunteers into the schools to help mentor kids, and has been a valuable resource for our parents and teachers. Business owners and employees want our schools to be some of the top in the state.

Superintendent Tom Murphy has worked hard to ensure our schools are working effectively and efficiently as possible, which is why we are one of the top 10 school districts in the state. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce ranks Washington among the top states in the nation in its first Education Report Card.

I urge you whether or not you have children in Federal Way schools to vote yes for the May 15 bond measure. The May 15 bond measure will allow the district to provide more streamlined, cost-effective services to schools, parents and the community.

A yes vote is a yes for our community and will not only ensure better schools, but a better community and, in the long run, a better future for all.

Tom Pierson, CEO of the Federal Way Chamber

Studies vs. iPods and cell phones

Well here we go again, the great debate: Should the Federal Way School Board decide to let students bring their iPods and/or cell phones to school?

What is their problem? Are they not the adults who are suppose to make intelligent decisions for all students about what is important in the classroom and what is not?

When are our educators going to take the reins and be the adult, and just say no to having certain distractions in the classrooms? Why is it so hard to just say no? It appears the school board members are very much like our politicians: They can’t make up their minds who should be the leader.

In the case of the school board, who do they listen to, the parents, the teachers, the students? Or does the board, make the decisions for what is best? If they listen to the parents and the students, they are going to get different answers from the teachers and school board.

So I say, Federal Way School Board, make a decision and stick with it. The parents and students will whine if it doesn’t go their way, but they will get over it. What is more important, studies in the classroom or iPods and/or cell phones, with texting, in the school room? You can’t have both.

Pat Gee, Federal Way

How about a text message alert system?

We are strongly opposed to the proposal of banning the use of cell phones and iPods at schools in the Federal Way School District.

It is astonishing that this proposal was ever even drafted, particularly when our district benefited from a cell phone just last month. The use of a cell phone enabled a student at Todd Beamer High School to send a text message to his mother and notify her of a gun at school. This form of communication gave the parent the ability to alert the proper authorities quickly.

Last week at Thomas Jefferson High School, there was an incident and several students contacted their parents with concerns and fears. The knowledge of such events at school enables parents to calm their children’s fear and contact the school for information. With school violence being an issue nationwide, it is understandable why students and parents are apprehensive.

Instead of banning the use of cell phones, the Federal Way School District should study ways of implementing an emergency text messaging system.

After the massacre at Virginia Tech, administrators at colleges and universities across the country have been seeking ways to institute a text messaging system to notify students of emergencies, or improving a system that is already in place.

Locally, Tacoma Community College has installed a system. The University of Washington-Tacoma will have a system installed by this fall as well as the University of Puget Sound. Other leading universities such as Penn State and Texas A&M have a text message alert system.

Our district should recognize the benefits and promote the use of the technology available today as a way to protect our students and not banning the use of the tool.

It is obvious that cell phones are essential and the use of them should not be banned. The students should be allowed to carry a cell phone and iPod and have the use of the cell phone if needed in an emergency. The use of cell phones and iPods in a classroom should be up to the teacher’s discretion; however, students should be allowed to use either their cell phone or iPod during lunch, between classes and before or after school without consequence.

Issues on safety in our schools, educating and graduating successful students should be the school board’s focus rather then discussing frivolous topics of cell phones, iPods, flip flops and pajama pants.

Marianne Best, Federal Way

City needs performing arts center

It is always a mystery to me when someone writes in anger or disgust about a topic they obviously know little about.

Marie Adair’s recent diatribe against a possible performance hall/art center in Federal Way is an example (letters to the editor, May 5). There are too many statements of misinformation in her letter to respond to all, but a few require correction before someone else takes any of it as fact.

First, she writes that “the implication is that the school district would assume the obligation of the ongoing operating expenses.” Truth: We are early in discussions of a possible partnership with the city, school district and private interests. The school district, if a part of this, has expressed no interest in management involvement. Their participation would be in an agreement with land they currently own.

The facility is being discussed as an arts center, with not only performance hall(s), but space for dance and art studios, all rental space. She further shows contempt for the Knutzen Family Theatre and indicates it has little use. Wrong again. The theater is so heavily scheduled that several weekends during the summer have three events a day!

It is a lovely, intimate space, and works well for Centerstage performances and other activities. But it is only 234 seats, not enough for many local groups. For this, she relied on someone who is “one of the few persons that goes to any performances there.”

I attend many performances there, and they usually have good audiences.

She indicates only “the local arts groups (singing, dancing and actor wannabes)” want a big performance facility. I don’t fit any of those categories, but am an admirer of those who have the interest and talent to entertain us here in our own backyard, rather than having to travel considerable distances to enjoy them. Many (Federal Way Symphony and Centerstage) are professional performers, not “wannabes.”

Ms. Adair has no concept of the benefit to the community and our students that a real performance hall would have. When those of us who have been attending our “brainstorming” meetings made a list of who might utilize such a facility, we had about 50 possibilities. Economically, we would have space for major meetings, conferences, debates, competitions (school music, dance and vocal programs) in a theater setting we don’t have now.

Does it matter that the Federal Way School District is the only one in the surrounding area that doesn’t have a theater in any of its schools? Even Sumner has an 800-seat theater. You can’t count Decatur, which has a multi-use room (a cafeteria that moves in its folding chairs for a performance). Students cannot learn technical skills such as sound and lighting in such an environment. Auburn’s theater tech students are in much demand by local live theaters upon graduation from their schools.

Does Ms. Adair realize that some of our high school band and vocal concerts are held in a neighborhood church because of lack of performance space?

Ms. Adair seems to have little use for the arts, yet it has been proven over and over that music students in particular are greatly benefited in other subjects — math and science — by the discipline and thinking they learn in music. Would she disregard creativity as a necessary part of learning? Creativity expressed in all the arts is key to many students’ interest in school. Many careers begin in music, choir and visual arts classes.

As for her comparison with the Sonics and Storm arenas...there is no comparison. Many of us are tired of seeing multi-millionaires, owners and players alike, threatening to leave town if they don’t get bigger and fancier playgrounds at the taxpayers’ expense.

We’re discussing here a need for a facility that most cities have already, that would benefit the whole community in many, many ways. Ms. Adair would not be required to attend anything.

Joann Piquette, Federal Way

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