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Ashamed city used gimmick to fund performing arts center | Letter
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The Mirror's July 11 edition did not state the reason for the congressional rejection of the city's request for federal New Markets Tax Credits funds for the Performing Arts and Conference Center.
Future denials of federal funds are also a certainty, in my opinion.
The Performing Arts and Conference Center project does not remotely qualify as a blight remedy for an impoverished area. The criteria does not pertain to the federal program's intended purpose, just as a request for Community Development Block Grant funds did not when former Mayor Skip Priest pursued that source to fund the center.
Both efforts are a perversion of those programs' intent.
I'm ashamed our city tried that gimmick.
The average Federal Way household income is well above the national poverty level. Conversely, even if not yet a blighted community, the inevitable new taxation will promote that eventual condition, not remedy it.
Vacant commercial property is not blight. Economic development is not a likely consequence of building the Performing Arts and Conference Center, nor is revenue guaranteed, both as demonstrated by our history.
A tax increase is highly likely. Also per our history, Federal Way's utility tax was first imposed in 1996. The promise of economic development was also made in 1996 to beg the city's effort to construct the Knutzen Theatre and Dumas Bay Centre. Those projects were pitched as sure-fire magnets for commerce and prosperity. Ha, that didn't happen.
The local arts that used Knutzen, as friends of city leaders, felt no need to pay to use the theater, nor did they generate revenue. After 13 years of drain on the city's budget, the deadbeat Centerstage Theatre art group inherited the operation of the theater just so the city would be relieved of the budget drain from Knutzen's huge management and operation costs.
Federal Way's history with theater business is a failure. Future money for that again is a proven bad investment.
Federal funding is totally inappropriate. I applaud Congress for realizing that by not approving the city's request for funds. Public money on any level is wrong. Private money is stupid.
Business friendly city policy — not imprudent obligations — attracts new business.
It's unlikely that any source will relieve Federal Way taxpayers of the burden to pay for this project that pleases city leaders but not the average citizen. We'll be saddled with this debt for many years.
Even if a real dumb venture capitalist put up the capital, the biggest expense will come later (maintenance and operation). As we did with the Knutzen Theatre, we'll pay forever or until the facility is unloaded onto another needy arts group as the Knutzen was.
This time the debt will be on an exponentially larger scale and, ultimately, we likely may qualify for impoverished community federal funds to rescue and remedy this project's reckless spending.
Marie Adair, Federal Way