PAEC a smart strategic investment for city

Federal Way is growing up, but its growth continues as a bit of an ugly duckling.

Depending on your world view, you might be in the camp of managing this city’s growth by thinking the best way is for our elected officials to focus on adding more police officers while being proactive on homelessness issues. Both issues are frequently discussed in the Federal Way Mirror. Both are issues that need to be discussed.

The other camp is concerned about those issues but is also supportive of investing in strategic economic development programs such as the Performing Arts and Event Center. In addition to the PAEC, our elected officials have been facilitating an anchor hotel supporting the PAEC and destination tourism, a new city center park and bringing a branch of the University of Washington to Federal Way.

They are two very different approaches with very different outcomes. The libertarian cry for small government needing basic infrastructure combined with a strong police department and adequately resourced fire and medical services comes from camp one. Yes, things work and work well enough to attract a citizenry that appreciates less community, wants to be left alone while believing everyone around them should desire keeping government programs to a minimum because that means, to them, low taxes.

Camp two understands that Federal Way’s population will continue growing in the current economy regardless of what our municipal government does. But, at the same time, it understands that growing a city organically means long-term stagnation trending toward economic decline. This creates strain on the community, requiring more investment in police and social services. Slow or no middle- to upper-income growth also means a stressed tax base. Under this scenario, a city’s quality of life or regional identity is not likely to improve in any significant way.

Due to the slow exodus of Weyerhaeuser, as the city’s prize corporate tenant with many of its ancillary businesses leaving in the 1990s and early 2000s, Federal Way has already suffered a long economic recession. World Vision has its world headquarters here, and that is a complement to this city, but no corporations of national significance have filled the offices once occupied by a strong, well-paid, middle class work force.

A city that sits on its hands and does very little investing will, in the end, get what it deserves, which is nothing. Federal Way has to decide what it wants to be as a city as it continues growing up. As residents of Federal Way, we can choose to be the forever-ugly duckling or reach for being a swan.

Those in camp one, while philosophically pure to a small government thesis, will in the long run not grow or build a vibrant community. Those in camp two believe in the premise that a rising tide lifts all boats.

The PAEC is a resource that brings people of all walks of life together. Yes, it is true that not all people will go to the PAEC for a free or paid event, but the PAEC will become a valued regional event center and presentation stage, thereby making Federal Way a better place to live. We all deserve to have access to quality amenities close to home.

The PAEC is a smart strategic investment for Federal Way. It makes this city more attractive to families and companies who desire and appreciate cultural resources being easily accessible. The PAEC’s opening in August of this year is a win-win for everyone in Federal Way.

Keith Livingston, Federal Way

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