I always knew that someday I would hang up my Czar hat.
I had hoped that it would find a place into some kind of Federal Way Hall of Fame, but today I’m giving it away.
Last Tuesday the City Council approved starting construction of the Performing Arts and Events Center, despite being short more than $15 million ($23 million if you include the former Target property loan).
The resulting mortgage payment of $1 million annually, plus the operating losses of an estimated $500,000 annually will be the equivalent of taking 15 police officers off the streets.
After I again voiced these concerns during the council meeting, in classic events center-supporter fashion, Keith Livingston called me a liar and accused me of simply being anti-government and of having no vision for Federal Way.
Though just the week before Mayor Jim Ferrell also called me a liar, being accused of having no vision for Federal Way was the last straw.
While I will get over Livingston’s and the mayor’s baseless accusations, by voting yes on the events center, I feel as though the council laid to waste most of my efforts over the last decade.
You see, just over 10 years ago Jackie and I purchased our very first home. At my insistence we made sure our home was inside the city limits as I wanted to be part of Federal Way.
For the next decade we worked our butts off trying to make Federal Way a better place.
When our friends had their babies at hospitals in other towns, we made sure all three of our children were born at St. Francis Hospital because we wanted to support the community.
While raising young children and trying to make ends meet, we donated hundreds of hours of time and tens of thousands of dollars of hard-earned money to organizations including FUSION (Friends United to Shelter the Indigent, Oppressed and Needy), Multi-Service Center, St. Francis Hospital, Friends of the Hylebos, Federal Way Chamber, Centerstage Theatre, Federal Way Symphony, Federal Way Chorale, Highline College, Rotary, Boy Scouts of America and many others.
Just last week, I had lunch with Police Chief Andy Hwang to discuss the possibility of creating and sponsoring a “positive ticket” program designed to improve relationships between police and at-risk youth.
A large amount of my work in the community focused on Federal Way Public Schools, which included helping negotiate a $1 million savings on the new district office, securing more than $100,000 in grants and most recently building a track behind Sherwood Forest Elementary.
After multiple meetings with new Superintendent Tammy Campbell, I had also agreed to co-lead an effort to raise $100,000 to create a summer STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) camp for kids at risk of dropping out of school.
Over the last few years I was also given the opportunity to write for the Mirror as the self-proclaimed Czar of Federal Way.
I used my soapbox to blow the whistle on malfunctioning school zone cameras and again when then-Chief of Police Brian Wilson had the audacity to claim the cameras had never malfunctioned.
I wrote again and again about the waste and abuse at South King Fire and Rescue, which helped contribute to two ballot failures resulting in the first positive reforms of the district in more than a decade.
I blew the whistle when the city lied to buy the events center property and when the mayor got suckered into significantly overpaying for the former Target property.
I also discovered that the new events center director, while a lovely person, was coming from a center that was losing more than $500,000 annually.
I helped chase former Superintendent Rob Neu out of town after he wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars traveling the world and whose honesty was questionable.
Each time I wrote a column, I had the Mirror donate my writer’s pay to the Multi-Service Center.
Though being in the public spotlight resulted in countless personal attacks, I brushed them off knowing that Federal Way’s future was too important to be derailed by haters.
While I was the face of most of our efforts, Jackie spent many an evening alone with our kids so I could volunteer on boards and committees.
All together, in the last decade Jackie and I have donated more than 1,000 hours of time and more than $100,000 of hard-earned money towards our dream of making Federal Way a better place. I mention this not to brag (OK, maybe to brag a little), but to silence those who claim I had no vision for Federal Way.
Though I am probably being melodramatic, when the council voted to proceed with the events center — money be damned, citizen input be damned, common sense be damned — it felt to me like the time and money Jackie and I had sacrificed over the last decade was thrown away.
After all, what good is a running track behind Sherwood Forest Elementary or a summer STEM program if the City Council is more concerned about their pet projects than for public safety and transportation?
And so, with the groundbreaking of the events center, comes my resignation as Czar and the end of my decade-long effort to make a difference in Federal Way.
For the next few years, as my children grow up (or at least until we get new city leadership) all of my time, efforts and resources will be focused on my family, my business and to a lesser extent the public schools my children attend.
I wish all of you all the best and I will forever be grateful to all those with whom I had the privilege to meet along the way.
I desperately hope I am wrong about the financial burden of the events center and I hope someday to rejoin the fight for a better Federal Way.
And you’re right, I am being childish, but I’m still taking my ball and going home.
Contact Federal Way resident Matthew Jarvis at email@example.com.