Sunday, February 24, 2008

Press Release: The Federal Way City Council and Management Team's Annual Strategic Planning Retreat

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The Federal Way City Council and Management Team's Annual Strategic Planning Retreat
26 January 2008, 8:45 a.m. - 4:15 p.m.

Final Summary of the Retreat's Key Discussions, Decisions and Agreements

Attending the 2008 Annual Strategic Planning Retreat were: Mayor Jack Dovey; Deputy Mayor Eric Faison; Council members Jeanne Burbidge, Dini Duclos, Jim Ferrell, Linda Kochmar, and Mike Park; City Manager Neal Beets; Assistant City Managers Cary Roe and Iwen Wang; management team members Patrick Doherty, Linda Farmer, Greg Fewins, Donna Hanson, Mary McDougal, Ken Miller, Pat Richardson, Mehdi Sadri, Marwan Salloum, and Brian Wilson; Assistant Police Chief Andy Hwang; city staff members Doug Nelson, Scott Pingel, and John Hutton; and two City residents, Joann Piquette and Lynda Jenkins.

The Council's Decisions and Directions

During the 26 January 2008 strategic planning retreat, the City Council agreed on the following decisions or directions:

Use Of Utility Tax Revenues:

The Council agreed to hold a discussion early in the budget process, possibly as early as February, to review the use of utility tax revenues to fund operating budget expenditures. The Council's interest is ensuring that if utility tax revenues become a permanent source of funding for the operating budget, it is the result of a thoughtful, strategic decision by the Council. The Council requested that these questions help frame the discussion:

1. If the City eliminated or reduced the use of utility tax revenues to fund operating expenses, would the budget need to be cut? If so, what would be the criteria for cutting programs?

2. Under that scenario, what would likely be cut?

3. What other funding sources might be available to avoid the need for budget reductions? For transportation projects, for example, are there "outside" sources of funding that could replace or supplement City funding?

4. And what is our more "global" view of what we want the City's infrastructure to look like?
Community Center:

The Council agreed to review the Community Center's business plan and consider developing a marketing plan sometime later this year, after sufficient data has been gathered from the Center's first year of operations.

The Council is interested in providing an appropriate level of public support and subsidy for the Center. Lacking the kind of information that will be available once the Center has been in business for one year, it is difficult now to determine what constitutes an appropriate level. After late March, when the Community Center will celebrate its first anniversary, the Council will be able to obtain sufficient information to determine whether or not the Center's business plan is accurate and what the level of subsidy will need to be.

The business plan will be reviewed by FEDRAC, and the Parks and Recreation Committee could oversee the development of a marketing plan, but the entire Council is interested in participating in these discussions.

Early in the discussion of the Community Center, Council members articulated these additional interests:

1. ensure the Center is accessible to all Federal Way residents, no matter what their income level;

2. ensure that the Center's membership structure and programs are affordable to families and individuals;

3. ensure the Center plays a role in the community that reflects the best public value; and

4. provide personal or individual benefits for the people who use the Center.

Staff reported on actions that are being taken or considered to attract more people to the facility, actions that might increase revenues from memberships and fees, and reduce the City's subsidy.

(The ideas are summarized in the "Federal Way Community Center: 2008 Strategic Planning Recommendations" that Donna Hanson reviewed with the Council.)

Council members offered some suggestions to expand the public's use of the Center. Because the ideas could affect the operations of the Center, they will be part of the analysis of the business plan. The suggestions included:

1. develop a marketing plan to more effectively promote the Center's services and programs;

2. develop a five-year business plan with assumptions;

3. explore providing better public transportation to and from the Center to provide customers, particularly youth and seniors, access to the facility;

4. offer free use of the facility for children up to five;

5. offer free day care;

6. offer reduced membership rates for the employees of "targeted" businesses, including health care providers such as Group Health and Virginia Mason;

7. Offer one-time free passes through newspapers and newsletters.
Based on staff comments during the discussion, it appears that some of these ideas have been tried or are about to be implemented. The Council's suggestions will be considered as the business plan is evaluated during 2008.

Performing Arts Center:

The Council endorsed the process Neal presented for making a decision by mid to late Spring 2008 about the future of the Performing Arts Center.

The process Neal proposed for making a "Go/No Go" decision sometime in June is summarized on the paper "Performing Arts Center -- Council Retreat Update." Based on the review of the paper, Council members commented that the State Legislature's approval of a Public Facilities District, which would allow the City to seek state funding for the Center, is likely to be an important factor in the Council's decision.

In a brief related conversation, Council members focused on the long-term future of Dumas Bay Center, and stated that the Finance Committee may need to address why Dumas Bay is not meeting its goal of becoming self-sustaining facility, and what could be done to achieve that goal. It is expected that the future of Dumas Bay Center will be addressed as part of a future budget process.

"Green City" Strategic Plan:

The Council concurred that the issuance of a Request for Proposal (RFP) should be delayed until after the Council has a deeper discussion about the degree of investment the City should make in becoming a "Green City," and how those investments can result in the City getting the most for its money.

There appeared to be general support for a strategic plan, rather than the City taking piecemeal steps to become a "Green City." But there is not yet agreement among Council for how the strategic plan should be developed and implemented. Among the choices for developing the plan are:

1. hire a contractor, who could become a temporary staff person; and

2. hire a consulting firm.

A future Council-of-the-Whole discussion will be held to focus on not just how to develop and implement the strategic plan, but to envision the City's goals, discuss the level of public investment that could be needed to achieve those goals, and identify strategies to enable the City to get the most "bang for the buck."

Economic Development:

The Council agreed that FEDRAC should further discuss and assess the ideas listed below for promoting existing businesses and attracting new ones.

The Council's overarching interest appears to be enticing the citizens of Federal Way to spend their money in the City. To achieve this interest, the Council identified and discussed ideas to promote existing businesses and to attract new businesses to the community. The ideas are within five categories:

1. Make Federal Way a destination shopping area. To build this strategy, the City needs to ask: What environment do we want to create? What existing businesses reflect or promote that environment? What kinds of businesses do we need to attract to enhance it?

2. Market the City and its businesses. The City could help market and promote existing businesses so that the public is more aware of the diversity reflected by them, and the services they offer. To attract new businesses, the City could strengthen its efforts to communicate a positive image of the community's resources and attributes, including its quality of life, and the City's services.

3. Strengthen the culture of customer service. Ensure that the ethic of customer service is infused throughout City government, from the Council to front-line staff.

4. Coordinate with other governments. Collaborate and coordinate with other governments who serve generally the same constituency -- Lakehaven Utility District, the Federal Way School District, and the South King Fire and Rescue District--to ensure that our individual actions do not inadvertently undermine the City's economic development goals, and to ensure that we act in concert on strategies to achieve them.

5. Coordinate with businesses during construction. As the City -- and other governments -- improve roads, sewer and water lines, and other capital facilities, we need to try to minimize the impacts on businesses by closely communicating with them on such matters as the construction timelines and what they might need during construction to be able to remain open.
Among the ideas "put on the table" for implementing these ideas were:
1. create a task force of citizens and business representatives;

2. encourage, support or contribute to expansion of the Small Business Development Center;

3. develop a mentorship program for new, small businesses;

4. work with the Chamber of Commerce;

5. survey and interview business owners; and

6. require that businesses more prominently display their addresses.
Dini, Eric and Mike, members of the FEDRAC, will work with staff to further explore these ideas at the Committee, and at a future date the entire Council will revisit the topic of what the City can do to achieve its interest in sustaining economic development throughout the community.

Communicating The City's Vision:

The Council identified a number of strategies to strengthen the public's understanding of and support for the City's vision. Two that appeared to generate the most interest and enthusiasm were:

1. make the City's vision more visual; and

2. divide the City into five or six sections, and strategically coordinate and communicate about City programs and projects that serve them.
A principal interest expressed at the retreat was to build community awareness, understanding and support for the Council's vision, and the actions it is taking to achieve that vision. The goal of the Council is to receive the public's support to continue to do "big things" rather than be a "caretaker."

The Council agreed that an important step in capturing the public's imagination is to let citizens see what the City's vision will look like. For example, building and displaying a model of how downtown will appear when the City's vision is successfully implemented is more likely to attract attention and interest, and result in understanding and support, than the words in a vision statement or a comprehensive plan.

The Council also supported the idea of dividing the City into five or six sections -- larger scale neighborhoods -- and coordinating the services and programs of the departments, and of other governmental entities, so that citizens detect more clearly what the City is doing for them and how its services and programs are benefiting them. This strategy could affect how capital projects are coordinated and scheduled within a section of the community, or how departments coordinate with one another in hosting neighborhood meetings or communicating specific messages. The idea might also result in the designation of a staff "coordinator" for each section.

The staff's comments indicated that greater coordination by City departments, and between the City and other governments, is underway. But both Council and staff expressed an interest in further exploring these ideas.

Other ideas for communicating the City's vision to the citizens included:

1. the Council hosts "town hall" meetings in neighborhoods;

2. empower citizens to do things for their neighbors and the community;

3. Council members periodically attend neighborhood meetings;

4. help the residents of multi-family dwellings and non-English speaking residents to become more involved in the community;

5. and communicate more "forward looking" messages than ones that dwell on past achievements.
The discussion ended with Council members and staff providing some advice to the Mayor about the tone and content of his up-coming State of the City Address. Suggestions included: bring visuals to help communicate the City's vision and goals; focus more on the future than the past; highlight one or two things that reflect the City's vision, and that the City wants to accomplish in the near-term future; bring a handout listing recent accomplishments so that more of the speech can address the future; suggest what citizens and organizations can do for the City; and recall a recent newspaper article that asked "Where is the heart of the City?" and answer the question.

Coordination With Other Governments:

The Council agreed to more actively engage the leadership of the School District, Sewer and Water District, and Fire District on policy, program, project, and financial issues to strengthen communication, coordination, and collaboration. The Council said working with the School

District appears to provide the greatest opportunity to make a difference for the community.
The Council has three primary interests in seeking greater coordination with other governmental
entities in the Federal Way area:

1. ensure that the City's goals are advanced, rather than unintentionally or inadvertently undermined, by the actions of the other governments, and vice versa;

2. strengthen service to the public-at-large and to the business community through coordinated inter-jurisdictional policies and actions; and

3. look for "economies of scale" as the various governmental entities serve basically the same constituents.
One project that the Council identified for potential coordination was partnering with the School District on the District's plans to construct a new school adjacent to Lakota Park. The School District's plans could affect City decisions about the scope and timing of capital improvements in the park, and the Council noted that it would be in the citizens' and both governments' best interests to explore ways to partner on this project.

The discussion also highlighted the need to coordinate closely with all three governments, but particularly with Lakehaven, to minimize impacts of commercial-area construction activities on existing businesses.

Finally, one suggestion for achieving "economies of scale" was for the four governments to create one pool from which to draw temporary employees.

2007 Accomplishments And The Factors That Produced Them

At the beginning of the retreat each Council and management team member identified the most important accomplishments of 2007. Here is the composite list of accomplishments:

* purchase of downtown property to achieve the City's vision for downtown;

* through LIFT, the State's $25 million investment in the City's infrastructure;

* opening the Community Center;

* expansion of community support for the Performing Arts Center;

* the first steps toward the "Green City" strategic plan;

* investment of $1.5 million in emergency preparedness equipment;

* dependable and reliable systems;

* completion of phases of the Pacific Highway South improvements, and of the HOV lane;

* the "buzz" generated in the media and throughout the community by the City's economic development initiatives;

* the planning for the downtown park, which has been fun for staff;

* "challenge grant" for the food bank;

* the Council working together so collaboratively;

* $2 million in federal "earmarks" for Federal Way transportation projects;

* cross-departmental coordination to eradicate graffiti;

* generosity of City employees as demonstrated by the United Way campaign contributions;

* common sense approach of both Council and staff;

* Proposition #1 implementation, including the hiring of new police officers;

* coordination with other jurisdictions;

* the Symphony Tower project;

* the Council serving as a catalyst for change and being more responsive to citizens;

* improvements in the permitting process, and their successful implementation;

* a willingness by the City to do things out of the ordinary;

* the revised City Code;

* hiring of new staff throughout City government, including the communications director, and in the Law Department and in Human Resources;

* new code enforcement tools and the revamping of the code enforcement process;

* the City's first-time-ever action to remove serious overgrowth and to refurbish the

* landscaping of a neighborhood eyesore;

* seven percent decline in "index" crimes;

* the "Safe Cities" Initiative;

* getting Federal Way transportation projects on the regional list;

* the increasing respect the City is gaining from its involvement in regional forums;

* $3 million for Camp Killworth

* $40 million in state and regional funding for the City
After listing the principal accomplishments of last year, we identified the reasons why we were successful. The major factors cited were:
1. the Council is more experienced and "seasoned," and works well with the community;

2. each Council member brings something unique to the group; and

3. the strength and creativity of the staff.
The Council and management team also assessed what had not been as successful in 2007 as expected, and pinpointed the inability to generate greater citizen involvement in the community and a deeper understanding of the City's vision and the actions it is taking to achieve that vision. This may be reflected in the defeat of the annexation proposals.

Potential Future Issues For Council Consideration

As the retreat concluded, we listed issues that may soon be on the Council's "horizon," including: the Classification-Compensation Study, which is likely to have ramifications for the 2009-'10 budget;

* performance goals to demonstrate how the City is doing in achieving its vision, mission and goals;

adding to our vision and goals the concept of Federal Way as a "Green City;

affordable housing and housing affordability;

the land clearing and grading ordinance, which will be transmitted to Council in February;

* a City-sponsored tree planting project.
The last part of this session was a brief discussion among the Council about commitments to citizens in response to their questions during Council meetings. The Council expressed three interests in the subject:
1. the City must be responsive to citizens by ensuring their questions are answered;

2. in responding to the citizens' questions or comments at Council meetings, the Council needs to be careful to not provide the wrong answer or commit the City to a course of action that conflicts with existing processes and, more significantly, City policies; and

3. Council members do not want to appear to favor one group over another.
To achieve these interests, the Council agreed that in the future, citizens' questions asked during Council meetings will be referred to the City Manager, who will be accountable to the Council for providing the answers, unless answering the question is a simple task that does not require interpretation of City policies, rules and procedures, and does not require a commitment of City resources.




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