Opinion: Marianne Lincoln, Editor
Prosperity attracts people. People create need for more housing. More housing creates a need for more roads, buses, fire protection, policing, parks, libraries, sewer extensions, and more.
The people that say, “If you build they will come,” are completely missing the boat. Frederickson was barely a few houses surrounded by woods 25 years ago. Now Frederickson has tripled in population according to Pierce County’s land use page. “They” aren’t just coming, they are here.
The roads taking commuters to employment centers are overcrowded. Even in the non-rush hours, the roads and freeways are packed. Transit promoters say – pack ‘em in and put ‘em on buses. They resist efforts to widen bridges over the Puyallup or Nisqually Rivers, yet they aren’t living the consequences like people in Orting and South Hill. Those Transit promoters that drive the I-5 corridor capitulate to adding trains to Lakewood and Dupont, yet they deride those who complain that Frederickson and South Hill, Parkland and Spanaway need a train too. Those place are inside the RTA; they pay the taxes for transit. There is a rail to Frederickson, but it is in poor condition and has been restricted to non-passenger trains. Instead, a population the size of the City of Tacoma is landlocked to driving cars on packed streets. Even Fire and Rescue response times are severely impacted by the backups.
When Federal Funding trickles into the area, it passes through the Puget Sound Regional Council, a four county board made up of elected officials from those counties. The four County Executives sway the agenda. City and County officials make the decisions on where the funds go. King County carries a lot of weight and being more populous gets the bulk of the funding, although their draw as the center of employment and high housing process, forces the bulk of the transportation problem out to its surrounding counties.
Then there is another organization that subdivides the federal money for roads within the county. That is the Pierce County Regional Council. Made up of Mayors from each city and two County Councilmen and the County Executive, the PCRC and its subcommities, set policy and determine where the funding is allocated. In short, the region between Lakewood and the Puyallup Valley and south of Puyallup and Tacoma has no voice and gets almost completely ignored. That is, unless the sweetheart tax base of Frederickson needs some attention. The County has focused its planning efforts to create a heavy population surrounding the industrial park and even within its website, bolster only that newly populated community to consider incorporation. Hence, it has tripled (300%) its growth in 25 years.
The growth outside of city boundaries has provided additional tax base to Pierce County, but their unwillingness to also spend money on sorely needed infrastructure has left them behind state standards for policing, parks, and other expensive necessities.
So here we are in 2020, wondering why our property taxes have skyrocketed. In a fine example, Nelson elementary in September had 150 more students show up for school on its first day this year than the district had projects. Frontier Middle School had 120 more students than projected. At 30 to 35 per classroom, that is an immediate need for 4 to 5 more classrooms and teachers at each school! The school districts that are growing, Puyallup, Bethel and Franklin Pierce all passed much needed construction bonds. As the new Daybreak development fills out on 200th Street and the Orting-Kapowsin Highway, the Orting School District is going to take a hard hit as well.
And so we suffer the pain of growth, in our pocket books, as we, the current residents, pay for the infrastructure to accommodate the additional population. Local cities have councils to manage their plans for growth and infrastructure. Local cities have services already in place. Local cities have the ability to slow building permits. Unincorporated areas are at the pleasure of county. Who you elect for county council should be severely cross examined in campaign forums regarding their opinions about growth. You should watch their Public Disclosure reports to see if they are funded by developers who prosper by the growth and fight impact fees that help put the infrastructure in place. And watch the census, for growth data and how the parties redistrict the outer unincorporated areas to consolidate power in Tacoma and other cities.
Growing pains in a community can be controlled by putting knowledgeable citizens in positions of power. If you elect developers, or the people they promote, you end up where we are. If you look back over the past 50 years, the developers are the ones who mostly fund candidates for county office. Look to your local community associations, meet with them, find out what is happening, who is carrying the ball and who is hiding it. Demand better of those running for office. And, most of all, go to your council meeting when you can and write when you cannot. They absolutely need to hear from you, especially if you spend more than 1 hour a day commuting to your job.
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[Editor Lincoln was born in the late 1950’s, in Summit, a neighborhood which is now mostly obliterated due to the construction of SR512 in the 1960’s. Her mother was an early president of the Frederickson Clover Creek Community Council. She attended Bethel Schools while they were on year-round schedules in the 1970’s. She was on the Bethel School Board from 2009-2012 and spent over 25 years working on local political campaigns, Republican, Democrat and non-partisan. In 1994, with 3 other local parties started the Spanaway Community Association (1994) which exists today, mostly through this communication tool called the Pierce Prairie Post (c. 2012).]