The great Federal Way fish bowl | Andy Hobbs

My former editor discouraged reporters from focusing on happenings at the local university campus. He dubbed that self-contained community a “fish bowl.”

Aside from the literal definition (a transparent bowl where fish live), dictionaries define the term as “a place that lacks privacy.” To wit, consider the fish bowl where high-profile public officials swim. Metaphorically speaking, they are trapped within those glass walls, on display for all to cheer and jeer.

In my editor’s definition, the “fish bowl” represented a narrow view of the region’s overall state of affairs. The word surfaced in his reaction to a story about a feminist protest at the college campus. In the editor’s view, that protest held little relevance for the thousands of taxpayers who would actually read our paper. Most of them probably never thought twice about life at the university.

The term “fish bowl” stuck with me. Everyone lives in multiple fish bowls. The only difference between people and fish is that most people leave one fish bowl to explore another.

Think of the Puget Sound region as a fish bowl, with its own culture, problems and way of life. Our fish bowl is a lot different than, say, the Southern California fish bowl. Their fish bowl is much more crowded and flaky than the rainy fish bowl of Western Washington. And for a comparison closer to home, consider Eastern Washington’s fish bowl, with a culture that’s more dry and conservative. Remember, this observation of Eastern Washington was made from inside the glass walls of our evergreen-laden fish bowl.

Your home is a fish bowl too, and you know best what to make of it. You know every detail within your home’s walls, much like the goldfish who combs every nook of that glass bowl where he lives.

Your neighborhood is a fish bowl, your city is another fish bowl, and your county is yet another fish bowl.

Which brings us to Federal Way. This city is one of the larger fish bowls in the King County collection. Federal Way’s fish bowl has been customized from the inside by residents and leaders, helping the city stand apart from others. One example is Federal Way’s roads, courtesy of a forward-thinking asphalt overlay program native to this fish bowl. Compared to the pothole-ridden roads in Seattle’s fish bowl, we can see that Federal Way is doing something right.

Consider that residents and leaders in Federal Way had the foresight to form this fish bowl in the first place. With rental housing running rampant and the population growing, incorporating as a city was a critical step toward a better quality of life for the area’s residents. Federal Way created its own fish bowl, giving people a place to improve and refine and call home.

Federal Way’s fish bowl brims with potential. The city may never grow outward, but it can and will grow upward.

There is a spirit of innovation blowing in the wind, or should I say, bubbling in the water. It is our duty to harness and tap that spirit — and give other fish a reason to look at Federal Way with envy through our shiny glass bowl.

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