What can we fix? What needs fixing? As Americans, we have a culture of being builders. We build and fix things. Since moving here from Texas, I have read multiple articles and letters on what needs work in Federal Way. We have a new mayor who ran a campaign on the slogan “we can do better.” What will he fix?
I too have expressed a desire to see certain elements of Federal Way improved. I know it is easy to have an opinion but it gets far more complicated when someone asks the simple question, “how?” That question adds details to the equation. Most people believe where they live can be improved and they are good at stating what they believe needs work.
The question of “how” begins framing the challenge. I know when I take my car in for repair, I describe the symptoms and the mechanic takes my ideas and diagnoses the problem. Generally, this means I get a call a few hours later telling me they have found problems and have solutions. This is when I learn if the repairs are new-car expensive or I am able to keep the current ride a little longer.
As car owners, we appreciate when our transportation works flawlessly and costs little to operate. But at the same time, most of us are not skilled enough or have the tools to repair a car. We often need help and have to trust others to do work for us.
The best friends we have at the city of Federal Way and governmental entities in general are not our elected officials, but their staffs. The elected officials are there to assure accountability and describe symptoms of what needs fixing. Their staffs develop and articulate solutions. Officials also listen to the staffs’ point of view of what they believe the needs are. Feedback is provided and collaboration occurs on what is possible.
I know from having been a staff person at a city, the majority of decisions made by elected officials are mundane and keep the wheels of work and serving the public turning. Our elected officials become the face and voice of the community and their value to us is they suggest what needs fixing and ask the “how” questions, while directing staff to find and articulate solutions.
If our elected officials are big thinkers, skilled at asking “how” questions and choose to play nice in the sandbox, generally we are well served. The better the personnel, the better the solutions and the same for elected officials.
I have heard from some in the community that our elected officials need to tap into the wealth of local knowledge we have to improve our governmental operations and services. To me this is an interesting misnomer. Our elected officials are our window into accountability and managing the challenge of fixing problems by working with staff at an executive level.
Expertise and public opinion are always welcome, but just because it is offered from the public or a local source is respected, it does not mean they are correct or the solutions offered will work. It is never that simple. I know public dialogue and advocacy are necessary for change. It is best expressed, as an idea, opinion, or a concern with the intent of benefiting the community.
As a person who has offered ideas and opinions, I appreciate they will be debated, rejected, revised and if accepted may take years to become reality. The exchange of ideas, learning the depth of the challenge and using the best resources and consultants available to facilitate long-term benefits and steady improvement for the community are what I expect from our leadership to keep this city functioning like new.
Federal Way resident Keith Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org