I have stated in previous columns that Federal Way has the potential to be the premier city in the South Puget Sound. But, and of course there is a but, we the citizens of Federal Way have to be willing to challenge the status quo.
Elected officials run for office to make a difference or to keep someone else from making a difference. The reality of checks and balances or daily process usually becomes their focus. It takes a special skill set to change the course of a city.
Ultimately, it is the citizens’ choice if a city becomes something special or just another also-ran. Often this is based largely on whom we elect and sometimes not elect. Staff skills and imagination are also part of the equation. Even the order in which we elect someone has consequences.
It is my observation that Mayor Jim Ferrell wants to steer Federal Way out of the doldrums and distance this city from the choices made by former Mayor Skip Priest to counter revenue losses from the 2008 recession. However, if Jim Ferrell had been elected in 2010 instead, we might be talking about a different person as our current mayor.
The point is, mayors and elected officials often make choices based on immediate conditions without articulating a long-term vision. Politics can be fickle and opportunities fleeting.
A city’s current status quo is built on past choices, so we need to understand that future status quo will be built by the choices made today. The purpose of governance is to meet current needs, challenge the status quo and do so in a way that sparks imagination and opportunity. If not, this city will live up to Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
So my question to you is, where do you see this city 10 years from now and what steps would you initiate, if you were mayor with this City Council, to achieve your vision? Would your efforts make this city educationally focused, economically prominent and culturally progressive?
How would you deal with a poorly-conceived traffic grid, facilitating the acquisition of right-of-way for light rail to improve mobility and maximize community benefit, a deteriorating retail infrastructure being challenged by Internet-based buying options, an aging housing stock needing significant updating to compete with newer regional suburban offerings and an entrenched business core who has a stake in maintaining status quo where they may be benefiting from the trend toward a lower economic standing?
I know there is a dreamer in all of us. Combine your dreams for this city with some “can do” spirit and willingness to embrace a better future and Federal Way can become the premier city in the South Puget Sound. If your dreams have a “no can do” attitude, are you benefiting from status quo and mediocrity? Don’t bet on our city neighbors being complacent.
City management is a competitive and complex business. Elected officials have to be knowledgeable of what is taking place in their city and its service needs in the present and future, what changes their peers are making, new laws being passed, and the successes, failures or decisions made by local and regional employers that may impact local conditions — good or bad.
Becoming a premier city is hard work and requires openly dealing with what is and where we want to go. It requires forward-thinking leaders with a willingness to serve and think big, combined with a capability to guide staff and citizens down the path of change. As residents, will we settle for status quo or work together on creating a brighter future by embracing change?
Federal Way resident Keith Livingston: firstname.lastname@example.org.