A closer look at Federal Way and our sense of self-worth | Livingston

Let’s face reality — we are looking rough around the edges.

We have bridge builders, moat builders, and those who want nothing to change. Welcome to every day Federal Way. The political reality show we are experiencing is one thing and how we live our lives between the decisions that get made, or not, is another. The consequences are real, but responsibility is elusive.

Being honest with each other, we know that Federal Way is struggling at the moment and is not likely anytime soon to claim the mantel of being a premier city. Is it a decent place to live? That answer is scalable based on where you live within our city, your neighborhood, neighbors, crime activity, how you use the city’s resources, and your tolerance for a city that appears to be running in place and losing ground.

Let’s face reality — we are looking rough around the edges. Parts of our town have become downright ugly and business owners don’t need to upscale when the clientele does not care and those that do, hold their noses, or go elsewhere.

At the moment we lack a sense of self-worth. We have no marque name corporation or business profile setting a directional synergy that brings value and a sense of pride that says: I want to do business, live, and be in Federal Way. For those of us who call Federal Way home, we need to be frustrated because we are losing value.

Crime and being in the news for negative things people do shape perceptions. We have plenty of bad behaviors to overcome. Hearing automatic guns being fired late at night in your neighborhood is an eye-opener that things are not right.

Having a SWAT team raid a house nearby at dawn as part of a drug sweep does not give me confidence that Federal Way is doing well at attracting residents who want to build a better life for themselves and others. Negative images and activities create lasting memories and anxiety. Bad news travels fast and it takes at least five positive stories to begin challenging the effects of one negative event.

Those who have experienced neighbors displaying questionable behaviors need to be asking questions about why there is no easy way to establish norms of what is acceptable. Have we become a society that has no shame and cares less about the pride of place, respect, or kindness to all? We live in fear of calling out bad behavior.

Our leadership does its best to put a positive face on how good we are doing with proclamations and resolutions for good deeds and activities to promote community at every council meeting. The mayor and council members attend multiple community events and get pictures taken showing they are present and while that is a positive moment, our city’s image is flowing out to sea.

I understand the moat builders’ attitude — make the homeless, criminals, thugs, druggies, vandals and so on go elsewhere. They want a better city and blame the leadership for inaction without truly understanding the limits of a city’s legal powers, and of course, the limited checkbook.

Until we work on addressing root causes, get serious about accountability, and focus on who makes the money on crime, all actions feel like band-aids covering up problems. Bridge builders want to solve problems by figuring out root causes which challenges moat makers’ desire to not let the outside world in.

At the end of the day, neither approach is likely to change the direction of our city as long as we choose to be factionalized into echo chambers. Patience and listening are required but change and results require a faster pace.

We may like and trust our chosen elected voices as long as they share our point of view. As residents in our town, we are suffering from a community malaise of lack of investment, opportunity, and respect, and those at the helm are talking a good game but in truth, they have a very limited and dented toolbox tackling a community construction problem built to yesterday’s specifications.

The hardest thing for the moat and bridge builders to comprehend is that both mindsets are trapped by a past containing thousands of decisions that have set the stage for the present. Some of us are fighting for inclusion based on our increasing diversity and others are desiring a return to our more rural suburban past and carefree homogeneity. How will we create a better future?

Responsibility for a better community is personal. We have to be the ones who want a better community. We have to ask ourselves if we want to live our lives with guns everywhere and operate with a sense of present-day vigilantism, passive-aggressive intimidation, fear of one another, and crime as we manage our daily lives.

The trend toward desiring a more autocratic influence in our society to weed out “undesirables” and reverse many years of inclusionary progress favors those who want moats without social investment in root-cause solutions. Solutions are expensive, require an attitude change, are time-consuming, and force us into a mode of mutual respect while reframing our problems without blame.

Reaching out to one another and becoming neighbors again will go a long way toward building better relationships. The more we know about one another builds trust, and removes our inclination to blame others for the ills of our community. We all become victims when we forget that working together is essential.

The political theater taking place at the upper echelons of our government is reducing our ability to be safe and trust one another. Trickle-down economics for making an economy grow for all was always a farce, but the blaming to be “right” in our politics has trickled down effectively to all communities.

Reactions to problems are personal, but moats recede and bridges get smaller when we share the responsibility of what it means to be a community.

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at keithlivingstondesign@gmail.com.