Change: In Federal Way, it’s up to us

Whether you voted for now-President-elect Barack Obama or not, the reality is that we, as America, have voted for change.

Whether you voted for now-President-elect Barack Obama or not, the reality is that we, as America, have voted for change.

What does that really mean? Do we really want change? President George W. Bush’s approval ratings are at an all-time low of 20 percent, while Congress’ approval rating, once as low as 12 percent, is currently hovering around 18 percent. So, although we don’t approve of Congress or our current president, could we be investing too much hope in one person to implement change?

Here in Washington state, we changed next to nothing in the recent election.

We did not choose any new members of Congress, nor did we make any changes in terms of who runs state government. The only changes we did institute were in King County government and in how our schools are run.

If you look up “change” on your favorite online dictionary you will find words like: Transform, exchange, to transfer from one to another, convert, etc.

Here are some changes that will be top of mind in the new presidency:

Infra-structure: President-elect Obama has made it clear he would like to increase grant money to states, allowing them to complete old projects and start new ones.

In Federal Way, we better be ready to complete projects such as the Triangle Project that fixes the Interstate 5/Highway 18/Highway 161 safety, congestion and freight mobility issues.

Green energy: Delivering our nation from dependency on foreign oil has created a sector primed for financial reward; this arena should be a great place to do business. Locally we have Puget Sound Energy (PSE) with wind power and green energy; there are several others in the infancy stage, simply awaiting discovery.

Health care: Not sure if a universal health care scheme will be figured out, but we will see an effort toward this as well as efforts to lower the cost of drugs and services. Federal Way is increasing its strength with the continued growth of St. Francis Hospital, which has caused a rippling increase in the sector of supporting businesses.

Economy: President-elect Obama has made it clear that he intends to move quickly to improve the economy, by expanding unemployment benefits and cutting taxes on every working family making $250,000 a year or less. We face a downturn that could easily take months to years to recover from. While our real estate sector has taken the brunt of the storm so far, ultimately most businesses are not immune to the downturn, as evidenced by the highest unemployment numbers in 14 years.

So what does this all mean? Earlier this year, I heard a national pollster share results of a focus group that was asked if they wanted to vote for change.

The response was nearly unanimously yes, which is why you saw President Bill Clinton’s message about change, President-elect Obama’s message about change — and at the end of the campaign, even Sen. John McCain’s speeches were peppered with the word. When the same pollster asked the group to define what the change is in practice, and what they were willing to sacrifice for the change, people became nearly unanimously against the idea of change.

How quickly the tide turns when we have to do the work.

Recently, I received an e-mail in which the author described our political system as “broken” and went on to say: “The people we have voted into office have caused the current problems by offering what cannot be attained so they can be re-elected and by not dealing with the tough issues.”

While there are a variety of reasons for the low approval ratings of our members of Congress and the president, as well as for the election of Barack Obama, one of the huge issues is the way politics is played — which is not for the common people but for a few people.

We as a nation must change the system. We cannot just elect one person and expect change; change will only come when we are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make it real.

So the question is: If we as a nation truly want to change, what are you willing to do to bring it about?

Are you willing to change? Are you willing to save 20 percent to purchase a home? Are you willing to hold elected officials accountable for their actions or inaction, for campaign promises not kept? Are you willing to mentor a child, volunteer for your local food bank, hospital or our many places in need? Are you willing to pay higher taxes so the national debt will be reduced? Are you willing to have government do less for you so they can limit and reduce their spending?

What are you willing to sacrifice for the betterment of our nation? Now is the time to know where you stand.

Tom Pierson is CEO of the Federal Way Chamber of Commerce. Contact: or