Fantasy football is about betting on player performance, and if you have selected wisely, you get bragging rights. Elections have similarities to fantasy football in that if your candidate gets elected, they may or may not perform to your expectations.
Change is a slow process and our city needs leadership in elected positions capable of managing our transformation from the starter town Federal Way was 50-plus years ago to the increasingly urbanized city/suburb that we are today. A few of our leaders remember those days and talk more about what once was than reimagining our needs around the city that we are and potentially can become.
Mistakes and successes occurred during the past 50 years and many of the assumptions made never imagined Federal Way becoming an urbanized suburb. We have become a city struggling to accept our “ugly duckling” present as well as find the momentum necessary to propel us into being a dynamic destination city with an enviable lifestyle.
Every generation is looking for a place to call home that is safe, affordable, that can meet their needs and can position themselves for a lifetime of value. Federal Way is on the cusp of a generational change and needs a more positive, forward-thinking, and welcoming perspective in our elected leadership positions.
Across our nation and locally as well, we are electing politicians who are aligned with ideological movements rather than being independent self-assured problem solvers willing to challenge our community and country to grow in its understanding of itself and our issues. Finding balance is essential.
Federal Way is a city with a population of over 100,000 and will grow to 130,000 in the next thirty years or so. Our city’s infrastructure and culture were geared toward being a bedroom community and we are struggling to embrace our reality of becoming an urbanized city.
We are a nation in conflict and the culture wars at the heart of our country’s politics are not meeting the needs of people where they live, work, or play. Why aren’t we talking about the reality that Federal Way has become less economically affluent, more diverse, and more of a high-value jobs desert than we once were? We need to be talking about what we can do as a community to address these challenges for the betterment of our future.
Politicians tend to believe they are being responsive to the electorate when they talk about the need for more police as the preferred methodology to thwart crime and assuage the fears of the public. We have elected officials here and elsewhere lamenting the lack of religion in our schools, daily lives, and that we no longer have churches on every corner defining our values. Then again, whose religion do we value as well as choose to exclude?
We have candidates and elected leaders who fear the present and would rather ban books than truly understand the value of public education as an essential equalizer and homogenizer within our society. We seem to be thinking backwards instead of forward.
Our civic leaders, elected officials, and candidates need to have better 30-second elevator speeches addressing “why” our city and school district are and should be first-choice consideration resources making the lives of all who live and work here better. We are better than we think but rarely hear the positive. Federal Way is a decent place to live and our students are getting a better education experience than many believe. But how do we become special?
We are not supporting our community’s resources sufficiently – public, private, and non-profit – on our journey of building a community that is valued beyond our physical and mental boundaries. Working harder on the inclusion of our increasingly diverse population will improve our community.
Our future success requires that we start the generational shift from mostly baby boomer and generation-X representation in all of our city’s leadership positions, to increased representation from our Millennials while working on becoming more reflective of our community’s diversity.
Quality of life considerations revolve around having sufficient income to meet a household’s needs as well as ensuring resources are available to expand imagination combined with supportive leisure-time activities. Our families with school-age children would benefit from latch-key programs and cultural activities that keep kids safe, active, and fed in the after-school timeframe parents dread because kids are for a brief time every day, for many households, unsupervised.
We keep electing people who talk about our problems. Rarely do we get the performance needed from our elected officials to solve our growing list of problems. Understanding what it takes to build a better community in the present with each building block aligning toward a better life for all requires inclusion, compassion, perseverance, imagination, and communication.
For those who are trying to assert a notion that Federal Way needs “saving,” I’d ask — saving from what and for whom? From the ills of society that have existed seemingly forever? Are your solutions comprehensive, and able to build a better future, or are they better suited to focusing on fears that take our attention away from building a responsive community capable of addressing the urbanization challenges defining our future? Are your exhortations diminishing our capability of embracing our diversity and generational shift that is our future?
If our current leadership continues embracing a small agenda focusing on more police and addressing the issues of homelessness as a target of shame and blame for our community’s ills, we may be preventing our city from working collaboratively with our peer cities, King County, and state officials on long-term solutions.
Looking for a better future? I’d question the current and past performance of our incumbents seeking to understand how their minimalist approach has positioned our city for a quality future.
As they say in football, past performance is not always an indicator of future success. I’d pay attention to our present options and begin looking for a new set of draftees capable of championing a better Federal Way for all.
Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at email@example.com