Federal Way’s future success hinges on 2023 local elections | Livingston

We are a nation divided, from the banks of the Potomac to town councils and school boards across America. We want what we want and will malign our leadership, no matter who it is, and consider their thinking misguided depending on personal point of view.

Our current president — a guy named Biden — has had some success. But the question is, will his voice be dynamic enough to continue leading us beyond the turbulent waters left behind by the previous guy? He cannot match the lies, arrogance and propaganda machines owned by right-wing billionaires supporting the twice-impeached Donald Trump, but for our nation to succeed we need a voice that is democracy strong because we know an authoritarian voice is wrong.

Some in our republic believe that Biden the bland is not a very dynamic brand due to his gaffes and age, but his administration has done more in two years than most appreciate. Our unemployment is low, infrastructure is on the mend, the pandemic was brought to an end, a new strength in NATO has solidified, Ukraine is being supported in its time of need, and a deal was negotiated to raise the debt ceiling with our hypocrisy-prone Republican congressional friends who prefer to hold our country hostage on the debt they helped create when they had the advantage of the presidency.

Each political party tries to control the nation’s direction to their own political ends. They run on solving problems and rarely achieve what people need. Our political parties usually have platforms stating what they will do, but today’s Republicans simply say they will obstruct and blame everyone and everything that does not serve their authoritarian will and theatrical need.

Conflict and blame are-age old tools designed to keep us apart. They are baked into the compromises our founding fathers made when crafting a guiding constitution for our nation of contrarians from the very start. We are still dealing with our original conflicts of a revolution against English taxes, a forever transgression against our indigenous peoples as well as those we enslaved to grow our economy and expand our wealth. We need to remember that politics is often about who and how we exploit one another in order to prevent coming together.

Biden and Trump are a likely presidential rematch, but there is still a chance that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis may recover from his fight with a mouse, books he has banned, and draconian overreach to take the mantle from the impeached man currently on his way to earning a possible court conviction or two. Either way it will be a fight for democracy over autocracy supported by our corporate oligarchies’ preference for legislated corruption and our courts weighting their decisions with a preferred political malice.

The stakes are high and any Democrat running in a Republican controlled state that has enacted new voting rights restrictions knows our democracy is being threatened. The restrictions are designed to support those who want us to be a white Christian nationalist nation.

2024 will be an election year for reshaping our nation from president, Congress and governor in our state as well as many others.

Before those contests get underway, in 2023 voters locally will have a say on how our city council and school board will proceed in bringing value to our town. Those who believe they can best serve our needs have committed to run and are now championing to get our vote. Just know that they will be working in a legally defined box that constrains what they can do, but damage is always a possibility.

In Federal Way, committing for our city council in 2023 are incumbents Lydia Assefa-Dawson (Position 1), Susan Honda (Position 3), Jack Walsh (Position 5) and Linda Kochmar (Position 7). The challengers are Mark Greene (Position 1), Roger Flygare (Position 3), Katherine Festa (Position 5) and Denise Yun (Position 7).

School board contenders include incumbents Jennifer Jones (District No. 2) and Luckisha Phillips (District No. 3). The challengers are Daniel Kukhar and Robert Ribaudo for District No. 1, Christopher Dowllar for District No. 3, and Gavin Downing and Joan Marie Murphy for District No. 5, which is an open seat.

The candidates are locally known with varying degrees of community history. Our conservative choices will be strongly status quo, while our liberal voices will be more in line with our growing diversity, but with minimal ability to establish a forward-thinking community.

It will be on the shoulders of those who win in November if our city and schools improve, lose ground or continue being the best mediocre we can be. Our local voters tend to have more patience for the conservatives they elect because the choices they want include a strong protection clause for the “known” or a validation of “what is in it for me,” versus a fear of progress or the effects of the “unknown.”

Election issues are generally about supporting or overcoming cultural biases. The energy dynamic centers on the challenge of including or excluding the cultures of those who have come here anew. Our country is built on conflict and exploiting cultural biases within our politics, religions, what gets taught, media sources, and keeping the general economic flow of our society trapped in competing silos.

It seems the silos with the most money and the loudest megaphones generally win, which keeps the potential for all Americans achieving their dream small. Building community, connectivity and valuing differences is the hardest thing any society can do. Sharing and caring are values we learned in kindergarten but unlearned later in life on the hard-knock fields of scraping for existence where the only value preached is winner takes all.

Sharing and caring are essential values for a community’s success. City councils and school boards that succeed at the highest levels know how to make essential human connections in their communities real. They see beyond all the budget and revenue constraints, special interest groups, law and order noise, religious posturing, and position themselves to embrace the highest value of our land — “out of many one” or “E pluribus unum.”

Vote wisely! However, locally in 2023 our options are thin, but with public opinion, the pendulum still swings.

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