Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

Key to reconnecting community amid the pandemic | Livingston

The COVID-19 pandemic crisis of 2020 is a change opportunity as well as a community health check. It has and will continue reshaping local communities and our politics.

This pandemic will not gracefully unwind in 2021, and its impact will be felt in ways not yet known.

As former Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill often said: “All politics is local.” So, how can local governments and communities become opportunity facilitators for multiple challenges arising from the pandemic? How are we going to absorb business closures and at the same time encourage new beginnings?

The virtual “Zoom Effect” is real and many employees are leaving cramped city quarters and moving to suburbia to support a working at home lifestyle. Our education system needs an overhaul as we reconnect with students who lost the joy of learning. Add the looming crisis of evictions, and cities of all sizes will be at the forefront of a new crisis of homelessness, affordable housing and lack of jobs.

Local governments have been here before and need to step up again. For cities to exceed expectations and avoid mediocre standardized “law and order solutions” for problems, they must redefine themselves as being people connectors and quality of life facilitators.

Maybe the Biden administration can find ways to help lessen the burden. We know the ideologues and proponents of small government have no interest in seeing local government thrive, but thrive we must.

Businesses are reassessing their office space needs, service delivery options and incentivizing working from home. Cities are grappling with uncertain revenue streams, unhappy businesses, socioeconomic challenges and maintaining services. Most are also missing the opportunity to reposition themselves as leaders in a framework for elevating the arts, personal experience and quality of life resources.

The work at home movement may be temporary, but not likely. Our sense of cubical office world once being the norm is morphing toward flex-space, home offices and workers leaving cities, and more will do so as the capabilities of virtual connectivity increases. Investing in human interaction opportunities for those who are working from home is essential for a community’s well-being.

People crave connection, and without direct contact with co-workers, people will seek new adventures to get them out of their habitat shells. Part of this new paradigm will include investing in personal development as well as group activities.

Educators are assessing their effectiveness at virtual learning. Schools need to get back to being the great homogenizers of education, ideas, socialization and hands-on learning that children and teenagers need. Schools have had their successes and failures with virtual education delivery, but technology capabilities will improve and so will the way education is offered and managed.

School districts are being redefined by this forced virtual experiment. Expect virtual learning to become a desired niche option for some parents. Our notion of school boundaries, districts, and bricks and mortar classrooms are going to be tested. The next generation school system will be measured on its capability of merging high level information technology and virtual delivery capabilities with essential human interaction.

Our continuing growth in communication technology is exacerbating society’s economic divide. High-speed internet and cellular access are now essential. Not every parent can afford or access these resources. What can schools and cities do to support students who are technology, household, food and income insecure?

Politicians who have as their deceptive priority the desire for power accumulation, personal wealth and prioritizing serving corporate oligarchs do our democracy a disservice. The pandemic has exposed and increased our society’s weakest members and the coming fallout as eviction moratoriums lapse will release a new wave of people forced to relocate, find affordable housing and new jobs. An economic rebalance must be part of the discussion.

The likely navigators of retooling our society happen to be the artists, creatives and thinkers that politicians and corporations struggle to control, understand or ignore because they don’t conform to their standard operating models. Regardless, rebuilding and investing in the arts is the key to reconnecting community.

Combining artists’ creative skills with parks and recreation departments and cultural institutions will bring people together. Their collective capabilities are the essential building blocks for connecting community. They offer opportunities for advancing education, promoting personal well-being and elevating life skills. But, these resources have been starved of revenues or have been forced to operate as self-sustaining businesses competing for dollars at the expense of building community.

Cities can be empty shells designed to house people and support commerce, or they can be vibrant living-scapes focused on resources to unlock peoples’ potential, passion and purpose. Local governments are quality of life facilitators. Generally, due to lack of imagination and politics, they are trapped in being ordinary.

Healthy vibrant cities elevate their resources to help residents achieve greatness. The arts, creativity access and recreation resources are society’s great equalizer. Cities that embrace the arts and life skill activities build resilience and value into their present and future.

Keith Livingston is a longtime Federal Way resident and community observer. He can be reached at

Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 300 words or less.

More in Opinion

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Behind the appointment of King County’s new sheriff | Roegner

King County Executive Dow Constantine had three finalists to choose from when… Continue reading

Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at
Federal Way’s problems did not arrive on the doorstep overnight | Livingston

Federal Way’s streets and main pedestrian walkways have become extensions of the… Continue reading

Robert Whale can be reached at
Roe v. Wade and the road we have been down before | Whale’s Tales

I have been thinking a lot lately about the Prohibition Era in… Continue reading

Guest column: Actions speak louder than laws when fighting city’s drug problem

Opinion: The Federal Way City Councils new ban on fentanyl in public spaces reflects a short-sighted approach to illegal drug use in our city.

Robert Whale can be reached at
Here’s a theory on why people embrace all those crazy theories | Whale’s Tales

Not so long ago, one could have called me a dyed-in-the-wool, hard-core… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact
Police misconduct is getting expensive for taxpayers | Roegner

More cities and counties are avoiding trials and settling with the families… Continue reading

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at
Here’s how we foot the bill for reducing wildfires in WA | Brunell

Thinning public woodlands to remove millions of dead trees is a way… Continue reading

Most Read