Saying goodbye and moving on is hard to do especially when you have called Western Washington and Federal Way your home through your formative years, college and career, raised your family, and have a deep appreciation for living your life here.
But, a friend of mine recently moved to another state to be closer to family and developed a slow realization that the quality of life he loved for years is transitioning into something he no longer recognized.
My friend who said goodbye is Keith Cook. He posted a farewell statement on social media that captured many of the sentiments observed by many who live here. His words are as follows:
“Dear Western Washington – I have had a lifelong relationship with you. Most of those years have been awesome. There is no doubt you have great natural beauty with your majestic mountains, lovely Puget Sound, vast forestlands, and gorgeous ocean beaches.
However, in the past few years, I have seen issues that have caused some red flags for me in our relationship. You have developed an insatiable appetite for spending my money and always seem to be asking for more of it in various and creative ways, from paint purchases to home sales. I’ve seen you disrespect my friends and then pass laws to limit their ability to protect and serve. As a result, criminal activity has skyrocketed.
Cars are stolen; homes are broken into; shots are fired in once nice neighborhoods; stores are abused by thieves walking out with armloads of unpaid merchandise and this type of activity seems to be rising and tends to go unpunished. Many of your beautiful streets are littered with garbage and tattooed with graffiti.
Instead of homeless addicts being properly treated, they are given free drugs and clean needles to continue their downward spiral. I tried to give you time, but you kept disappointing me. We could have gone to counseling or couples therapy, but you wouldn’t accept any responsibility for the challenges in our relationship.
Now you seem to want to corrupt our children by planting crazy ideas in their heads and helping them act on them. I don’t trust you any more to do the right thing. It has been a very difficult decision, but I need to let you know I can’t continue this relationship any longer. I am leaving you for Southern Idaho.
While she may not have quite the same natural beauty, she has her own unique beauty and she seems much more trustworthy, which is especially important to me now. I look forward to starting a new and lasting relationship with her.
Western Washington, I sincerely wish you well for the sake of all those who continue to have a relationship with you (many of whom I love deeply), and honestly hope you can recover soon from your multitude of issues and ailments.
-Keith (your ex… resident)”
Finding one’s voice as they are walking out the door to a new adventure may not be the best way to drive the change bus, but voting with your feet is often the only recourse we find open to us when we believe what is happening does not measure up to what we want or need for our lifestyle.
Mr. Cook’s choice has been made, but can we learn from his thoughts?
For those of us who remain, how will we use our voice? All of us have ideas about the problems we see. Federal Way of the past will never return, in the present, it is a work in progress, and our city’s future is always being rewritten by those who come or leave. Building a lifestyle and a better city is a participation game. The more we participate and invest in our collective well-being the greater the reward.
Cities are continually confronted with the concerns expressed by Mr. Cook. Solutions are not easy. Change moves forward, is messy, ideologically driven, and we may get nostalgic for what was.
People come and go for personal reasons, and most of us have a sense of nostalgia for wherever we call home. A door closes and opens which represents opportunity. As a city, our challenge is figuring out what our welcome mat needs to be and what are we doing to attract the best, brightest, and kindest people who want to call Federal Way home for several generations.
Moving is hard regardless if it is across town, to a different state, or here from a different nation. Ideally, we would like Federal Way to be desired as the place to build a positive future for all who live, work, and move here. Where we live is all about chemistry. We generally want to be with like-minded people and people who accept our culture if we are from far away.
Our growing diversity will continue and for some that presents a cultural shift and a potential for discomfort. The greater concern is perceived as a decline in the quality of community characteristics and quality of life. It is easy to get trapped in the blame game but, regardless of who is here or who may come, as a community we need to set higher standards for the city.
Mayors, city councils, and staff are not the only ones responsible for making a city great – residents have a responsibility as well. We may have smart people at the helm who can catalyze our potential toward greatness but if they are passive, and we say nothing, we will decline.
Being a city is more than chasing perpetrators of crime, vandalism, and rousting the homeless, it requires establishing and enforcing standards for behavior, housing codes, and aesthetic choices, as well as assuring that lifestyle opportunities are continually improved.
As we say goodbye to a friend, we need to ensure the door is always open to expanding life’s possibilities in a caring manner for all who choose to live, work, and play in Federal Way.
Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org