Starting the year off with a bang means we say goodbye to what was and ask what’s next. We need to start our new year with swagger, a positive attitude toward change, and a desire to strive to get things right as we embrace something new.
The comedian George Carlin once said, “Status quo sucks,” but in 2023, the voters in our city voted with a lack of courage to not change, thereby saying, “let’s keep Federal Way running in place.”
Regardless of what we have as leadership, and despite our electoral actions, and lackluster ballot choices, we should embrace the words of Vincent Van Gogh who said: “What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?”
Heading into the new year, if we are going to embrace progress, we need to light a new year’s firecracker under the timorous thinkers and tender egos on our city council, getting them to resolve to make 2024 a starting point for building Federal Way into a city of the future. What gets discussed in 2024 sets the possibility of our city becoming a desired target for business, entertainment, a new influx of residents, and a transition from an undervalued bedroom community to a destination city.
Sitting on our hands will continue a legacy of slow growth and perceived mediocrity. Our future in 2034 begins in 2024 by embracing a “resolution revolution” as our city focuses on transformation. Becoming a first-choice city for those who want to be in the center of a thriving economy, and experience an elevated lifestyle, driven by a dynamic school district takes work and community commitment.
Nice words… but how do we get there? Federal Way should resolve to embrace these steps:
• Continue developing TC 3 as the city’s catalyst for creating a new downtown and work with area landowners to rethink and encourage redevelopment of their properties in a manner that increases population density, business and retail opportunity, public usability, and walkability with open space amenities.
• Relocate city hall to TC3 or in the vicinity to anchor the creation of a downtown core, thereby making a statement and commitment to serving the needs of our growing population and affirming to developers as well as the region that we intend to be a destination and public service-oriented city of regional significance.
• Commit to improving vehicle and walking traffic throughout the downtown core and consider using the descending grade of 320th street, “the dip” to build an above-grade crossing over 320th street to improve pedestrian and vehicular traffic to the transit center and adjacent properties.
• Set conditions for economic development by focusing on education, school resources, and student well-being, working with businesses and land owners in the downtown core to improve their properties to include more mid-rise housing, and networking locally and beyond to showcase Federal Way as being a desired destination for business, entrepreneurial startups, entertainment, lifestyle, and family.
• Increase commitment to code enforcement and establish higher neighborhood integrity standards assuring all who live here presently as well as those who may come, that Federal Way is building a city of the future through aesthetics, quality maintenance practices, and higher expectations for property owners, residents, and businesses.
Invest in the arts to support education, and local arts organizations, and establish a visual arts center that is gallery-focused and a place where makers can create, teach others, and be a gathering space for creativity and community building.
• Utilize the value of having our light rail station as a terminus for ten years or more to facilitate building a village node concept for housing, business, entertainment, and lifestyle for shaping Federal Way as a desired destination and a conduit for opportunity throughout the south-sound region.
• Recognize that a year-round Public Market developed in proximity to the transit center and light rail station, in the core of the new downtown, will create a centerpiece for locavore shopping and support personal interaction retail focusing on local products, goods, and services.
• Public Safety and community policing will continue being bedrock challenges, but as we move forward we need to understand that as laws are passed and behavioral standards revised, we need to align proactive community education, prevention, and behavioral modification practices supported by compliance enforcement to gain consistency of desired outcomes.
• Continue integrating the use of artificial intelligence into public safety and public works systems and software for monitoring, benchmarking, and improving data collection and transparency access to ensure best practices are improved, and anomalies as well as opportunities are identified.
• Support all school district levies for operations and bond elections for capital projects to continue revitalizing and rebuilding our outdated school structures.
• Understand the city’s best long-term assets are its diversity, being welcoming, and as we redevelop and reimagine our downtown, creating an international district charm with an architectural flair that helps define Federal Way as the place to be.
• Encourage public-private partnerships to expedite development and investment in the downtown core and Federal Way in general.
Complacency and status quo are the death knell of sports teams, corporations, organizations, and cities. We have a choice, and even with the timorous leaders we have, we can succeed when we embrace the suggested resolution revolution that defines the future we need. The alternative is to choose to fade away into the world of the status quo and be a city purgatory with an ambivalent future. Choosing to become something special and build a higher standard of living and expectations as our path to a better future is worth our time and effort.
If Federal Way is going to succeed, our expectations need to embrace an expanded vision of what we can be. Becoming a city with an attitude defined by gratitude for all who live, work, and play here is our best choice. Choices are never simple and they begin with courage.
Welcome to your future and Happy New Year!
Keith Livingston is a retired municipal management professional, lifelong artist and Federal Way resident. He can be reached at email@example.com