My annual holiday ode and ‘roast’ to Federal Way | Livingston

Finding a thread to muse about in a 2022 ode to Federal Way requires some post-pandemic leniency and a shout out or two, as our city continues to perplex with the choices it makes and the course it sets.

The election cycle of 2022 had our mayor trying to be the savior of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office that many believed coddled our criminals, when it was the judges that set them free on their own recognizance because there was no room at the prison inn. A campaign was waged to obtain the lead prosecutor’s seat, but a Seattle lady named Leesa Manion won the day, and regardless of what any of us say, Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell is here to stay, attempting to lead our bedraggled city to a better day.

Ferrell’s current cast of supporting characters, mostly resulting from the election in 2021, set the stage for a starker tone. Federal Way has always been a city that talked about doing more with less while knowing that doing less was the objective and the illusion was a verbal sleight of hand for doing more. The current crew is smarter than that — they believe that less is less so that is what we will get.

Our council president threw her reputation into the 30th Legislative District senatorial ring only to come up short, which is good for those who believe in government working for all of us. She was not an advocate for a woman’s right to choose, and she talked lots about crime and giving the police more tools and latitude. A reformer she is not, and her voice in office represents our community’s desire for a return to the puritan rules of darker ages.

Another year was lost on any efforts to support the arts and strengthen our cultural community. Budget support for the arts starts with the department of parks, recreation and culture deliberately forgetting to request. When art commissioners ask for more financial support, they are told to dance and tiptoe to the reality that their ask will not be shared with the council in any significant way, and that what they get will be what it was 20 years past.

The role of keeping citizens in their place, who express artistic wants, belongs to our deputy mayor who in a moment of public grace wrings her hands and fumbles her words at the dais. She grants all a glimmer of hope for the request she has just heard. With a flourish she tells staff what to do, knowing that her meaningless ask is a piece of theater publicly wielded to kill any hope.

Every year that she has represented us, she has used her position as a master stroke to undermine the viability of the arts and building a strong cultural community in our town. She hides behind the zero-based budget process, which means that a department can only ask for what it was awarded last time around. She as well as all council members know that the budget is under the mayor’s direction, and with council support, the budget can grow as they collectively see fit within the revenues found. But, first they all have to believe in growing the value of our town.

Converting a portion of the city’s beloved Steel Lake Park into a public works and parks maintenance facility deserves our scorn. For 20 years or more, our city has known that its maintenance facility needs have grown. Now that developable land is almost gone and what remains is priced out of reach, the brilliant solution is to build on park land the city already owns. These deals are complicated because park land is supposed to be forever dedicated for public recreational use. But the lawyers said that if a suitable land swap can be found, construction for a new facility can break ground.

Somehow the purchase of land for Town Square Park was used as the park land valuation equivalency. The city shirked its responsibility for many moons, and we the people are supposed to swoon about the benefits we will get for giving public works and parks and rec more room to store their brooms. The path the city chose shows that their forward-thinking capability is … not. Once again, the citizens lose.

Our city’s behavior mirrored the worst of our nation’s post-pandemic coming out party — with guns a-blazing, crime a-spreeing and homeless souls a-sleeping here and there. We live in a land where there are more guns than people, so why are we surprised when someone chooses to settle the score with a Colt 44?

Council, citizens, and more, look to blame one and all for the crime predicament we are in. Some of it was election year palaver but most of us, thank goodness, were not on a victim’s list. Still, we all feel to some degree victimized by our city’s increase in crime of any kind.

We need to address our community’s lack of economic growth, our challenge with poverty, find more support for our schools to help their test scores improve, and a positive path for dealing with our homeless. We know we can do better.

In my ode, I roast the city’s foibles and challenge all to see a better way. I also toast our community’s politicians for the time they gave in spite of the games they play.

But more to the point, we should be out and about celebrating our seasonal holidays of Hanukkah, a winter solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the New Year. So, to each and every one of you, regardless of how and what you choose to celebrate — Happy Holidays!

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