Who would be your superhero of choice for Federal Way? | Livingston

And a few thoughts on Spider-Man.

Does our city need a superhero? A makeover by a hero in a cape? Will our city ever understand that it is a city without a message, business presence, or clear story? Currently, we are stuck looking for a myth of how we can evolve our bedroom community’s less-than-dynamic image into being a superhero of cities.

Who would be your superhero of choice for Federal Way? Is there a superhero in the midst of any of our local leaders who can rally us to believe that our city can and will capture the imagination of those who live here and at the same time position us to be a next-generation city?

The challenge is for our city to become more relatable. When I watch local news and hear about crime, car chases, murders, robberies, and so on, my first thought is that I hope it is not Federal Way — again. The constant drumbeat of negative happenings has ingrained a fear complex in many of us to the point we do not want to leave the sanctuary of our homes.

Can we rescue ourselves from this fear-inducing negativity? Is there someone able to come to our rescue? Who would it be — our mayor, city council, police chief, business leaders? Or is there someone else in our community with the spirit of a superhero?

Those mentioned are well-meaning people, but in their collective wisdom, they have not been able to prevent the slow descent into poverty along Pacific Highway or keep crime from being a central issue. At best, they have been able to keep the vagaries of human behavior in check. But once a criminal mindset and poverty take root in an area, it is extremely hard to dislodge.

Knowing that solutions to our problems will remain elusive, I believe we need to adopt a superhero attitude. Who would you pick? Could Superman clean up the mess we have created for ourselves? Batman may fit the dark feeling times we are living in, but he only works if he has a villain that strikes terror in the heart of our downtown.

Ask a 10-year-old and you are likely to get the best answer for a superhero capable of being relatable on a local level: Spider-Man. As Peter Parker, he experienced loss. First, his parents, which led him to being raised by his aunt and uncle.

Peter, as an introverted teenager, had the chance to stop a burglar and didn’t intervene. That burglar ended up murdering his uncle, setting him on a path of justice out of guilt. The comic book fantasy of course is that Peter is bitten by a radioactive spider, giving him spider-like superpowers, which he uses for good to deal with the wrongdoers in his city out of love and concern for his aunt.

Gee, it sounds like in 1962, Spider-Man first came on the scene as a superhero with a relatable teenage angst — fear, crime, and daily uncertainty were part of everyday life. Federal Way is not likely to escape the everyday challenges of being a city experiencing a spate of human behaviors that detract from the well-being of our city while we try to define who we want to become.

Recently I took the light rail to Seattle. Enjoyed some time with family but when it was time to return, I experienced the dystopian feel of a city when the nightcrawlers came out. Ultimately the trip was uneventful, but the underbelly of a city is more disorienting at night.

Spider-Man was not on the train, but my Spidey senses were tingling. Seeing the human activity at each of the stations and the furtive glances of passengers as they went about their business let me know that most riders had their senses on alert.

Are we potentially building new elements of darkness in our already bleak-looking downtown as we seek to increase population density and redefine our city’s core? The city will benefit from being the terminus for light rail for about 10 years. Making our downtown core bright and active with people will go a long way to avoid some of the elements that set off our Spidey senses, but are we doing enough to alter the human behaviors that tend to threaten us?

Will we attract a positive mix of people able to create a new community synergy in our future downtown? Will the increase in population help the Performing Arts and Event Center flourish? Is there sufficient support for developing a public market as a major attractor of people to our core? As part of our city’s makeover, will the city invest more in the arts and community building?

Judging by how Industrial Realty Group, now doing business here as Woodbridge Corporate Park, came into town with lots of chutzpah when they purchased the former Weyerhaeuser campus and found a less-than-receptive community, I wonder if developers understand our city. I wonder if those who live here understand our city and its needs. The developer One Trent is our newest investor and is taking a swing for the fences with TC3. Will the swing be a homerun or a miss?

Light rail is about to be part of our future, but it has yet to inspire our city. Based on Sound Transit’s development history at any of the stops from here to downtown Seattle — we should be concerned. Our leaders want us to have confidence in their efforts on our behalf, but there is always risk in any change process. Will the development underway produce the change we need?

My Spidey senses tell me to be concerned. They are letting me know that unless we challenge our leadership to do more, we will end up having undergone lots of construction, listened to lots of dreamy smoke, and at the end of the day, our expectations will still be in search of a superhero.

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