Mayor Harrell learned yesterday that he is not doing enough for the politics that put him in power. The Seattle Times' conservative editorial board made it clear they are not in the least bit impressed with his accomplishments. It seems he is not hard enough on the homeless, on lowlifes, on the lawless and disorderly. This is despite the sweeps that are seen everywhere you look. Even in my neighborhood, Columbia City, the three or four RVs parked next to Rainier Playfield are now gone (one of the RVs had been there since 2019). So is much of the community that camped next to the Jefferson Park Golf Course since 2017.
Harrell, a mainstream and pro-business Dem, is nowhere near the progressives; Erica Barnett, for example, dismissed his state-of-the-city speech as just "vibes." But the right has been even harsher than this. Being in the middle doesn't cut it anymore. They want to see the poor really feel it, really suffer. Think of what God did to Sodom and Gomorrah. Nothing less will do.
POST GAME ANALYSIS: This morning on @foxandfriends, I joined a panel to discuss @MayorofSeattle's 2023 State of the City Address. Public safety, homelessness, and drug addiction crisis dominated convo. While Mayor is focused on city's future, others want solutions now. #Seattle pic.twitter.com/Sq7GAqR0vE— Jonathan Choe Journalist (Seattle) (@choeshow) February 22, 2023
From the Seattle Times:
On public safety, it was the same refrain: We need to recruit more cops, enforce the laws and create alternatives to traditional police. The editorial board agrees with the priorities. It’s the execution that’s lacking... Mr. Mayor, it’s not cynics who are demanding a blueprint of downtown safety and revitalization. It’s the people who commute and live there.
As the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce said in a statement: “Specifically on public safety, we look forward to seeing the concrete actions laid out and implemented — officer recruitment and retention, hiring the right number of officers, and standing up alternatives.”
Is Harrell only now learning about the devil's inch? It's never just an inch. That's how the saying goes.
Furthermore, several commentators at Seattle Times are convinced that Seattle's best days are in the past. That past, however, is not far from us. It is roughly between 2013 (the year the Great Recession ended in this city, the cranes began to fly, and Amazon became one of the market's brightest stars) and 2018 (the year the severity of the homeless crisis began shifting the city's politics from the left to the right). The city of course did not blame this crisis on the fact that the construction boom during this period of expansion was almost entirely devoted to luxury apartments and corporate office towers. The price range of the majority of those who lived in Seattle in 2010 (the household income was then $60,200) was completely ignored by developers. And the government failed to address this glaring market failure. It was permitted to persist with no checks, no interventions, no corrections. The consensus on the right, and the core of the politics that elected Harrell, blamed crime and homeless on poor life choices.
The city's right and Seattle Times editorial board strongly feel that the revitalization of downtown has little to do with the revolutionary (or life-changing) impact the long lockdown had on a large number of office workers. It, above all, exposed the arbitrariness of the 40-hour work week and centralization of the business district. And it generated more disposable time to work with no loss to the only thing bosses care about: profits. But this is not how the city's right feels about the matter. It must all come down to criminals who are allowed to do as they please (the police can't chase them; the police are demoralized by BLM and antifa activists; and so on) and lazy people who prefer living on the streets to making right by making ends meet (food, housing, transportation) with hard work.
But I want to suggest that Seattle is actually moving toward a full-blown revival. The post-pandemic restrictions city, which is certainly too expensive (and, yes, the pandemic is not over), is popping again. And I believe this positive energy has CHOP as its source. The mood of that moment seems to have outlived the lockdown time. The revival of its carnival spirit is very present on Capitol Hill. I certainly felt it on Pine and Pike and the sold-out Soul y Luna Productions show at Vermillion Art Gallery on February 17. It was an electric set by Sonidero Emerald City. (Wikipedia: "sonidero is a disc jockey, engineer or entertainer that plays recorded music in public, mainly cumbia, salsa, guaracha and their subgenres.")
The week before that experience, I attended Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra's tribute to the genius of Charles Mingus. The presentation, which happened at Benaroya Hall, was packed with young and old people. And again, the experience, which ran for two hours, was electric. As if that were not enough for one evening, I had a superb dinner at a small hot-pot restaurant that somehow managed to survive the lockdown, Morfire. In my eyes, the place was busier and more cheerful than pre-lockdown days.
Now one might say that the sample for my cultural revival claim is much too small. But only a few weeks ago, Seattle Times had declared the death of downtown because of the closing of a sneaker store and a cinema. (The latter's closing is not yet settled.) But would these commentators have felt the same way if they attended Sonidero Emerald City's show at Vermillion? Dancing all night to great music can change one's perspective on life and a city.