Photo credits below; collage art by Jessica Stein

The decade that began with President Barack Obama ended with the Cheeto-in-chief—proof that things do not necessarily get better. Over the last 10 years, some things in Seattle have improved (access to light rail, the price of weed) while other things have gotten much worse (the cost of rent, the plight of orcas). The Stranger's editorial staff recently gathered in a secret boxing ring underneath KeyArena to fight over the 20 essential news and culture stories of the decade—and then, just to drive ourselves crazy, we ranked them! Here they are in descending order of importance.


20. Man climbs a tree... and refuses to come down.

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Do you remember where you were when a man climbed the 80-foot sequoia outside Macy's in downtown Seattle and wouldn't come down? It was March 2016, and I was watching live on my phone in a classroom at the University of Washington. The spectacle (a man? In a tree?!) quickly drew national media attention. As the hashtag #ManInTree went viral, Man in Tree threw branches at the onlookers. He sat at the tip-top of the tree for 25 hours.

Finally, after more than a day had passed, he came down. He was charged with first-degree malicious mischief and third-degree assault. Seattle mourned the wounded tree (the damage totaled $7,800), and also the clearly unwell man. While the weird, seemingly unique-to-Seattle spectacle was entertaining, and a perfect encapsulation of many people's emotional reaction to the events of 2016 (Trump was beating his rivals in the Republican primaries at the time), Man in Tree was going through some things, and found incompetent to stand trial during a psychiatric evaluation (which is why we are not naming him here). The story opened up a broader conversation around mental-health services. A Pennsylvania congressman even cited Man in Tree when proposing the Helping Families in Mental Crisis Act. NATHALIE GRAHAM

Macklemore hit the big time in 2013 with the track “Thrift Shop.” photo by Kelly o, design by Jessica Stein

19. White rapper in a thrift-store fur coat says, "Yes homo."

In the 1990s, Seattle's music scene was defined primarily by the commercial and artistic success of Nirvana. In the 2000s, it was Death Cab for Cutie. In the decade that we are completing, it is undoubtedly Macklemore, a white rapper who attended Nathan Hale High School, was an active member of the once-flourishing underground hip-hop scene, and, in 2013, hit the big time with the track "Thrift Shop." The album that track appeared on, The Heist, created with Ryan Lewis, sold 1,500,000 units in the United States alone, won several Grammys, and made Macklemore spectacularly rich. Macklemore now owns a part of the professional soccer team Seattle Sounders FC, and his name is known from Moscow to Manila.

Yes, this last decade in Seattle also produced big acts like Fleet Foxes and Shabazz Palaces. But you can't compare their achievements to Macklemore's. Indeed, the only other Seattle rapper who came anywhere close to Macklemore's level of fame is Sir Mix-A-Lot, whose 1992 track "Baby Got Back" sold 2,500,000 units. But in terms of mainstream impact, Sir Mix-A-Lot was a one-hit wonder. Macklemore's commercial career kept popping for much of the decade, and it intersected with this decade's politics, including his insistence, with "Same Love," on treating gay people with dignity—rare for rappers at the time. CHARLES MUDEDE


18. A bunch of women suddenly decide they want to be spanked.

Fifty Shades of Grey was a piece of Twilight internet fanfic before it became a book and then cinematic pop-porn. The writer pulled Bella and Edward out of their coffins in rural Washington State and plopped them into a boardroom in Seattle; she was now a shy college student, and he was a CEO with a BDSM fetish.

After the internet creamed its jeans, E.L. James self-published Fifty Shades of Grey in print. It stormed to the top of the best-seller list and stayed there, becoming the vacation read of the decade, and proof that women really do love to read porn as long as it doesn't use words like "pussy" and instead uses phrases like "my inner goddess did backflips." Later, it was adapted into three blockbuster movies—cementing the Seattle skyline as kinky iconography and normalizing BDSM by getting women of all ages thinking about whips and ropes and what if you put two vibrating metal balls into your cooch while at a dinner party?

The summer after the first movie came out, I was working at an AMC theater. One of my coworkers told me about how they kept finding cucumbers tucked into the seats after the Fifty Shades showings. NATHALIE GRAHAM

Star quarterback Russell Wilson led the Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty images, design by Jessica Stein

17. Seahawks win Super Bowl.

The Seattle Seahawks played their first game in 1976, but they didn't make it to the Super Bowl until 2006, and didn't actually win a Super Bowl until 2014, Super Bowl XLVIII. I won't get into the Seahawks' third Super Bowl appearance in 2015, aka the Game That Will Remain Unacknowledged, aka Please Do Not Make Me Relive That Pass.

Instead, let's focus on the impressive 2013 campaign, led by star quarterback (and apple of Seattle's eye) Russell Wilson, with fine support from "Beast Mode" running back Marshawn Lynch and linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith. That campaign saw the Seahawks finishing tied with the Denver Broncos for an NFL-best regular season record of 13–3, their earning of the NFC's number one playoff seed, and, ultimately, their claiming of a significant Super Bowl XLVIII victory (final score: 43–8). The Seahawks' defense that game and that season—the height of the Legion of Boom era—is often positioned near the top of lists ranking the best overall defenses in NFL history. Go Hawks! LEILANI POLK


16. Widest drill in the world gets stuck under Seattle.

Remember Bertha, the tunnel-boring machine named after Seattle's first woman mayor? After drilling only a thousand feet, the 57.5-foot-wide, $80 million boring machine got stuck on December 6, 2013, wedged like a stubborn dry tampon underneath the bowels of the city.

It took Bertha nearly four fucking years to dig this goddamn tunnel. Greg Phipp / WSDot

It would be nearly four fucking years until Bertha finally chewed her way through the remaining 8,000 feet to dig the State Route 99 Tunnel to replace the sinking Alaskan Way Viaduct. Those years were characterized by confusion, evasive bureaucrats, massive delays, lawsuits, a 119-foot metal pipe, rescue pits, sinkholes, pointed fingers, millions in unexpected costs, and billions in expected taxpayer costs. And for what? We were sold a vision of the waterfront that would reconnect our city to the water, but the city is now planning a surface-level highway where the viaduct once stood. It will be yet another monument to gas-guzzling cars. JASMYNE KEIMIG


15. The punk drag scene moves around the corner.

When Kremwerk opened in 2014, it immediately established itself as a hub of electronic-music producers and DJs and experimental drag artists. Previously, the Denny Triangle had been a Bermuda Triangle for edgy art, with the exception of Re-bar, which used to be an epicenter for both punk drag and avant-electronic music. Now clubbers into underground sounds and unconventional drag can simply make a left at the Market House Meats joint on Howell to get fresh cuts of beats and ham at Kremwerk.

When it comes to music, Kremwerk favors talent and diversity rather than overpaid prima-donna DJs who make bros and hoes punch the air. You could say it's the Berghain of the Northwest—but without the problematic entry policy. When it comes to drag, the venue has facilitated big breaks for unconventional performers such as Cucci Binaca, Arson Nicki, Betty Wetter, and Cookie Couture. Kremwerk's shows often have up to 50 drag queens acting outrageously around the complex, which also includes Timbre Room and Little Maria's Pizza. According to one aficionado, "It often feels like an anarchic drag school that's always throwing a party." DAVE SEGAL


14. Trump era begins with a shooting at the University of Washington.

On Trump's inauguration day in 2017, hundreds of people, including myself, gathered at the University of Washington to protest a speech by the alt-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos. We forced the police to cut off admission before all the attendees got in, leaving many pissed-off right-wingers out in the dark with their tickets—but in the end, the people outside got a better show.

While listening to a racist riot cop going on a lengthy rant about the killing of Native woodcarver John T. Williams, we heard a bang. Somebody had been shot. "Antifa shot somebody," the cop said. Not true. A Milo supporter had shot an anarchist. The alleged shooter was not prosecuted, because the man he shot did not believe in the American justice system and refused to testify.

Nevertheless, it was a landmark event that encapsulated the political polarization of this era, and it would not be the last time that inflamed tensions and deranged theories spilled out of internet echo chambers and into the streets in the form of gun violence. DAVID LEWIS


13. One-woman play creates major waves across the country.

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In February 2016, That'swhatshesaid premiered in a 49-seat auditorium at Gay City, unexpectedly launching an ongoing national conversation about copyright law and gender equity in theater.

That’swhatshesaid was written by Courtney Meaker (left), directed by HATLO (center), and peformed by Erin Pike (right). Kelly O
The show's dialogue, performed by Erin Pike, consisted entirely of the dialogue written for women characters in the top 11 most frequently produced American plays during the 2014–2015 season. Pike hammed it up as she transformed from sex object and temptress, to angel, to angry witch, to woman-hating woman, to woman who asks questions and apologizes for everything.

Written by Courtney Meaker and directed by HATLO, That'swhatshesaid brilliantly skewered stereotypes and indirectly critiqued the theater world, highlighting exactly what it was playhouses were choosing to produce. When the suits at Samuel French, the publisher that owned the rights to a few of the plays Meaker had cut up and arranged into the dramatic collage, read about the show on The Stranger's website, they tried to shut the whole thing down. But the show went on, and That'swhatshesaid is now in the public domain.

It also contributed to a wave of increased representation of women on Seattle stages. At Seattle Rep, for instance, more than half the plays in the 2019–2020 season were written by women, and all those plays star women or have a bunch of juicy roles for them. That's up from three out of nine in 2015. RICH SMITH


12. Airplanes fall from the sky.

On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 303 crashed only six minutes after takeoff. Everyone onboard, all 157 people, perished. It was the deadliest plane crash in Ethiopia's history. But that aspect of the accident is not what caught the world's attention. Instead it was the model of the plane: a Boeing 737 MAX 8.

Not the actual Horizon Air plane that crashed into Ketron Island in 2018. DAVE ALAN/GETTY images

Only four months earlier, a 737 MAX 8 operated by Indonesia's Lion Air fell out of the sky and plunged into the Java Sea. That accident killed 189 people. Was this a mere coincidence? Boeing's announcement of the new 737 MAX 8 series had been made on August 30, 2011. Its first flight happened in 2016. After its official release in 2017, it quickly became Boeing's best-selling plane. After the 2019 crash in Ethiopia, the world abruptly grounded the plane. We exit the decade with no idea when these Seattle-built planes will see the sky again.

Speaking of planes crashing to earth out of the clear blue sky: Two months before that Lion Air Crash in October 2018, a ground service employee at Sea-Tac International Airport, Richard Russell, stole a Horizon Air Bombardier plane and, to the shock of Sea-Tac's air traffic controllers, took off. He had no experience as a pilot. When air traffic control finally through to him, he said he was a "broken guy, got a few screws loose, I guess." Two fighter jets with air-to-air missiles were scrambled to follow Russell, as he went up and down over the city, over the suburbs, over our beautiful bodies of water, performing aerial maneuvers. He finally crashed the plane on rural Ketron Island, killing himself. CHARLES MUDEDE

Jinkx Monsoon was 24 years old when RuPaul made her a household name. Photo by timothy Rysdyke, design by Jessica Stein

11. Jinkx Monsoon wins RuPaul's Drag Race.

Jinkx Monsoon was hosting a weekly drag show at Julia's on Broadway when she won RuPaul's Drag Race in 2013, beating out drag legends like Alyssa Edwards and Alaska Thunderfuck. I was at Julia's the night it happened, and the room exploded. People went apeshit, spilling out into the street, crying with joy. Jinkx was 24 years old and a recent theater grad from Cornish College of the Arts when she became a household name.

Since then, Jinkx has released two studio albums, a feature-length documentary, several web series, and multiple evening-length stage shows with collaborators like Major Scales and BenDeLaCreme. Jinkx began her career in the unlikeliest way—as a teenager busking on the streets of Portland in her grandma's wig—but now has celebrity fans like Leslie Jones and a million Instagram followers. She's one of the most visible and beloved trans artists ever to emerge from Seattle. "I don't really care if you see me as a man or a woman," Jinkx said in The Stranger in 2018, "as long as you know that I'm both at all times. I exist in the in-between."

Other Seattle queens have appeared on RuPaul's show, including BenDeLaCreme (who should have won, but snatched defeat from the jaws of victory), Robbie Turner (who followed her so-so appearance by killing an imaginary Uber driver), and Magnolia Crawford (who?). But Jinkx's star burned the brightest, and changed the game, bringing worldwide attention to Seattle's plucky, offbeat drag scene. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


10. Local print media gets murdered by Facebook, Google, and the Craigslist Killer.

Some trends may be widely exaggerated, but the death of local media is not one of them. This decade saw the print demise of Seattle Weekly, City Arts, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (which, to be fair, still exists in the form of Joel Connolly's ghost and a dial-up connection). What the fuck happened to these semi-illustrious publications? The internet.

The massacre started with Craigslist, which wiped out 40 percent of newspaper revenue almost overnight. The killing was finished off by Google and Facebook, which take your data and serve it back to you in the form of personalized ads, and who knows what else. Newspapers, which are made of trees, could not compete, and so outlets all over the world pivoted to digital, folded, or both.

In Seattle, this has been a mixed bag. The Stranger is now the only print paper in the city, which—we're not going to lie—feels fucking great. (Told you so, motherfuckers!!) Oh wait, there's also the Seattle Times, which is notorious for publishing editorials about how rich people need more tax breaks. According to Twitter, the Seattle Times might still exist. But don't believe everything you read on the internet. KATIE HERZOG

J35 carried her dead calf’s body for 17 days and more than 1,000 miles. Photo by ca2hill/Getty images, design by Jessica Stein

9. Grieving orca tries to get the world's attention.

The southern resident orcas living in the Salish Sea used to be rounded up and captured in the 1960s and 1970s to supply places like SeaWorld with live killer whales. At the time, it wasn't understood that southern residents were a unique ecotype, and that their tiny population was being decimated. Hunting orcas here is now illegal, but the southern resident population continues to dwindle, and the ones that remain are relatively skinny, suggesting a lack of food.

In 2018, a southern resident orca known to scientists as J35 (also known by the name Tahlequah) gave birth to a calf, only to see that calf die within an hour. Tahlequah carried her calf's body around, displaying it for all the world to see, for 17 days and more than 1,000 miles, in what many observers saw as an act of grief. Others interpreted it as Tahlequah saying, "Can someone please fucking help us already?"

NOAA believes pollution, vessel noise, and declining Chinook salmon populations all threaten the existence of the southern resident orcas. But Ken Balcomb, founder of the Center for Whale Research, believes the main issue is that they are starving. Governor Jay Inslee has convened a task force on the southern resident orca population—the only endangered killer whales in the United States—and, after the death of Tahlequah's calf, he commissioned a study on breaching or removing dams on the lower Snake River, which could increase the Chinook population and give those orcas something to eat. Inslee needs to show courage in this moment; the cheap energy provided by hydroelectric dams is no easy thing to say no to. But there are only 73 southern resident orcas left on the planet. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


8. Seattle chokes on wildfire smoke two summers in a row.

What the daytime sun looked like during the apocalyptic wildfires. Jessica Stein

Ash fell on Seattle on September 5, 2017, covering the city in a sooty blanket for the first time since Mount St. Helens exploded 37 years earlier. This time, the ash wasn't from one of our volcanic peaks; it was from the millions of forested acres that surround our city. Downtown skyscrapers disappeared in a carcinogenic haze, the sun turned into a glowing orange wafer, and temperatures soared. Daytime highs were in the 90s, and for only the second time in 120 years, nighttime lows stayed above 70 degrees—a seemingly catastrophic sign for Seattle's future.

Seattleites chalked up that apocalyptic summer to a one-time freak occurrence, but a year later, in August 2018, smoke returned and engulfed the city for two weeks. The asphyxiating veil of smoke at one point hit 220 on the government's Air Quality Index, a "very unhealthy" level of smoke that is equivalent to smoking more than seven cigarettes a day. Stores sold out of smoke masks.

Even though 2019's summer was wetter and considerably clearer, wildfire-wise, smoky summers will likely become more frequent. Globally, the five warmest years on record were 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018, according to NOAA and NASA. And Seattle is surrounded by a tinderbox that won't get less flammable anytime soon. LESTER BLACK

The Bezos Balls are Jeff’s way of telling us he’s our daddy. photo by timothy kenney, design by Jessica Stein

7. Jeff Bezos shows the world his balls.

The Amazon Spheres (or the Bezos Balls, as we call them) officially opened in January 2018. Located along Lenora Street by South Lake Union, the three spherical conservatories housing 40,000 plants were designed by NBBJ and Site Workshop. They serve as a space for Amazon employees to slurp their coffee and an attraction for wide-eyed tourist groups to be corralled through.

Of course, the Bezos Balls are really a symbol of the extensive and radical changes brought to Seattle by Amazon. This was the decade in which everyone's rents doubled or tripled, because brogrammers from Alaska and Appalachia and the Antarctic were suddenly moving here, and willing to pay exorbitant prices. An urban transformation was under way, too. South Lake Union used to be warehouses, parking lots, and old apartment buildings. Amazon's campuses brought with them tens of thousands of tech workers in stupid lanyards, glittery glass buildings, and a Shake Shack.

Amazon, run by a hundred-billionaire who looks like a Lex Luthor cosplayer, now occupies around 12 million square feet of office space in 40 buildings and employs 40,000 people in the city. Those numbers will only grow as Amazon continues to expand like a cancer determined to annihilate traditional retail.

The company has interfered with Seattle's political and cultural life as well. From threatening to back away from building projects after city hall passed (and later unpassed) a head tax (which was designed to help the homeless), to spending unprecedented millions to try to buy this year's election (which didn't work), a battle for Seattle's soul is under way.

If the Bezos Balls are Jeff's way of telling us he's our daddy, well, this next decade will determine who is really in control. JASMYNE KEIMIG


6. Murray, Meinert, and #MeToo.

On April 7, 2017, staffers in Mayor Ed Murray's office at City Hall got push notifications on their cell phones from the Seattle Times: "Lawsuit alleges Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused troubled teen in the 1980s." Murray "vehemently" denied it, arguing that it was a politically motivated hit job. But more accusers kept coming forward. Three months later, the Seattle Times published a story based on newly unsealed documents from the State of Oregon, with the headline: "Seattle mayor sexually abused foster son, child welfare investigator found in 1984."

That story—which brought the list of accusers to four—was "the precise moment" when staffers in the mayor's office "lost faith in the possibility of Murray's innocence," Eli Sanders later reported in The Stranger. "There was just no doubt," one staffer told Sanders. "It was 100 percent, this happened. Once I saw those Oregon documents, then it all just snapped together. I was like, 'Yep, I believe every last accuser now'... That was the turning point. That article."

Murray had already scrapped his plans to run for a second term, but he hoped to finish out his first term. Then, on September 12, the Seattle Times published the story that ended Murray's political career: "A younger cousin of Seattle Mayor Ed Murray on Tuesday became the fifth man to publicly accuse the mayor of sexual abuse, saying Murray repeatedly molested him as a teenager in the 1970s." Murray's staff forced him to resign that day. City council president Bruce Harrell became mayor for five days, then Tim Burgess became interim mayor, and then Jenny Durkan won the general election and assumed office immediately—which is how Seattle had four mayors in one year.

The rape allegations about Harvey Weinstein broke shortly after Murray resigned, opening the floodgates of #MeToo. Powerful men throughout politics, entertainment, and other industries were finally being held to account for sexual assault.

Shortly thereafter, a source I have known for years told me that Dave Meinert, a prominent figure in the Seattle nightlife industry, raped her in 2001. I believed her immediately and asked if The Stranger could report on it.

She agreed on condition of anonymity, and said she knew of other women who had stories about Meinert, who also wanted to remain anonymous. I informed the publisher and the editorial director of The Stranger of the allegations, we consulted a lawyer about the legal risks of using anonymous accusations, and in January 2018 we assigned the Meinert story to staff writer Sydney Brownstone, who had won awards for her reporting on a previous rape case.

As with the Murray case, the new revelations about Meinert came out not in a courtroom but in the media. Brownstone reported the story for several months in The Stranger's newsroom, but was hired as an editor at KUOW while she was working on it. KUOW published Brownstone's reporting in July 2018. In a radio interview, Meinert denied the allegations, but was notably unable to define sexual assault. He also admitted, "The #MeToo movement has pointed out how widespread and grotesque of a situation we have with how men have treated women for thousands of years, and that includes me."

At the time, Meinert was managing the Lumineers, but in response to the story, the band quickly severed ties. Meinert's business partners at Comet Tavern, Lost Lake, Grim's, and Queer Bar kicked him out of the ownership structure of those establishments, and even barred him from entering the premises. Meinert still owns the 5 Point Cafe in Belltown and the Mecca Cafe in Lower Queen Anne, which is why I don't go to the 5 Point or the Mecca anymore. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE


5. Seattle cop shoots and kills John T. Williams.

No police story defines the decade more than what happened on August 10, 2010, the date officer Ian Birk shot and killed John T. Williams in downtown Seattle, setting off a decade of dramatic police reform. Williams, 50, a seventh-generation Native American woodcarver, was hard of hearing. Birk saw Williams cross Boren Avenue carrying a scrap of wood and a pocketknife, got out of his car with his gun raised, and yelled at Williams to put the knife down. Birk opened fire only five seconds later.

The Seattle Police Department's internal review ruled the shooting "unjustified and outside of policy," but Birk was not criminally charged because state law required prosecutors to prove cops acted "with malice." Outrage over the lack of charges led to the approval eight years later of Initiative 940, which removed the word "malice" from state law, making it easier to charge cops with murder.

Williams's killing also led to the Department of Justice suing the City of Seattle for using excessive force. Instead of facing the lawsuit in court, the city agreed to a settlement that required new police accountability measures, better tracking of use-of-force incidents, and a new Community Police Commission to help watch the cops. Plenty of police reform work still needs to be done, especially as it relates to police union power, but much of the progress so far is owed to the life and death of John T. Williams. LESTER BLACK

Kshama Sawant achieved stunning come-from-behind victories in 2013 and 2019. Photo courtesy of sawant campaign, design by Jessica Stein

4. Sawant brings socialist uprising to Seattle City Hall.

Over the last decade, Amazon and other tech companies have remade Seattle in their image. But at the same time, an army of red shirts led by an econ professor from Mumbai has risen up to check the growing power of those companies, and to give a bullhorn to Seattleites struggling to find shelter and a decently priced sandwich in the blast radius of the latest tech boom.

It started in 2012, when Kshama Sawant, an Occupy organizer and a member of the party Socialist Alternative, ran unsuccessful campaigns against two popular state lawmakers. Though she lost those battles, her name recognition shot through the roof, and her strident support for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour, implementing rent control, and taxing the rich became defining planks in the progressive platform.

In a stunning come-from-behind victory the following year, Sawant beat four-term Seattle City Council member Richard Conlin to become the first socialist elected to office in Seattle in nearly a century. In 2019, despite a massive influx of cash from big businesses such as Amazon, she organized another come-from-behind victory to become the senior member on the most progressive council in recent memory. Not only has she helped win the minimum-wage increase and several renters protections while in office, she's also blasted open the Overton window, allowing other council members to advocate for more lefty policy, and calling them out on their bullshit when they don't. RICH SMITH


3. Weed goes legal.

Up until 2012, someone was arrested for a weed-related charge in Washington State every 50 minutes. Most of them were people of color, even though a white guy doing bong rips is Seattle's official mascot. Washington voters realized something not even Joe Biden has realized yet—that legalization was the only way to end the racist war on drugs—and decided to act.

When Washington voters legalized weed in 2012, our state was the first government in modern history to legalize the recreational consumption of pot. (It's not even legal in Amsterdam; it's decriminalized there.) Any adult in the state could now light up, inhale, and rest easy knowing the cops couldn't do a thing.

Washington State's first legal pot shops were up and running by July of 2014. Granted, those heady first months included sky-high prices ($40 for two joints!) and stores frequently running out of weed, but the market quickly settled, and adults 21 and older now have access to incredibly cheap weed ($50 ounces!), not to mention pot lube, weed suppositories, and 500-gram rocks of pure THC that look like crack. Well over $5 billion in weed has been sold since, according to 502data.com, and more than $1 billion in tax revenue has been collected by the state.

Legalization was sold to voters as a way to end the racist war on drugs, but very little legal pot revenue has gone to the communities of color that were most harmed by prohibition—only 1 percent of companies that create pot products are owned by Black people, according to state estimates. However, that might start to change as state lawmakers get more serious about cannabis equity laws. LESTER BLACK


2. Light rail transforms Seattle into an actual city.

Seattle's transportation system 15 years ago consisted mainly of buses stalled in intersections, taxi drivers who wouldn't accept credit cards, and hipsters flipping off the world on fixed-gear bikes (and often flipping themselves over their own handlebars in the process).

True mass transit came to the city when Sound Transit opened Link light rail's first 14-mile segment in 2009, stretching from Tukwila to Westlake Park downtown. Sure, it was three years and $1.1 billion over budget, but that's just how we do things around here. Fewer than 15,000 people took the train a day (the airport wasn't even connected to the system yet).

Things got less embarrassing on March 19, 2016, when Sound Transit opened the Capitol Hill and University of Washington light rail stations—a momentous event in Seattle's transit history. We finally had the beginnings of an actual mass transit system. Light rail now extended more than 18 miles. Within a month of the Capitol Hill and UW stations opening, ridership nearly doubled—from 35,000 to nearly 60,000 riders per weekday. At the end of 2019, more than 80,000 people on average use the Link light rail system.

The light rail route will extend to Northgate in 2021—and by 2024, nearly 50 miles of light rail lines will be open, stretching east to Bellevue and Redmond, south to Kent and Des Moines, and north to Lynnwood. LESTER BLACK


1. Women start marrying women, and men start marrying goats.

The day before Valentine's Day 2012, Washington governor Christine Gregoire signed a landmark bill legalizing same-sex marriage. It would be a full three years before the US Supreme Court would get around to making marriage equality legal nationwide, and it would be 10 months before the first gay marriages locally could occur.

Many readers were mad about this hilarious cover in 2012. Cover Photo by Kelly O
That's because conservatives immediately forced Washington's new law to be put on hold while Referendum 74, an effort to repeal same-sex marriage via popular vote, was considered and, ultimately, shot down.

On December 9, 2012, the day the first legal gay marriages took place in Washington, an historic party began. I was at the King County Administration Building, watching as a long line of people—led by a lesbian couple who had been together 35 years—received their marriage licenses. Strangers handed out roses and threw confetti. Couples cried, and laughed, and thanked the elected officials and local bureaucrats who seemed as excited as they were to see this day finally arrive. It was a party for same-sex couples in Seattle thrown by the entire city.

The King County Administration Building was a fitting epicenter for this celebration because it was there, in 1974, that a gay man named John Singer attempted to get a marriage license for himself and his partner, was rejected, and then launched one of the first gay marriage lawsuits ever attempted in the United States. It was unsuccessful, and Singer, who became better known by his preferred name, Faygele ben Miriam, died more than a decade before Washington State voters declared gay marriage's legality in 2012.

Interesting historical footnote: The King County auditor who denied Singer a marriage license in 1974, Lloyd Hara, went on to be elected as a port commissioner and the county assessor. But he also wound up walking his lesbian daughter down the aisle in a Vermont wedding around the same time legal gay marriage was becoming a reality here. As they say, things change—and some stay pretty much the same. The Stranger celebrated the arrival of Washington's first legal same-sex weddings with a cover photograph showing a man marrying a goat and the text "WELCOME, GAY MARRIAGE!" ELI SANDERS

This article has been updated since it was first published. It originally stated that Bertha was Washington State's first woman governor. In fact, she was Seattle's first woman mayor.