Ah, heres the problem -- its a car
"Ah, here's the problem — it's a car" Thinkstock / Getty Images

While doing your best to find the least miserably hot place to hide today, it is important to focus on what matters most: nursing a grudge against whoever did this. Who is to blame for today's terrible heat?

Obviously, there is a complex web of contributing factors extending back decades and across geopolitical boundaries, but that is a difficult target for resentment. It is key to choose one single person or organization upon whom we can heap all blame and recrimination at times like these.

Let us begin with a few assumptions: This horrible heatwave, peaking today but expected to linger all week, is just one small symptom of an ongoing climate crisis caused by human activity, and chief among those activities is the burning of fossil fuels. Now let's narrow our resentment even further, and direct it to transportation-related emissions — in particular cars. Cars! They, of course, are the true villains, ruiners of cities and bringers of death. Cars choke Seattle on every street — about a half million of them, when there should be none, each one worsening our air, trapping greenhouse gases, and dragging us further and further into climate hell.

So, whose big idea was putting all these cars here? Let’s run through some possible scapegoats and then choose the party most worthy of blame.

First on the list: WSDOT, the state department of transportation that never met a freeway it didn’t want to expand. With a budget of $6.7 billion, WSDOT works tirelessly to keep cars on the road and make room for even more. They’re in charge of Seattle’s most toxic traffic sewers, like Aurora Ave; they block bike projects; they encourage people to drive; and at a time when the only work on freeways should be dismantling them, WSDOT’s still building more.

Or perhaps it's the state legislature's fault — particularly those Republicans and Democrats who fought to water down the clean fuel standards bill that passed this year. A group of five Democrats demanded that the bill keep fuel cheap, along with a handful of other provisions that would make the entire thing "unworkable," according to Rep. Fitzgibbons. Legislators also proposed spending about $5 billion on freeway projects and only about $188 million on bike and pedestrian projects.

Or perhaps the blame should be a bit more local. How about Save 35th, the group that formed to oppose bike lanes on 35th Ave? The neighborhood could have gained a nice sustainable transportation corridor, but instead this anti-bike-lane group fought so relentlessly to preserve space for cars that the city had to hire a mediator. Eventually Mayor Durkan gave in to the pressure and SDOT reconfigured the street without bike lanes. A few days after the project was completed, a driver injured a person on a bike.

While we’re on the subject of local figures, how about the Seattle Design Review Board? Seattle ought to be frantically building tons of housing close to transit right now, so there’s less of a need to generate transportation emissions; but instead developers are subject to the whims of a group of volunteer architects who slow everything down with three-hour arguments about brick color.

For that matter, why not blame Seattle voters for the heat? As a group, they are perhaps a bit amorphous, but voters blocked rail expansion programs in 1968 and 1970 — "the stupidest vote the people of Seattle ever cast,” one legislator once put it, especially since most of the construction would have been funded by the federal government. Instead of building regional rail in the '70s, we just got more roads for cars to slowly poison the air. Great job, voters of the late '60s. Hope those of you who are still alive are enjoying your rapidly appreciating homes.

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Okay, that’s a good place to start with blame. Now, which one of these organizations is responsible for today’s heat, or is it someone else altogether? Cast your legally binding vote below.