The top story today at Seattlepi.com:

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The Pike Place neighborhood smells funny—and not just because of the distinct odor of urine or the salty fish aroma from our favorite salmon tossers. The area has been overrun by winos, drug addicts and deranged homeless types who make you think twice about breaking out the Fendi wallet to buy a bouquet from an old-school flower vendor.

First: I grew up in Seattle and can't recall a time when the Pike Place Market was not "overrun by winos, drug addicts and deranged homeless types."

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Second: Seattle has an itch right now. We're currently in a recession—a recession that came right after a boom, which brought new construction and wealth and glitz to the city—and it's wracking the nerves of business managers and property owners and people who are small or frail or old. We want Seattle to be robust again, particularly downtown, which seems to be ailing while neighborhoods like Ballard and Capitol Hill seem to be doing, well, at least better. We need more jobs. We need to attract businesses. We need to fill up the one-fifth of downtown office space that's vacant. The itch is real. But the the solutions being bandied around lately—convoluted tickets for the most desperate beggars, longer jail sentences for graffiti, and legal fights to banish Real Change from Pioneer Square—will not help us scratch that itch.

There have to be some constructive things we could do to make the situation better (like wooing a large corporation to occupy some of that vacant space). But beating up on the homeless and the poor and the inebriated—and treating them like a new problem—isn't one of them.

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