It's not just a Seattle issue. (Nor just an Intiman issue, though you'd be forgiven for thinking so based on these links. It's just that since David Esbjornson left the Rep, Intiman is the only place to hire an out-of-towner to lead it. Which tells you something—either that localism is taking over or that locals are cheaper to hire. Or both.)
From the Chicago Trib:
There's no question that cities can and should look to their creative leaders to help shape and confirm their identities. On the one hand, a big out-of-town hire (such as the impending arrival of Riccardo Muti at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) can increase a city's clout and visibility. That Muti would turn down the New York Philharmonic and pick the Chicago Symphony instead was a shot in the arm to those sick of the cultural hegemony practiced on the East Coast. Such injections of high-profile talent have proven economic benefits to the lucky party.
But once the ink on the contract is dry, those leaders are expected to care about their new town, rather than merely concentrate on their international careers.
For what is a local, anyway? How many years do you need to qualify? There are people in New York or, say, Cleveland, who are more simpatico (or potentially simpatico) with the essence of culture in Chicago than some of the people who already live here. They have to be sought out. And recruited hard.
At the same time, an existing Chicago address should be no barrier, as so often is the case. Prestige doesn't apply just to out-of-towners. High-profile gypsies are dangerous. It's not necessarily good to want the same people as everyone else; overextended artists usually create mediocre art.
It's heartening to see this debate stretching out across the country, but I'm getting a little sick of it. (Though maybe my boredom is a sign that more than 10 people are starting to care.)
Local is good for cultivating cultural cohesion (which, by developing an artistic shorthand, promotes an aesthetic efficiency that keeps work moving and delving); parochialism is bad because it's stultifying. Balance in all things. Duh.