For so many people that moved to Seattle, they can vividly remember the first time they came across the floating bridge or landed at Sea-Tac.
They can remember the city skyline rising in the distance as they got closer to downtown. They can remember the sense of possibility as they were starting a new job, or moving in with friends or seeking new opportunity that they couldn’t find back home.
I left Seattle in the early 1990s to go work in the midwest for a few years. I talked a couple of my friends out there into moving back to Seattle. I talked about the potential and opportunity in Seattle as it become a center for new music, new technology and new ideas. I remember that excitement as we went over the pass and headed in to the city. I, too, felt that sense of possibility.
I was talking to a friend who remembers moving here from the Spokane area and having the same feeling of promise and possibility as he was driving over the bridge.
There is a palpable sense of worry that those days are over for middle class and working people in Seattle. They may also be over for new people looking for opportunity from other places. Seattle leads the United States as the hottest real estate market in the country. Seattle has the 9th most expensive rents in the world and the 5th highest rents in the United States.
I decided to work with Mike McGinn this year because he gets it. He gets that Seattle could lose it’s place as a home for non-profit workers, artists, musicians, factory workers, teachers, and creative talent because Seattle has simply become too unaffordable.
People have asked me what Mike McGinn meant with his “Keep Seattle.” slogan. It simply means keep Seattle a welcoming place for all.
I understand that this shorthand phrase could be confused with nostalgia. I remember riding in my Dad’s Ford Falcon along Boeing Field in the early 70s when Seattle was a blue-collar scrappy fishing town and SeaFair was the biggest event of the year. While I remember that fondly, this campaign knows that cities evolve and change. But for who?
This is a campaign about keeping the promise of a great city for every person who lives in it. As Mike McGinn said in his announcement, “If you wanted to design a system to drive out working and middle class residents, this is what it would like. Growth that benefits the top, with the impacts paid for by those in the middle and the bottom.”
That’s why he has proposed no new taxes until reviewing all city budgets and working to find existing resources to increase safe housing for the homeless. He has proposed focusing city resources on basics including increasing citizen input in affordable housing discussions. Finally, any new taxes would ask businesses and wealthy individuals to pay their fair share. Property taxes and other regressive fees should be a last resort, not a routine request from City Hall.
Every four years, cities have a conversation about their future. It is called a Mayor’s race. It is chance for a city to redefine itself to more closely reflect the values of it’s citizens. This race is so important for the city to look at itself in the mirror and decide it’s character.
No one wants to create an enclave solely for the rich. If Seattle is going move in a different direction, it is going to need political courage and experience in it’s top political position.
I’m excited that this conversation has begun in Seattle and I’m excited to be part of it.
John Wyble is a political consultant and columnist at the Wire.