1. It's campaign kick off season for Seattle City Council candidates.
David Bloom, Sally Bagshaw, Jordan Royer, and David Ginsberg all had kick offs this week. Jessie Israel also had an event, but I'm not sure if it was a kick off. (For her sake, I hope not, because it wasn't very crowded.) Bloom's, Bagshaw's, Royer's, and Ginsberg's parties were all crowded, jumping affairs according to reports.
Last night, I went to longtime Church Council of Greater Seattle leader, David Bloom's kick off. I'll give a fuller report later, but I want to make one observation about it that got me thinking about a larger theme overall that's emerging in this year's contests. Or more accurately: A non-theme that's emerging.
Earlier this year during the state legislative session, when a wonky transit oriented development bill in Olympia turned into a shouting match between two factions of Seattle liberals, I identified what I thought was the central battle in Seattle.
The ongoing battle is between green urbanists who want density and mass transit, and economic populists who want to preserve Seattle’s working class neighborhoods. This fight has flared up in City Hall and on the ballot time and time again with high profile duels about the Viaduct, Sound Transit, the Monorail, and the Commons; and off the radar, at City Hall committee hearings about sports lights and night life rules, and in neighborhood council meetings about zoning and parking requirements.
This battle is now taking center stage in Olympia (between two groups whose names fit the stereotyped factions with near-comic genius , Futurewise vs. The Seattle Displacement Coalition.)
You'd think Bloom's event—Bloom was the co-founder of the aforementioned Seattle Displacement Coalition—would have circled right back to this defining theme. But it didn't. Bloom hit a theme that's a bit more retro (Seattle circa 1997 and the Nordstrom Garage debate): The Neighborhoods vs. Downtown.
While neighborhood sidewalks vs. big ticket items (that's the crux of the debate) is a legitimate matter—and one that plays well for a longtime homeless advocate like Bloom, who can find great soundbites in the out-of-whack investment the City has made in Paul Allen's interests rather than in working people's—I'm bummed that the density debate is being sublimated this time around. Rather than taking sides, the candidates seem to be adopting the key rhetoric from both sides of the density divide: A) "we need to build livable, walkable, Green communities" that B) "preserve what's great about our neighborhoods."
It sounds like a lovely bit of compromise, but it's sort of like talking about the Two-State Solution in the Middle East without addressing Israel's illegal settlement policy or Hamas' "Israel Doesn't Have a Right to Exist" policy. It's not dealing with reality.
The candidates are avoiding the tough, defining issue in Seattle circa 2009. The fact that they've gravitated toward a more comfy debate—one that was going on over ten years ago and one where everyone knows what role there supposed to play—is discouraging. I'd prefer the more complex debate over density that forces Seattle liberals (on both sides) to really put on their thinking caps and question their own assumptions. That's the only way the City will move forward.
2. PubliCola has gotten some great press coverage this week: The print edition of the Stranger has an article that highlights PubliCola's emergence as a success story in the new landscape of local journalism and the PI had a piece on our SIFF coverage where we published readers' Twitter feed movie reviews.
3. I'll be on KUOW's Weekday news roundtable this morning.