As the planet heats up, climatologists and demographers inform us, people will pour into the Seattle region by the tens of thousands, refugees drawn to this relatively cool, resource-rich blue and green dot at the edge of the continent. I picture something like The Road, but instead of a kid and his dad and a shopping cart slaloming around cannibals, the camera in my mind cranes down onto the world’s longest traffic jam. The license plates hail from all over the country and beyond; the line stretches for miles down I-5 and across I-90. Every minute or so the cars move in one pulse, like blood into the heart. We zoom in on one driver who climbs out of his SUV and gestures, big and wide, a theatric shrug, like, What’s the holdup, I’m trying to make my way into the last great city.
And it is great. It’s great right now, even before the earth boils. Seattle is beautiful. Seattle is thriving—its tech-fueled economy and geography already bulwarked against the whims of spasmodic market forces. We all know this. It’s why we choose to live here.
But it’s not perfect.
Say you were walking down Howell four and a half years ago. It’s a hot August afternoon. You’re sculpting a piece of wood with a pocketknife. A cop materializes but you can’t comprehend his command to drop your carving tool. If you’re not white, if you’re, say, Native American you’ll have four bullets in you before you hit the pavement.
Or you’ve come to this city because it’s taken up residence in your brain for decades, first as a sound (the sustained feedback of guitars) and an image (cheerleaders in a music video, anarchy symbols on their torsos). It’s been your dream to live here, but when you arrive you can’t afford the rent.
Or you land a job with a big local tech company, but it’s dominated by men. At best your face is pressed against the glass ceiling, promotions and bigger paychecks out of reach; at worst you feel harassed, unsafe.
These and other concerns were our starting points for “The 15 Seattleites Who Should Really Run This Town”: Identify the city’s problems, find the right people to mend them.
Officer Felix Reyes, for example, acolyte of a program that favors drug treatment over drug busts, seems like just what the Seattle Police Department needs. Council member Kshama Sawant, meanwhile, along with affordable housing advocate Brianna Thomas and lobbyist Roger Valdez, have big ideas—and varying degrees of success—for addressing affordable housing and income equality. And Elise Worthy has taken a brick to that glass ceiling in tech with her Ada Developers Academy.
Then there’s SDOT traffic engineer Dongho Chang, the guy who designs bike lanes, traffic lights, and intersections—just who we’ll need when all those honking, bumper-to-bumper climatic migrants push into the last great city.