2011 started with news of a devastating $5 billion state budget shortfall and a legislative session in Olympia that went into overtime through the end of May leading to $4.5 billion in cuts. 

Six months later, as the recession continues to hit the economy, state legislators—facing another $1.5 billion shortfall—have been called back to Olympia to end the year right where they started it with another round of overtime: A special legislative session to make more cuts. Governor Chris Gregoire is now recommending $2 billion in additional cuts.[pullquote]Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that offered little more than grim political choices, Cola readers point to developments from 2011 that give them hope. [/pullquote]

It’s scary out there—and as legislators look at cutting health programs, public safety officers, environmental programs, and education— there doesn’t seem to be much to be thankful for politically. Making a Sophie’s Choice between ending assistance for low-income pregnant women and assistance for at-risk youth doesn’t fall into the politics-of-hope category.

Looking to find something to be happy about in a year that seemed to offer little more than a repeating loop of grim political choices, we asked Cola readers to point us to political developments from the past year that give them hope. 

Here's what PubliCola ThinkTank brain and land-use wonk Roger Valdez had to say—Eds.

I am thankful we're done arguing about the deep bore tunnel.

I can't think of another issue (besides the repeal of the "head tax") that clearly defined two distinct camps or parties in Seattle. And the alignments were bizarre, artsy design types aligned with business and freight advocates who saw the tunnel as the best chance to "weave" the city back into the waterfront versus the homeless advocate, environmentalist, retrofit, and rebuild coalition that emerged to but the tunnel on the ballot.

For a minute it seemed like the tunnel debacle would unite some unlikely partners in an effort to make Seattle's policy machine produce more sustainable outcomes. Homeless advocates and urbanists came together, for example, to help sustain Mayor McGinn's veto of pan-handling legislation that would have taxed law enforcement resources, failed to address the problems on the street, and pushed people apart rather than together.

Then the argument more or less ground to World War I style trench warfare with name calling and endless rehashing of arguments on both sides. The tunnel discussion tended to suck the life out of civic debate, distracting resources away from transit and land use policy discussions that still haven't really taken off. Finally, the whole thing went to the ballot at tremendous cost to everyone involved both politically and in money.

Recently we have started having more arguments about land use. While the Roosevelt dust up about upzones around the transit station planned there hasn't always been lofty, at least we're starting to talk, citywide, about whether Seattle is going to hold up it's end of the deal on light rail infrastructure. And even though $60 car tabs failed, the discussion was not about whether to spend and tax on transit infrastructure but what to spend on and what to tax.

Now if we can just get the density debate the kind of air time and attention the tunnel got, maybe next Thanksgiving I'll be saying I'm thankful we finally reached a decision as a city about whether we're serious about being a big city.

Here are a couple more responses to our Thanksgiving assignment.
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