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Image: Mike Holm

We do things the slow way here. Crucial laws and amendments get mired in bureaucracy and take forever to crawl out in the annals of government offices. For a progressive city, so much of our progress is often held up in a limbo somewhere between convening a panel and holding a town hall. We talk decisions to death and settle on a compromise that pleases no one. 

We even have a name for it. The Seattle Process. 

Rents increase with every renewed lease but we endure months of open forums and hand-wringing before anything concrete is done. We tap our toes waiting for a solution to the city’s lethargic, unreliable, and expensive Internet providers, only to be met with one hundred-thousand-dollar study after another that says maybe municipal broadband could be feasible at some point. The glacial speed of decision and action is enough to make people want to throw up their hands and ignore local politics altogether. 

And when things do happen quickly? Some Seattleites don’t like that either.

The process didn’t just come out of nowhere—it’s the way many people like it: sluggish and steady. When a $15 minimum wage was thrust into law at warp speed in 2014, thanks in no small part to Kshama Sawant, probably the most talked-about council member in city history, the establishment blanched. Never mind the law meant low-wage workers could begin to climb out of poverty or that the law gave the city the proud distinction of having, at the time, the highest minimum wage in the country—Sawant’s critics deemed her approach too much, too loud, too fast. 

But when we look at Seattle politics as boring and slow, we risk, as citizens, not noticing the actions of our elected representatives. Because while it seems as though decisions happen behind closed doors, they definitely don’t. They are on the Seattle Channel and in the Bertha Knight Landes room at city hall and at Town Hall. You are invited to take part, and you should.

If the Seattle Process is still the way we do things in 10 or 20 years, it’s not because it’s the way it needs to be—it’s because it’s the way we like it. But you don’t have to like it.

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