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David Boze: Why other cities don’t want to be Seattle in 2019

The downtown Seattle skyline. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

A recent New York Times editorial by columnist Emily Badger bore the title, “Happy New Year! May your city never become San Francisco, New York, or Seattle.” A subhead added the cities of Portland, Denver, Boston, Dallas, Houston, and Los Angeles to this list.

As Badger wrote, Seattle doesn’t want to become San Francisco because of the prevalence of both ultra-high rents and tent encampments. But then she points out that other cities say that they don’t want to be Seattle because of Amazon coming in and driving up the cost of living, not to mention the rampant homelessness.

She points out, however, that all of these dreaded places that other cities do not want to be actually have quite a bit going for them, such as job growth, wage increases, and higher numbers of women and minorities in the tech industry.

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Ultimately, I look at it this way. I think the reason that cities look at Seattle and say that they don’t want to be us comes from the idea that Seattle surrenders to its problems. It’s not like you go to other places and there aren’t homeless issues there.

But these other cities try to deal with their problems. They try to make sure that the homeless encampments don’t blight public spaces.

People look at Seattle, and let’s be honest, Seattle has surrendered to the homelessness crisis. Yeah, they sweep up some encampments every once and a while, but if you drive south by Boeing Field, now that the leaves are off the trees, you can see wood structures underneath the freeway and piles of garbage everywhere.

I’ve seen the same lumpy sleeping bag underneath one Seattle bridge for days — it’s very clear there’s a huge problem. It’s a problem with garbage, with lost people, with people dealing and using drugs, and with the enablers who give them cash on the side of the road to continue those addictions, rather than making donations to services like the Union Gospel Mission that actually know how to help these people.

When communities surrender to these problems, that’s when others don’t want to be those communities. When they’re recognizing these problems as a blight — whether it’s skyscrapers, sprawl, high prices, or homelessness — they can go on to tackle these challenges. It only becomes a problem when you give up on the idea of trying to deal with it.

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