Ross: Safety in numbers, a busy downtown is just better

May 3, 2023, 8:07 AM | Updated: 10:28 am

I-5, Seattle...

A view of downtown Seattle. (Flickr Creative Commons)

(Flickr Creative Commons)

Three times a week, I leave the studio and stop at the gym on the way home – not that I have athletic aspirations but because new clothes are expensive, and I want them to keep fitting.

Anyway, the drive across town takes me down Westlake Ave. to Lenora Street and right through the heart of the Amazon campus.

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And as I was driving through yesterday, I noticed that there were people!

All sorts of people. Mostly young-looking. Some on bikes, some with backpacks, some taking their time, and some in a hurry. And even though I’m typically a sourpuss when I’m driving – because the lane markings downtown are like navigating a board game – I found that I was involuntarily smiling.

Because it felt like a city again instead of an abandoned set on the Warner Brothers backlot. The buildings were the same, the graffiti was the same, and the drug users were still there – but all that was upstaged by hundreds of busy people chatting on street corners, jaywalking, rushing to meetings, lining up at the Starbucks – it was not only energizing, it felt so safe!

When you’re walking around in an empty city, all it takes is one or two loitering meth addicts to make you reverse course. But you add a crowd of office workers – and it’s like having a Secret Service detail.

So downtown needs to be as crowded as possible.

I know there are activists who want to continuously confront comfortable middle-class people with in-your-face homelessness to unmask the consequences of capitalism.

But at some point, all that in-your-face stuff doesn’t create sympathy. It de-sensitizes people.

I think voters understand there’s a problem.

King County voters just approved money for crisis care centers, zoning is slowly changing, and activists need to take the win.

I’d like to see a consensus supporting efforts to push addicts into treatment and to make downtown look and feel safe.

And as for that special legislative session — I think the lawmakers know what to do. We’ve learned that decriminalizing and tolerating public drug use doesn’t help anyone – it just creates anger that nothing seems to work, no matter how much money we spend.

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Ross: Safety in numbers, a busy downtown is just better