Seattle Initiative 91, which prevents the use of taxpayer money to subsidize arenas (ie a new Key Arena), passed with an overwhelming 74 percent of the vote. To which the Seattle Times says:
This initiative, no matter how hearty its public support, is lousy policy…
(Of course, if I-920 had passed by a hair, the Times would have praised the wisdom of voters, but, well, what do you expect from the Times?)
Sure, maybe I-91 is lousy policy. But then, isn’t that also true of most initiatives?
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to spend a couple hundred million dollars subsidizing the Sonics, but I-91, a totally inflexible measure that could come back to bite us in the future, was the wrong way to stop it. And even initiatives based on sound policy and with good intent are usually crappily written, chock full of vague language and unforeseen consequences.
Let’s face it, some guy sitting in his bonus room churning out initiatives for an up or down vote is a just plain stupid way to legislate. The Times basically came out and said that 74 percent of Seattle voters — you know, the readers it’s tasked with informing — were wrong. Me… I think it’s the process that’s gone to hell.
When the Sonics finally head off to Oklahoma City, no doubt there will be many fans throughout the region cursing us “Seattle liberals” for our obstinance. They might not want to pay for our “gold plated tunnels,” but they have no problem with Seattle taxing itself to build an arena that serves the entire region. So think of this is an important civics lesson to be learned by the region’s suburban and ex-urban isolationists: we all have a shared stake in maintaining urban Seattle as a healthy and vibrant, economic and cultural core.
I grew up in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, but I always considered myself a Philadelphian, as did all our neighbors. Even people who grew up across the river in Cherry Hill and other New Jersey suburbs tended to identify themselves as Philadelphians.
Yet ask a traveling Puget Soundian where they are from and they’re at least as likely to say Bellevue or Renton or Redmond as they are to simply reply Seattle. There are kids who grow up on the Eastside whose parents rarely allow them to venture into the big, bad city except for sporting events or other special occasions; for some of our region’s youth, their first days at the UW must seem like visiting some strange, foreign land.
I hate to break it to you folks, but Bellevue is Seattle. Renton and Redmond are both Seattle. Mercer Island? Most definitely Seattle. And the same is true in reverse.
Perhaps that’s one of the things we saw in Tuesday’s election when traditionally Republican Eastside districts were virtually swept by the Democrats: a growing regionalism in which suburban voters recognize how much in common they have with their urban neighbors, sharing both values and interests.
Or maybe not.