Far be it from me to offer advice I rarely follow myself, but I think the editors at Crosscut might want to actually read Crosscut before slapping on headlines. Take for example Knute Berger’s latest Mossback, whose teaser scolds:
Seattle’s mayor waves the flag of secession. In so doing, he may have waved goodbye to a future in state politics.
… but whose closing paragraph acknowledges:
One thing we can be certain of: Greg Nickels’ ambitions do not include running for governor. Being Seattle mayor has long been a dubious Olympia springboard.
So… Nickels has, uh, waved goodbye to a future in state politics he’s never had? Um… huh?
In fact, Nickels destroyed any chance he might have had for statewide office the minute he was elected Seattle’s mayor, because the rest of the state fucking hates us, a cold reality implicitly (if politely) acknowledged in Berger’s closer. Which brings us back to subject of Nickels’ little rant.
Nickels criticized the Legislature and regional governance. He said he was tired of rural legislators weighing in on issues like the Alaskan Way Viaduct and gun control. He was frustrated that Seattle was being held back by the rest of the state and said that it was time to consider secession.
Berger dismisses Nickels’ assertion that his call for secession was “tongue-in-cheek” because apparently, journalists are much more capable of climbing inside the heads of their subjects than their subjects themselves, and no politician could ever be subtle enough to deliberately suggest an absurdity purely for dramatic effect. But absurd as secession is, there is a truth at the heart of Nickels’ complaint that deserves more scrutiny than our state’s holier-than-thou editorialists are willing to proffer.
The fact is, Nickels isn’t the only Seattleite who is sick and tired of the rest of the state interfering in our business. We’re tired of being told by voters elsewhere that we’re not allowed to tax ourselves locally to build the local transit we want. We’re tired of being told that we shouldn’t have a say in whether a massive double-decker freeway continues to mar our waterfront, or whether the 520 bridge should have six or eight lanes. We’re tired of being told how much we can spend on our schools or on our roads, and having our hands tied behind our backs by the legislature when it comes to options for raising tax dollars. And we’re goddamn sick and tired of sending our tax dollars out of city and over the mountains, only to be abused and reviled under the deliberately perpetrated false impression that money flows in the other direction:
The Yakima Herald-Republic called Nickels’ secession call “absurd” and wondered where Seattle would get its food if it lopped off its agricultural arm. Looking on the bright side, they opined that at least “we’ll get out of our share of the billions needed to fix Puget Sound’s traffic problems.”
A) We’d get our food the way we’ve always gotten it: we’d buy it! And B) Where the fuck do they think the billions needed to fix our traffic problems is coming from? It sure as hell ain’t coming from Yakima. If Seattle were to secede, Yakima’s share of its state’s transportation budget would be a helluva lot less than it’s getting now, so have fun maintaining all those roads we built.
What galls me about the reaction to Nickels’ comments is how incredibly one-sided the discourse in this state has become. Politicians and columnists throughout the state have free reign to dream up paranoid fantasies about big bad Seattle—Dino Rossi wades in it; Mike McGavick ran on it—but heaven forfend if a Seattle politician responds in kind. Do Nickels’ comments help tear down the Cascade curtain? Hell no, but at least they add a little balance to the popular fiction that Seattle is a drain on the rest of the state’s tax coffers, rather than the other way around.