Seattle residents are not in a particularly good mood, if polls are to be believed.
But lest you think this malaise is regionwide, it is worth considering the opinions gathered across Lake Washington. Folks in Bellevue generally feel much better about their quality of life and local government.
That is due, in part, to both a different demographic and different system of city government. But the fact that two major employment and housing hubs so close together engender such different perspectives should give pause.
The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce commissioned two quality of life polls by EMC Research, one last summer, the other released last month. EMC Research was also retained by the Eastside Business Alliance, the political arm of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, which gauged public sentiments last summer.
To the standard question — Do you feel that things are generally going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track? — 74% of Bellevue respondents said right direction. Only 28% of Seattle residents said right direction in 2021. This year, that slipped to 23%.
Asked if they trusted city government to spend their tax dollars wisely, 71% of poll-takers in Bellevue said yes. By comparison, 35% of Seattleites trusted City Hall’s financial stewardship.
There are some notable areas of agreement between people in Bellevue and Seattle.
About 84% of Bellevue participants said their city government should not allow homeless encampments in public parks or on sidewalks. Asked basically the same question, 86% of Seattle respondents said the city should remove encampments in public rights of way.
In Bellevue, 65% said they agreed with the statement: “I would support the building of affordable apartments in my neighborhood.” In Seattle, 64% agreed with: “I support the building of new housing in my neighborhood.”
To be sure, there are characteristics that make it easier to find consensus in Bellevue. It’s smaller and richer than the state’s largest city.
But there is something to be said for quiet, professional government that doesn’t waste a lot of energy on Twitter.
Seattle has a full-time City Council with a separately elected mayor. Bellevue’s City Council members are part-time, and they select a mayor. Day-to-day operations are left to a professional city manager.
Joe Fain, president of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, said the city benefits from a lack of daily drama and more of a “nuts-and-bolts” focus on governing.
There is constant tension between Seattle and Bellevue to attract employers, and both cities can notch notable victories. But Seattle’s discontent has ramifications beyond its borders, and whatever rivalry exists between the two metropolises is trumped by the desire to see the Emerald City end its divisions and discontent, said Fain.
“Everyone in Bellevue is rooting for Seattle,” he said. “A broken Seattle means a broken region.”
On that score, there is another commonality between poll respondents in Seattle and Bellevue: 64% of folks in Bellevue have an unfavorable opinion of the Seattle City Council — about the same proportion of Seattleites who don’t trust their government to responsibly spend their tax dollars.