The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce’s new polling project, the Index, made headlines for surfacing Seattle voters’ opinions on quality-of-life issues. The latest installment showed that voters believe we are facing some very real issues: Public-safety concerns rose starkly, our homelessness crisis remains a top concern, and affordability and cost of living issues are gaining steam. Many of the headlines I saw were fair, but tough to read for a civic booster like myself.

Stepping back and putting this into context with other public opinion research, like the poll of Bellevue voters commissioned by the Bellevue Chamber, I see reasons to be optimistic, as well as an imperative to think regionally.

You could look at the data and make this a horse race between Seattle and Bellevue. Given the differing opinions about “right direction” and “wrong track,” there is a clear relationship between voters’ trust in government and city leadership delivering on residents’ priorities. But when I look at these polls, my takeaway is not who’s up and who’s down — it’s that voters, no matter which city you live in, understand the issues important to our region’s long-term success:

• Voters identified the same top three issues they want leaders to address: homelessness, public safety and affordability.

• In both cities, roughly two-thirds of voters support more density in their own neighborhoods.

• Voters in both cities favor stability on public safety: Bellevue voters affirmed their support for the direction of its police department at 81%, and Seattle voters indicated 3-to-1 support for a “reform and hire” strategy compared to a “defund and decriminalize” approach.

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This consistency doesn’t surprise me. In two cities that are 20 minutes apart, it makes sense that our voters share priorities as well as their outlook on solutions. People in this region do not live their lives according to city limits — people live in Renton and work in Bellevue, or live in Burien and attend school in Auburn, or live in Shoreline and work in Everett. Voters expect life to be good, and that they will have access to opportunity, everywhere in the region.

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We agree. As a regional organization, we have members on both sides of the lake, as well as in Snohomish County, South King County and Pierce County. We want every business, in every community, to thrive and feel supported by their local leaders. We never want an employer to conclude that they can’t stay in the community they’ve chosen, whether that’s because employees don’t feel safe, or because the rising cost of housing means employees can’t afford to live close enough to work.

When we focus on one city doing well at the expense of another, we’re missing the point. The real competition is with other regions. Downtown Seattle recovering is good for our whole regional economy, and having more job centers throughout our region widens the circle of prosperity.

Seattle is not dying. Yes, we have problems, but our promise far outweighs them.
Voters in both Seattle and Bellevue have laid out a clear road map on the issues and their solutions. Even in the face of our challenges, the Index showed 50% of voters remain optimistic about the future of this region. I am one of them. Optimism and a bias for action is a force to be reckoned with. And that’s just what Seattle, and our region, needs.