It’s not that there are no local issues to worry about, Seattle, but your angst is a little over the top.
At least, that’s the word on 2020 from the cognoscenti.
To kick off the new year, we asked an array of local people who each position themselves as particularly skilled at predicting the future — from economic experts and political pundits to astrologers and soothsayers — to tell us what they believe is likely to happen in the Puget Sound region.
Take these forecasts with as large a helping of salt as you like, but what they say amounts to an interesting mix of advice and portension for our big little boomtown.
“Seattle has had, by almost any measure, one of the most successful decades in its history and the greatest economy in the nation,” said Jon Talton, an author, historian, business journalist and former Seattle Times economics columnist.
Looking ahead, Talton noted that having a wide assortment of industries keeps the economy here healthy and better able to withstand the inevitable effects of the U.S. trade war with China and the 737 MAX crisis at Boeing.
Still, Seattle represents “the headwaters of technology” and will continue to attract the kind of highly educated “top talent” needed by Big Tech, said Windermere Real Estate chief economist Matthew Gardner.
Because the demand for housing is so high and supply remains limited, housing prices will keep rising in 2020 and beyond, Gardner said.
“This is how it is in world cities,” Talton said. “You don’t open up a London paper and read about the high prices of homes in London.”
Gardner offered some hope to renters, saying the completion of new apartment buildings means the steep rent increases seen in the past few years could abate.
He said the big question in the real-estate world is which Seattle neighborhoods can next expect a surge in people moving there. Gardner, who accurately predicted the recent influx of new residents in Columbia City and Georgetown, is expecting a similar frenzy to hit Mount Baker, Burien and White Center. That could mean continued gentrification and displacement of longtime residents who may have lower incomes.
Talton remains optimistic about Seattle’s ballooning population.
“It’s quality growth: Not just a bunch of retirees hoping to find God’s waiting room, but younger people that you hope will get involved in the communities and civic life of the city,” he said.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said she’s noticed the tumult as the city adjusts to all the changes.
“Seattle has grown so quickly, it feels like it happened to us rather than with us, and people are worried about their roles and their families’ futures,” she said. “But I’m optimistic that, at the end of the day, people want to do the right thing and the intentional thing, and I think all these new people, as they age, will have a positive impact on our city and civic infrastructure.”
Residents of the Puget Sound region can be “our own worst enemy, and we all need to do a course correction” in 2020, spiritual rootworker Sindy Todo said.
“We are lush with money and resources, but we are also heavy with worry and fear,” Todo said. “We are focused on what is no longer here instead of what we have to look forward to, and we are negative about things that are not even real.”
Todo and her friend, palm reader Jim Barker, recently performed a reading for the region by examining the palms of some of its major figures, reading an astrological chart for Seattle based on its “birthday” (its earliest founding date, in November 1851) and throwing a collection of bones on a table in Todo’s West Seattle home.
“Seattle is a Scorpio city with a Cancer moon, which are signs of emotion and compassion,” said Barker, reading from a chart prepared by Whidbey Island-based astrologer Carolina Dean. “To be at peace in Seattle, you have to get to its deep water roots. You have to back off the speedometer, pull over to the right lane and go with the flow.“
The best thing to keep in mind in the coming year, Barker said, is to love your neighbor.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but it really is the answer,” he said. “If people are driving you crazy, resolve to love them even if you don’t like them.“
City politics in Seattle will be even more contentious than usual this year, political- and public-affairs consultant Sandeep Kaushik predicted.
“Seattle’s activist left, emboldened after the recent (City) Council races, will demand more ideological governance, and they have friends in high places: Councilmember (Kshama) Sawant will be acting council president for several months this spring while incoming president (M.) Lorena González is on maternity leave,” he said.
Don’t be surprised if Sawant proposes an even bigger head tax, despite the pushback that came last time, Kaushik said.
Political consultant Heather Weiner said the threat of a head tax or something like it could bring businesses to the table to address affordable housing and homelessness.
A new head tax would be a mistake, Talton and Gardner said, arguing it could prompt businesses to locate in other cities, which would then reap the tax benefits that Seattle depends on for its social services.
The star-watchers tended to agree, especially because Saturn will be in conjunction with Pluto in mid-January, signaling a period of tension and division.
“We think the polarization is bad now, but it could get worse and more organized,” said René Aceves, an astrologer and tarot-card reader.
He said by the end of the year, Saturn and Jupiter, the planet of good luck, will be conjunct in Aquarius, which bodes well for cooperation, democracy and harmony.
Like fellow political consultant Kaushik, Weiner expects city politics to be “messy and noisy” in 2020. However, she believes some big things could get done in the city, and said she would love to see Seattle introduce protections for contract workers in the gig economy such as those being considered and implemented in California.
Kaushik said he would “go out on a limb and predict we will see modest but real, and visible, improvement on homelessness, as Durkan’s initiatives — including increased shelter beds, a substantial boost in new affordable housing construction, a re-prioritization of the city’s Navigation Teams, and the consolidation of efforts in a new regional authority — begin to bear fruit.”
When Councilmember González returns from leave, Weiner anticipates her emerging as a leader on campaign-finance reform. She also thinks the council could begin to push back more against Durkan and “regain its position as the check and balance to executive power.”
On the state level, Weiner said 2020 is a year “for getting the shot lined up” — that is, legislators can be expected to raise big election issues, get out of the session as fast as possible and start campaigning on the issues they raised.
State Republicans will probably keep using “homelessness as a narrative to demonize some people and drive a wedge between others,” which is likely to work outside of King County, she said. Democrats, meanwhile, will “go after Republicans by trying to box them into the radical extremism corner,” she said.
And it will be interesting to see how both parties deal with state Rep. Matt Shea, of Spokane Valley, who was recently suspended from the House Republican Caucus and faced calls for his resignation after a state House report said he engaged in domestic terrorism.
“The Republicans cannot disavow him, but they also absolutely cannot avow him,” Weiner said.
Overall, while politics can be stressful, Talton advises that excessive fretting can be counterproductive. Instead, he said, “vote with consciousness.”