Remember when we were the Emerald City, a place to be longed for? Now in many local political campaigns, Seattle has morphed into a hellscape to be both feared and avoided.
Most elections are about candidates or issues. This one, now in the homestretch, has increasingly become about just one thing: us.
By us, I mean you and me, Seattle.
Here’s Peter Zieve, running for City Council in the little town of Mukilteo in Snohomish County:
“Right now we are heading down the road of being just like Seattle,” Zieve warned at a forum recently. “But you know we are something different and better than Seattle. I will be the person who defines that.”
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Seeing as how Zieve donated a million bucks to Donald Trump, runs a company that paid nearly half a million dollars in a discrimination settlementand has had cops called to his home a half-dozen times for domestic disputes, he’s maybe not the obvious choice to be community bellwether. But you be you, Mukilteo.
What’s interesting is that Zieve has tons of company this year in campaigning against Seattle. Mocking the city has long been a conservative talking point in statewide campaigns, especially out in Eastern Washington or more rural counties like Grays Harbor. Now it’s surrounding us.
On the Eastside, the GOP candidate in the heated state Senate race for the 45th District, Jinyoung Englund, has turned practically her entire campaign of late into bashing the city.
Proposed city taxes on businesses, the debate about the heroin-injection sites, even the city’s correct (though annoying) decision to defend Councilmember Kshama Sawant against a defamation suit for her incendiary political rhetoric — all of these have become proxies for Englund to show that whatever she may be, she’s no Seattleite.
“I’ve never called Seattle a boogeyman,” she taunted at a recent debate. “Because they are a real threat.”
Seattle is also being trash-talked from the south. Recently the mayor of Burien, Lucy Krakowiak, paid to mass-mail a brochure to Burien residents with a burning question:
“Do you want Seattle?” it said above apocalyptic photos of traffic jams and heroin needles. “Or independent Burien!” The Burien part of the brochure featured sun-dappled snapshots of wooded trails, beaches and puppies (OK, I made up the puppy part).
The mailing was pushing a slate of “Burien Proud Burien First” City Council candidates, and just about anything goes in political advertising. But even the mayor there is throwing shade at Seattle? Ouch!
Zieve up in Mukilteo has a mailing so similar it feels like some consultant picked Seattle-bashing as 2017’s official election meme. “Zieve wants Mukilteo to be different than Seattle,” his postcard says, showing homeless camps, antifa protesters and, you guessed it, a traffic jam. (Fine with the first two, but have you never done rush hour on the ironically named Mukilteo Speedway? With your traffic, you’re Seattle already.)
Now if Emmett Watson weren’t dead, he could employ all this horror to Seattle’s advantage — namely by getting some people to move away. All I can do is wonder: If Seattle is such a hellhole, why are so many people and businesses flocking here?
Someone please tell the insane Seattle real-estate market that it’s made a terrible mistake.
Seriously, I will be fascinated to see if this hating-on-Seattle trend works, even in close-in places such as Mukilteo, Burien or Kirkland. Who knows, maybe they’re on to something. Seattle’s definitely got its visible problems, and our at-times loopy political leaders haven’t exactly distinguished themselves, especially on homelessness.
In the end, though, problems like the opioid epidemic and traffic don’t care about silly boundaries. Yet it feels like the notion that we’re in this together has been cast aside amid growing tribalism.
Take Burien, which is only a few miles away but where the political climate has taken a harsh nativist turn. The low point was the publication last week of a fearmongering, inaccurate map purporting to show where all the undocumented convicted criminals live. As with Zieve’s antics in Mukilteo, this wouldn’t seem to reflect positively on Burien. But Trump proved last year: Don’t underestimate how it might also win an election.
So I guess the Seattle slam will continue, even if it isn’t a long-term answer for places like Burien. The reality is these urbanizing towns need Seattle’s help, probably as much or more as Seattle needs theirs.
Oh and one last thing: If you get too mean, we’ll secede. And we’re taking the Seahawks with us.