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C200: The Region’s Most Pressing Problem: Seattle’s Political Weakness

2011 March 17
by Stephanie Pure

< Daniel Friedman FAIA, Dean of the University of Washington’s College of Built Environments, Provost Lecture: City in Five Acts: Interpreting Urban Experience, April 21, 2010 >

Despite Seattle’s vital role in driving our economy, it continues to lose funding and support, thereby threatening our region’s prosperity.  This is due to the most pressing problem facing the Puget Sound region today:  Seattle’s own political weakness as a regional and statewide player.

According to CEOs for Cities, “cities constitute 30-40% of the assets and productivity in major metropolitan areas” and Seattle is no different.  That means when the UW loses funding, when our transit system is crippled, when our public schools fail, when our arts community is marginalized, our entire region loses.  We lose talent, we lose growth, and we lose one of most competitive advantages: innovation.  These investments in Seattle do not stop at Seattle’s borders.

Instead of apologizing for our funding needs, we should be boosters for them. (Can we have dedicated, rapid transit through a watery, hill terrain?  Yes we can and not only that, we have to.) We can take our entrepreneurial spirit— after all we are the land of the Gold Rush, the start-up, the new band, the large company that came up from scratch—and use it to create the kind of region we all aspire to.

This isn’t the old City versus the suburbs saw; this is Seattle recognizing its leadership position and utilizing it effectively:  Actively listening, inspiring a shared vision, and modeling the way.  We must be persuasive and compelling, not just large.  Then Seattle can truly affect change for a more sustainable future for all.


Stephanie Pure is the External Relations Director at AIA Seattle, a Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the above are her personal views.