I’ve got the Walking Downtown Blues


The math is simple enough. Seattle’s downtown core — at least pre-pandemic, pre-looting, and pre-smashed windows — provides nearly 60 percent of the city’s annual tax revenue, emphasizing again one urban reality of this new century: successful cities contain successful retail and office cores. Their health, the jobs and revenue they provide, are vital.

Simple it may be, but it often seems to elude our present Seattle City Council. As the Seattle Times’ Jon Talton notes, no member of that council has met a payroll, owned a business or brings to the table daily experience with the economic life of the city — from tech to maritime, hospitality and aerospace. Talton continues: “So it’s no wonder this council is so deaf to pleas from the private sector or blind to the dangers facing Seattle’s economic future. No wonder that the council and Mayor Durkan abandoned part of Capitol Hill to the lawless CHAZ. No wonder they love hating Amazon, whose headquarters is a priceless asset. This isn’t advancing social justice. It’s civic malpractice.”

Julie Speidel sculpture “Petros” at Amazon

I’ve walked the downtown core almost daily for most of the last two decades. I know what Denny Regrade and Belltown looked like before the renaissance of the late ’90s, before Amazon built its world headquarters there (and where Vashon Island’s great artist, Julie Speidel, installed her striking “Petros”).

A sane city government would find a partner in Amazon, not turn it into a political punching bag. Local business can give more, but what passes for civic leadership seems unlikely to get us there. Getting our city back economically is vital to our overall recovery from this pandemic catastrophe. That will take all of us moving together, not sniping for political advantage.

Mike James
Mike James
Mike James was a long-time anchor newscaster at KING TV.


  1. Yes! I agree! Not to mention it doesn’t feel safe to step around tents and needles and scary drug addicts looking for the next high. Voters please vote these fools out of office and hire a council who knows how to run a big beautiful city, not ruin it!

  2. I walk around downtown every day. It is indeed grim and keeps getting grimmer. Homelessness, vagrancy, shoplifting, drug use, and many closed retail storefronts. Not a city to be proud of. Our city council seems to be living on another planet.

  3. Great stuff……. How did we get this group that represents us ? When did non- accountability become part of our fabric ? When did we start accepting drug addiction as normal ? When did compassion for less fortunate turn into a zealous city function with no path to self-reliance ? WHEN ??

  4. I enjoyed reading this succinct, direct observation, and the reference to Talton is spot on. I’m also painfully aware that we can’t rely on storefront retail to make the city work any more, and I don’t know what comes next. Amazon’s one-sided commitment to our city was sweet but ironic, and–one sided. History has shown our city loves small business (in principle) and hates big business. Private power is just not OK here, and our tradition is to keep the captains of industry dangling by a corporate thread!


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