Au Contraire: Superstar City Seattle Steps Up (A Top 10 List)


Last week David Brewster posted an article titled “Seattle – Superstar City No More?” I thought he was being unnecessarily grumpy. Seattle has many bright spots. Here are ten of my favorites.  

  1.  Downtown Waterfront. A new 20-acre park is making the Waterfront feel like NYC’s much admired Highline, only better because we look at the Puget Sound and the Olympic mountains and they look at New Jersey. Pedestrian connections between the Pike Place Market and the Aquarium will make the walk to the water easier for everyone, including people with disabilities. New paving and pathways separate cars and buses from pedestrians and bikes; rebuilt piers promote summer concerts and other gatherings. The honorary name for Alaskan Way, Dzidzilalich, reminds visitors to respect the lands and shared waters of the Puget Sound Coast Salish People.
  1.  Seattle Center has been revitalized by the Climate Pledge Arena. Thanks to the visionary work of OVG and the Uptown community among others, the Kraken have been unleashed, bringing hockey fans and their wallets to the Center and neighborhood pubs. And it was all done without spending public funds.
  1. Mayor Bruce Harrell’s “Space Needle thinking,” is making downtown safer and more welcoming. His ideas may not be new, but they are meaningful. First steps include easy-to-fix options such as adding better pedestrian lighting on downtown streets, emphasizing graffiti removal and trash pickup, as well as encouraging offices to return to in-person work.
  1. Coordinated Public Safety Efforts. Mayor Harrell is connecting agencies to focus on public safety. Coordinated efforts are key to success in most areas. In his Activation Plan he directs the Seattle Police Department “to prioritize efforts to disrupt the distribution and sale of narcotics in concert with other law enforcement partners, furthering enhanced collaboration between the Seattle City Attorney’s Office, King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington, the DEA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security.”
  1. Addressing Substance-Use Disorders Compassionately. At the same time, we are offering carrots along with the sticks. The City and County are following a public health model called “contingency management,” a type of intervention that has been widely tested and evaluated. The pilot program will encourage positive behavioral change by individuals with substance-use disorders. Those who accept treatment services will avoid jail time and receive incentives such as gift cards. Businesses are stepping in too. Fred Meyer has given thousands of dollars’ worth of $25 gift cards to service providers who in turn give the cards to people on the street willing to assist with neighborhood projects and clean-up efforts. “I feel respected and part of my community when I earn a card” one person told me.
  1.  New Mental Health Centers. Hats off to King County voters and a broad coalition who approved five crisis-care centers. These will restore and expand much-needed residential treatment beds across the county.
  1.  Growing Groceries. Climate Change is too big for many of us to absorb. Yet as Bill McKibben and the David Suzuki Foundation recommend, we each can take bite-size impactful actions. Taken collectively these small steps make a big difference. For example, there’s increasing awareness about food insecurity and how it can be addressed locally. I’m part of the WSU-King County Master Gardener Program this year, and promoting food equity is one of our primary goals. Along with local gardeners from our P-Patches, many of us grow and give fresh fruit and vegetables to food banks. We advocate for long term climate-healthy sustainable changes to our local food systems and offer how-to classes about growing groceries in our own back yards or decks.
  1. Green Job Action Plans are showing signs of success. Specifically, King County is building on clean energy investments from the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Thousands of new living-wage green jobs are planned and underway within local frontline communities.  Economic equity requires dedication and willingness, and King County Executive Dow Constantine has a clear-eyed focus.
  1. SIFF Expansion. This year Seattle International Film Festival hired Tom Mara and the 49th SIFF was a blockbuster. SIFF is one of the largest – if not THE largest film festival in the US, offering some of the best independent films from around the world. One big new step for Seattle film goers: SIFF recently acquired and will restore the Cinerama, adding it to SIFF-run theaters including the Cinema Uptown and Cinema Egyptian.  Some of us have lobbied for the return of chocolate popcorn. 
  2.  Health One Expands. Health One was the brainchild of Fire Chief Harold Scoggins in 2019. He and I worked on this with the support of Lt. Kenny Stuart and others from the Fire Fighters Local 27. The idea was to provide an alternative for our first responders when neither a Medic One nor a ladder truck was required. The Fire Department piloted the Health One program in Downtown and Pioneer Square designed to respond immediately to people on the street with a cross-jurisdictional team, offering medical care, mental health care, temporary housing or social services. The program has proven to be even more successful than we hoped and has tripled in size, providing targeted help to people in other neighborhoods too while reducing the workload on the first responders who suit up to fight fires. I asked Chief Scoggins and Kenny Stuart what would enhance the program. Their answer – dedicated tiny homes within villages where Health One could take people for respite care.
Sally Bagshaw
Sally Bagshaw
Sally Bagshaw served on the Seattle City Council, 2010-19, where she was deeply involved in finding solutions for homelessness.


  1. Thank you for this, Sally. I think the most important stuff is the “getting back to basics” approach that Mayor Harrell is taking, rather than the “grandiose” approaches (well articulated by another Post Alley writer) of so many of Harrell’s predecessors.

    Harrell has, however, consistently made the wrong, or not addressed at all, decisions relating to transportation. As the Seattle Times’ recent in-depth article about the “new missing link” for bicycles in that new Waterfront Park points out, we invest hundreds of millions of dollars and can’t draw a straight line with a bike lane. And how soon before we have another bridge disaster? Why is Chinatown again dissed by bypassing it altogether with an unvetted, unbudgeted, unstudied Sound Transit station alternative drawn on the back of an envelope? Why isn’t there more enforcement of “Don’t Block The Box” by vehicles doing just that, now that workers have been pressured to come back downtown? And how many more people will be killed in the Rainier Valley by the City’s silence on Sound Transit’s light rail trains hitting pedestrians because the crossings do not have the most elementary protections?

  2. Paraphrasing a WSJ headline from a day or two ago: “Seattle is Starting to Thrive Again. Just Not Near Office Buildings.”

    • It’s a strange feeling to walk amid some of downtown Seattle’s most striking urban architecture, in particular, Rainier Square tower where I so loved working, and realize that it’s probably mostly empty. I don’t know what the revitalization plan is for this area. Is there one?

  3. I very much appreciate this; a lifelong Seattleite it’s too easy for me to focus on everything that’s changed. There is no going back. That Seattle I knew is gone. But I don’t want to be one of those boring pessimists, so I’m grateful for this viewpoint. And the reminder of all that’s better.

  4. A most refreshing read for me. As a daily visitor to the world’s fair, I loved to see the million silver dollars and the fountains. This article gave me back some of that confidence that Seattle and area was the prime destiny of the United States. MacCaulley, Rane, Mackie, Phase Linear, and Jet City-future PhD topics worthy of understanding the course of events. I will have to power up the storage locker and check the gear for the summer tunes to be enjoyed by audiences and artists. Thanks for this better look at Elliot Bay. (Though I personaly am a Commencement Bay fan)

  5. Thank you, Dally. I agree with Mr Hurley – refreshing indeed. Most of your list works for me. I decided that David Brewster’s recent grumpiest was meant to be provocative – Lordy, I hope so!

  6. Well, I’ve changed my mind, about this “Seattle’s not so bad viewpoint. ” It IS bad and not likely to get any better anytime soon in downtown Seattle. Not after the latest City Council vote, where Kshama Sawant, Tammy Morales, Lisa Herbold and Teresa Mosqueda voted down a proposal to make drug use a simple misdemeanor. This carefully-worked out amendment, which would urge users into treatment, is too much for the far-fringe-quartet on the City Council. Sawant, in particular, knows she would never get reelected. She is seemingly determined to cram through the worst legislation possible, in her remaining moths.


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