Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mossback bites, and other revelations

A couple of interesting new pieces about Pugetopolis are worth noting. Joel Connelly, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's legendary political columnist, takes some whacks at Mossback for being a critical of the region's growth patterns in an economic downturn, a time when we need to do something, anything, to get the region moving again. "The Pugetopolis lately seems like a Gulliver tied down by strings of naysayers," he intones. The strings, Connelly alleges, are our dysfunctional political process.

In my book, I explain some of the origins of this process, and as a citizen of the region I have by turns been frustrated and relieved that we are as dysfunctional as we are. We have often been saved by our "dysfunction," as when we pulled the plug on the Green Line monorail project, the R.H. Thomson Expressway and Greg Nickels' waterfront tunnel. But I have been dismayed by the process when it leaves us unable to clean up Puget Sound, which is steadily sliding toward Dead Sea status. I explain in the book about our secret yearnings for a "strongman" to lead us, and why this is not the answer. I am dubious about a centralized authority controlling the region. If that skepticism makes me a Lilliputian, so be it.

Another is a review of the book by Barbara McMichael which appeared in The Daily Olympian. She finds Pugetopolis relevant for regional readers: "Even though the book is unabashedly Seattle-centric, there are lessons for those of us who live further afield. For how can any of us not be affected by the elephant in the room — which, in this case, is the city on Elliott Bay?" I have found strong interest in the book outside Seattle and in the opening essay, "Pugetopolis Unbound," try to get at where some of the regional rivalries come from--the dynamic of regional competition that still lives after more than 150 years.

Seattle may be the big elephant, but the region hasn't bowed down to Seattle quite yet. McMichaels notes that the book has bite to it: "Berger," she writes, "has been keeping his finger on the pulse of Seattle for a couple of decades now, and he's been making regular diagnoses of the city's ills with acuity and biting humor. His stuff is great fun to read — so long as you're not in the punch line."

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