What's Tony Thinking

Seattle Thoughts from North Carolina


As I mentioned in my last blog we are back east visiting family in Greenville, South Carolina. At the moment, however, we are in western North Carolina, near Asheville, in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains. Right at the edge of spring here. A nice hike today today up to a rocky ledge known as “Lover’s Leap.”

While visiting the history exhibit in the tiny town of Hot Springs, North Carolina, I learned an interesting thing. Although Tennessee was a Confederate state, people in east Tennessee were pro-Union and some fought on the Union side. As east Tennessee abuts western North Carolina, where we are visiting, this meant that family and neighbors in this part of the country found themselves on opposite sides in the Civil War. I don’t know whether this happened in other border states or counties during the Civil War. I would guess so. Maybe some of you know?

At any rate, today’s division of families and friends amid our own polarized times, has plenty of precedent, perhaps even more painful than today’s divides.

Despite being nearly 3,000 miles from Seattle I have been mulling a few thoughts about Seattle, particularly in light of the defeat of Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot. In a post at The Dispatch, the columnist Jonah Goldberg, notes that some observers, lamenting Lightfoot’s defeat, have declared that big cities today, e.g. Chicago, are simply “ungovernable.”

Goldberg also notes how thoroughly Chicago is a bastion of the Democratic Party. He wonders if the city is really “ungovernable” or if a kind of demo-sclerosis is the more likely problem? Goldberg points out that Chicago is, “A city where Joe Biden got nearly 9 out of 10 votes and whites make up just 31% of the population. The Chicago City Council has 50 seats, 46 of them held by Democrats. The other four are held by independents. William Hale Thompson, the last Republican to serve as mayor, left office in 1931, 11 years before Joe Biden was born.” Goldberg goes on to pose this question:

“But maybe, just maybe, the problem isn’t that big cities are ungovernable, but that the entrenched Democratic machines dominated by fringe activists and pampered by friendly journalists are incapable of governing?”

That strikes me as a question to be asked in Seattle, which is also very much a one-party town. Is “The Emerald City,” which is beset by seemingly intractable problems, “ungovernable,” or is the Democratic/ Progressive political monoculture not up to the job of governing?

To be clear, I’m not thinking here about Mayor Bruce Harrell. To my mind, the ballot is still out on the Mayor, who is now in his second year. I am thinking more of our City Council, School Board, and the three mayoral administration that preceded the current one. Is Seattle ungovernable, or is an entrenched Democratic/Progressive establishment dominated by activists and unions just not up to the job? It’s not so much that we need Republicans in the mix, though Republicans of the Dan Evans or John Spellman type would help. It’s that within our political mono-culture thought and expression are limited and those who deviate from the norm are often written off.

On another Seattle note, one of Post Alley’s founders, David Brewster, did an article this week on what is happening with mainline Protestant churches, particularly with regard to their buildings and property, in downtown Seattle. Brewster reviews a half dozen congregations that are at some stage of having torn-down and rebuilt, moved, closed or are reviewing their options for one or another strategy.

Brewster’s article is marked by both a sense of loss and opportunity. As he notes, many of these churches have been “mainstays” of Seattle, and as such deeply engaged in the life of the city from its beginnings. But perhaps their evolution, or devolution, will provide more needed housing in downtown Seattle?

I am, of course, biased. I cannot help but thinking that the the closure or down-sizing of churches in the city is a loss. But perhaps it is the beginning of something new and promising? I find I am ambivalent in just this way about a lot these days. Perhaps that’s just the way it is when you get older. You aren’t so sure that “change” is the unalloyed good that is generally held to be.




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