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The economy. I don’t see Congress resolving its high-stakes showdown over taxes and the deficit anytime soon, aside from some Band-aids, so the national economy and business confidence will remain in low gear. Two local factors will shake the confidence in our tech-driven economy. One is cutbacks in defense spending, which affects Boeing and the whole south-Sound economy. Add to that the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, already forced into making big concessions to shipping companies who are suffering from the decline in the world economy. The Port of Seattle will have four of its five commissioner seats on the ballot in 2013, and the current CEO, Tay Yoshitani, whose contract ends in 2014, is likely to announce his retirement. A new commission and the need for defining the new CEO will put the Port and its key part of our economy in the public arena for debate. Most Port-friendly mayoral candidates: Burgess, Steinbrueck, and Murray.
Given the shaky economy and the newness and weakness of the key positions of Seattle mayor and governor, I expect that a moderately progressive business agenda will increasingly call the shots. On that agenda: passing a statewide measure to fund roads and major stalled projects such as the 520 floating bridge; dialing back the high costs of doing business in the state; enhancing tourism with such things as the new Arena, commercializing Seattle Center, and the Waterfront Park; and continuing to develop, partly with transit, the “soft urbanism” of non-Seattle places of doing business that offer some of the attractions of hip, urban, walkable places but without the maddening and costly Seattle political climate.
A few other predictions. This will be the year when Seattle realizes that it can’t fund its rich menu of arts organizations and looks for new public funding. Boeing, unhappy with SPEEA, will initiate more out-migration of its Puget Sound business. A local media company will be sold. Vulcan gets its rezone in South Lake Union, but the build-out slows because rents are too high and traffic is too awful. And the Mariners remain, well, the Mariners.
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