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Hub Seattle's Brian Howe: If I Were Mayor

The co-founder of the Pioneer Square-based coworking space looks to data visualization — and a little imagination — to open doors in Seattle for more citizen-led projects.
Brian Howe, founder of HUB Seattle.

Brian Howe, founder of HUB Seattle.

Seattle mayor. It's a tough job, dogged by police reforms, a stretched budget and no end of public safety crises. And while there's mayoral criticism everywhere you look, it's not likely you'll come across much that's constructive. We'd like to change that. Crosscut is linking up with leaders across Seattle to ask them what they would do if they were elected mayor.

Next up, Hub Seattle's Brian Howe. Howe runs a coworking and events space in Pioneer Square for folks working on socially-responsible business.  What would he do with the key to City Hall?

1. Prettier Data! As last month's IPO of local company Tableau Software has them soaring, it's an appropriate time to talk data. Have you seen data.seattle.gov? The amount of knowledge the city has gathered there for the sharing is pretty incredible, but most of it is not yet citizen-friendly and can be difficult to search, sort and understand.

By partnering with a company like Tableau to find the best ways to visualize this wealth of civic data, we could encourage a more informed civic discussion. What if every town hall question was followed up by: "Great opinion, but what does the data say?"

The Fremont Bridge bike counter site is an example of where the city is already doing this really well. 

Notice the company responsible for the charts on the site? Maybe it's a good time to ask Tableau CEO Christian Chabot for some help making Seattle famous for the most beautiful, accessible and meaningful civic data.

2. Build Ice Town. As mayor, I would draw inspiration from fictional "Parks and Recreation" former mayor Ben Wyatt, who spent the entire city budget of Partridge, Minessota on an unecessary ice complex. And from Jon Gnarr, the very-real mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland, who publicly stated that he would not enter a coalition government with anyone that had not watched the HBO series "The Wire." 

Yes, there's a real point here. As one of my heroes, local attorney Bob Goff, has said, "Even good work can steal our imaginations. [We need to] rediscover a compulsion for finding creative, audacious ways to discover our dreams." Maybe it won't take building an ice town, but finding ways to model wise audacity would be a first-term goal.

3. Re-imagine public goods. Now that we have accessible, citizen-friendly and beautiful data at our fingertips, let's kickoff a city-wide "Imagine if" campaign. Seattle has an incredible wealth of underutilized public assets.

Our libraries are incredible and — compared to other cities — extremely well run and well loved, but what if we re-imagined the library entirely? Currently, they're still primarily viewed as warehouses of books to be shared. What if they were seen first and foremost as places where, as Seth Godin wrote, "people come together to do co-working and coordinate and invent projects worth working on together"? 

With a combination of great data and a city-wide "Imagine If" campaign, we could see a lot more citizen-led projects that help us all better use, "hack" and enjoy our public systems.

The city has done a lot already to encourage this, through running civic innovation weekends and launching the Startup Seattle campaign, but I'm convinced the latent capacity of our citizenry's imagination has just begun.  

What if local journalist Derek Erdman's alter ego, Rap Master Maurice, was responsible for all overdue ticket collections? How many vehicles could we cut from the city fleet through a partnership with Car2Go? What changes would we make to our parks department and education system if we took the fact that city parks launched Seattle's other rap master's career more seriously?

Brian Howe helps people launch ventures worthy of their humanity. He is the founder of Hub Seattle, a shared workspace and community for inspiring entrepreneurs, changemakers and raconteurs. Brian helped found and advises Fledge.co (a conscious company incubator), Arts Aftercare and SVP Fast Pitch (“Shark Tank” for social innovators). He previously founded Vox Legal PLLC, a law firm specializing in advising unique business structures, including one of the largest nonprofit venture capital funds to invest in Indian start-ups, a hybrid model for interplanetary commerce on behalf of NASA and many others. He likes rooftops, building things and wrestling with his nephews.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jun 19, 1:36 p.m. Inappropriate

Yawn. Maybe it would be more interesting to know what John Fox would do if he were mayor.

woofer

Posted Thu, Jun 27, 9:50 a.m. Inappropriate

Gawd, I wish John would run. He's one of the few truly principled public servants left in this town.

Jones

Posted Wed, Jun 19, 11:41 p.m. Inappropriate

Oh my God. And here I thought it couldn't get any worse.

NotFan

Posted Fri, Jun 21, 10:54 a.m. Inappropriate

Empowering Seattleites to draw on their own creativity to love this city well is key for our progress.

I think G.K. Chesterton said it best: “Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.”

Sounds like "woofer" and "NotFan" lack the creativity required to get a piece like this. Maybe you guys should move to Fresno?

Edgar

Posted Fri, Jun 21, 11:55 a.m. Inappropriate

Oh come on. I'm world class, vibrant, walkable, urban, and smart. Smug as hell, too, which makes me a perfect Seattle "progressive." What more could you ask for? Oh wait. Creative. Hmm. Oh yeah, I just love those industrial houses and apartments with the steel-railed stairs and the inverted V roofs. Not that they're lazy cliches or anything. Satisfied now?

NotFan

Posted Sun, Jun 23, 9:07 p.m. Inappropriate

Let's not get too excited asking bug eyed Christian Chabot and his equally weird bug eyed partners anything. He's got a frenzied aspect to him, and so do they. Does their publicist do this on purpose? For what reason?

What Seattle needs is simple common sense, this kid doesn't seem to understand anything, let alone the simple stuff.

Posted Sun, Jun 23, 4:25 p.m. Inappropriate

"...and the inverted V roofs."

Wouldn't an inverted v roof be an a-frame or traditional gable roof?
I believe even Laugier's primitive hut had this simple pediment form.

Is that really too new-fangled for you or do you not know the correct terminology?

jeffro

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