Let me kick off a discussion, among our writers and you readers, of the turning points of the past year, and where they may be pointing. We'll post subsequent thoughts in reverse order, with the newest ones topping the list. Please feel free to join the comment thread, and we'll pull some of the most interesting of those reader comments into the main story as well.
I see the past year as one of growing up, whether that means getting away from the sterile polarizations of the George Bush years or facing up to the contradictions of the recent decade of hyper-capitalism. Two recent elections help make this case for how we are getting serious.
The first was the election of 2007, when local voters chose solid experience for three key legislative bodies, over a unsolid mavericks that we had indulged in the years before. Thus, encouraging figures such as Tim Burgess on the City Council, Gael Tarleton on the Port, and Sherry Carr on the Seattle School Board (along with others) came into office. Now we will see if they can take hold. And also if the media can move beyond the juicy stories of screw-ups in the previous regime (particularly at the Port) and pay more attention to what these level-headed, experienced pragmatists can do about revitalizing their institutions. So far the City Council, thanks in large part to the smart leadership of Richard Conlin, the new council president, has made the most strides. I fear the School Board is about to come a cropper (as many have before) over the issue of school closures. The Port is playing from a weak hand, as its business declines and moves to other ports. (King County and the Legislature remain unreformed.)
The second election was this past fall, when the Obama effect joined with a get-serious mood. Tim Eyman's foolish initiative against modern transportation ideas was handily trounced (special thanks to Doug MacDonald), and the curse of indecision on rail transit was finally laid to rest when we voted in Sound Transit 2 (special thanks to Mayor Greg Nickels). Yes, we can move on! (Next test, the Viaduct.)
The sad irony in all this is that we are moving forward politically right at the time when the economy is collapsing, taking away the wherewithal to do much. And, with it, the confidence of our business leadership (those enablers of Washington Mutual's demise and Safeco's sale) is sinking. (Likewise, the state Republican Party.) We have fear itself to fear, at least locally.