One of the values of old media, at their best, rested in the ability to bring civic debate to the public in a lively, fair way. There was a time when editorial pages had the room to welcome a wide range of opinions beyond their own.
Today, that's a service best performed by the lively proliferation of voices found online. Without the sad space constraints seen in newspapers' opinion sections, new media offer engaged citizens the opportunity to find completely opposite arguments on issues ranging from the conduct of diplomacy to the course of local politics.
This week, without any real planning beyond our habitual interest in varying perspectives on regional affairs, we had the good fortune to conduct what amounted to an on-the-fly debate among very smart people about two major issues facing Seattle. Those are the tunnel planned for Seattle's waterfront and the confirmation of John Diaz as police chief.
On the tunnel, City Councilmember Jean Godden, who occasionally contributes articles here, spurred the debate by offering her disapproving view of Mayor Mike McGinn's concerns about the handling of potential cost overruns. Crosscut's Knute Berger promptly responded with a defense of the mayor's position and of his communication on the issue. At the end of the week, Crosscut Publisher David Brewster added his thoughts on why it would be better not to have a public vote, which is being discussed for next February. Expect more pros and cons on a vote and its possible timing as we go forward.
With the City Council holding hearings on Diaz's confirmation, Crosscut writer Kent Kammerer wrote about his concerns with whether the members will be willing to push the mayor to reopen the search if they believe the department needs fresh ideas from outside. Hubert G. Locke, one of the region's eminent thinkers about public affairs, fired off a response that, among other things, suggested we would really be in trouble if we thought SPD was too poor to produce a good chief, and that the department — strong, though of course imperfect — has been led in recent years by "outsider" predecessors Patrick Fitzsimmons, Norm Stamper, and Gil Kerlikowske. (Kammerer, let it be noted, is very warm in his praise for the men and women of the department and, as a civic activist, has been impressed by the many individuals with whom he has met.)
Getting away from debate, Judy Lightfoot wrote about Paul Hedlund's impressive photographs, his attempts to sell them on the streets, and his life as a homeless person. Lightfoot put together a rather stunning slideshow of his photos (our largest slideshow to date). It's all here.
Some of the other highlights from a week that was quite busy for mid-summer:
"How a Seattle group helped save the north's forests," by Daniel Jack Chasan.
"Vance Report: A red tide is still favoring Republicans," by Chris Vance.
"Our vanishing ice caps, disaster-film style," by Roger Valdez.
"Fresh, local dining, almost under Sea-Tac's runways," by Hugo Kugiya, part of his Eating on the Edge series for us.
Thanks for dropping by.