"If Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue were a separate country…it would have the world’s 53rd largest economy, just behind Israel and ahead of Portugal and Chile. This points to the importance of metros as the competitive forces in today’s world. They hold 83.7 percent of America’s population, 85.8 percent of its jobs and 90.7 percent of its real GDP." — Jon Talton, The Seattle Times, 3/11/13
The Puget Sound region is in an extraordinary time. Billions of dollars of huge infrastructure projects are underway. Rail and concrete is being laid, tunnels dug and bridges built. The myth of regional gridlock is exposed: We're growing and going places, often despite ourselves. The figures that Jon Talton quotes give some sense of scale: The economic engine that was unleashed at Seattle's foundational point of origin — and where Crosscut's offices are located today at First and Main — have matched the visions of the pioneers.
Greater Seattle has the economic clout of major countries. But do we measure up? If our GDP figures are impressive, what about our civic infrastructure? Do we have the number and diversity of newspapers and media sources that the citizens of Israel, Portugal and Chile have? Not likely as our dailies have dwindled and our weeklies weakened.
This is where Crosscut comes in, and why becoming a member, a Crosscutter, is important. Crosscut is an ambitious attempt to scale up the region's coverage, to give our urban region what it deserves by deepening the coverage and analysis of major civic endeavors, by unearthing relevant history, by having writers tell compelling stories about who we are and where we live.
Crosscut is growing too. Our GDP is humble, but not our ambitions. The writers and journalists here all think big, think positively, have the heart and desire to make our city, state and region a better place to live by enriching our understanding of it, engaging with the issues and people who are making a difference. We need a more diverse, more active, higher impact media than we have today.
I see Crosscut and its members as part of the solution.
It's not good enough to be an economic engine. Such dynamism deserves and requires serious thought, scrutiny and engagement. We need more minds applied to building cities, communities and neighborhoods, not just to launching the next Amazon or Starbucks.
Seattle is a bright spot as the nation emerges from the Great Recession, but we still have a lot of growing up to do. We're young, but maturing. We're innovative and entrepreneurial, yet we're developing traditions too. We still do a lot of dumb stuff, and need to be called out on it. We're engaged in the constant challenge of finding balance and meaning in life, of living up to the deep promise of creating, as one 19th century newspaper phrased it, "The greatest city which is to be."
Utopianism has its downsides — it can produce cults and crazies and curmudgeons — but it's also the best approach we have to making progress. I love that Crosscut is determined to be in the thick of it, and that you members, donors, friends — you fellow Crosscutters — are making that possible.
* * *