Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Laments of City Changes

Timothy Eagan writes about Seattle and how it has been changing (dude-wheres-my-city?). Mostly Eagan notes that Seattle has become a very expensive place to live. So much so that it is having a profound impact on the character of the city. Eagan uses the Seinfeld show character Kramer as an example as the type of person that may be pushed out of Seattle. However, it should noted that Kramer lived in an apartment in Upper West Side of Manhattan. Perhaps rent control was the key to keeping Kramer in Manhattan -  a route Seattle has not taken.

Eagan asks "How do you contain the excesses of entrepreneurial capitalism and nurture the things you like - original music, food, businesses and literature, affordable homes for cops and Kramers?" Eagan does not attempt to provide answers. The answers are complex and often lost in the slow hard grind of urban and community planning - zoning, development regulations, property tax structure, transportation plans, sewer and water and other utilities, long public meetings and hearings and local politics. Having been in my share of local planning efforts as a citizen, consultant and as a local politician it is hard complicated work. There are also factors well beyond the control of the cities themselves. Outside economic forces, political forces, climate shifts and geology.

Cities are dynamic places. As Eagan notes, the west coast cities including Seattle are going through rapid change. Most of that change is associated with rapid growth and tens of thousands of new jobs. That growth presents challenges that are very hard. But then there are cities that have had the opposite issue - negative growth such as Detroit being one example.

I know the Seattle I once knew so well is in may ways very different than what it has become. Parts of my own current town, Bellingham, have changed in ways that could be lamented in some cases and celebrated in others. Oddly my own neighborhood has remained nearly the same over the past 100 years.

Perhaps it is part of aging that we lament the past. From my tribal homeland Luke Kelly and the Dubliners lament Dublin's past:      

Neko Case sings a hopeful song abut Tacoma remaining the same (it might be suggested that Tacoma has improved a bit of late):

Luke Kelly also sings of Derry in the The Town I Loved So Well, in this case a truly lamentable situation when the song was written:

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